Handyman -v- Contractor

I have just finished reading a very long article about a tenant being injured at a rental property. To save repeating the whole case here, in summary, the tenant lost his footing when coming up the front stairs, tripped and put his arm out to protect himself when falling. As a result his arm went through the pane glass causing nerve damage, lacerations and a broken hand. The glass was not “safety glass” and there were major costs for damages involved.

There are a number of issues here that were debated in a very lengthy court case however with regard to the Agent’s Duty of Care to both the owner and the tenant is something that I have long been an advocate for.

When a person owns and lives in a property they may undertake many simple maintenance jobs that can be done in a DIY fashion or even hiring the local handyman to do them for them if they are not so “handy”. This is all well and good and a cost effective way to maintain ones home however, when it comes to tenants and tenancy regulations this is not the case and I do try to explain this to owners when we don’t simply get a handyman (or the tenant) to fix certain jobs.

There are strict regulations set out that we, as agents (property managers) and landlords, must use and that is to engage suitably qualified contractors. i.e. using a qualified glazier to attend to the replacement of the glass panel instead of a Handyman. The glazier would have been aware of and informed the agent/owner what the exact laws are when it comes to properly carrying out the repair.

While it is reasonable for a Handyman to attend to most minor jobs he must be firstly, insured and secondly, qualified and experienced to carry out this work. With this comes a price. Uncle Harry could have done it for half the price but if anything happens as a result of the repair then who will pay that price of compensation?

As managing Agents the property manager must be aware of applicable safety standards and have an obligation under the agreement to appropriately supervise for compliance with codes and standards and then engage suitably qualified trades.

An Agent must have a high level of accountability and responsibility when it comes to matters of repairs and maintenance. In this instance ignorance was not bliss when it came to an argument of “I didn’t know that!” To properly carry out these jobs is a matter of safety and prudent risk management in residential tenancy.

Also, there is a matter of price differences in quotes being received. To look at two very different quotes there has to be a reason and it would be remiss of both the Agent and the Owner to simply pick the cheapest quote without any forethought on the quality of work being carried out.

A Handyman who has experience in the building industry was not a suitably qualified contractor in the circumstance of this glass claim. There was no evidence that the Handyman had a builder’s license that would cover any damage caused as a result of injury. The damages claim by the tenant amounted to well over $800,000 and payable by both the Owner for failure to have a safe property and the Agent for failure to engage qualified Contractors and risk management procedures.

Why on earth the Agent didn’t engage a qualified glazier and make a claim on the Owner’s household insurance I would never know.

As an Landlord is your building and contents insurance up to date and covers glass breakage? Do you have a qualified Agent managing your property? If not, hop to it today!


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