Resident building managers have general obligations under their caretaking agreements to assist owners corporations with building and compliance issues. Managers also rent units on behalf of owners and should likewise ensure that their owners understand their obligations as landlords.
New window safety requirements (NSW Child Window Safety Devices Act 2013) for owners corporations were introduced by amendments to the Strata Schemes Management Act and Regulations and came into force on 11 December 2013. The requirements apply to all strata schemes that have residential lots.
The new legal requirements
There is now an obligation on owners corporations to ensure that all openable windows above the ground level that are accessible to children from inside the building must have safety devices fitted. If an openable window is less than 1.7m above the floor and the floor is more than 2m above the outside ground, a safety device must be installed. However, an openable window higher than 1.7m above the floor does not require a safety device to be fitted.
The safety devices must be able to limit the maximum window opening to 12.5cm, must be robust and must be childproof. Suitable window safety devices include window locks or safety screens (but not ordinary insect screens).
The minister, when introducing the legislation, encouraged concerned parents to work with their owners corporations to start the process as soon as possible. However, owners corporations have until 13 March 2018 to install window safety devices failing which they can be fined and concerned residents will be able to apply to the Consumer, Trader and Tenancy Tribunal for orders that the owners corporation take action.
In the meantime, unit owners have the right to install window safety devices within their own unit. However, the devices must be installed competently and must be in keeping with the building’s appearance. Unit owners will be liable for any damage that occurs to common property due to the installation. The right by owners to install complying window safety devices themselves will override any strata laws and any of the scheme’s by-laws that would otherwise prevent them from doing so.
Also, from 1 March 2014, changes will be made to the prescribed Condition Report for rental premises to show whether window safety devices exist or not. However, these changes will not impose any new responsibilities on real estate agents or property managers and landlords will not be obliged to install window safety devices.
What this means to you as a building manager
Owners corporations will need to meet and discuss their approach. I can see that building managers will be required to identify which windows are affected, obtain quotes, arrange for the hire of trades people and schedule the work.
Owners corporations and unit owners will be free to choose the most suitable devices for their windows. This could be a strong screen, a window lock or something else again as long as it performs as required.
Window safety devices are readily available from hardware stores and depending on the type, are inexpensive and easy to install.