Landlords liable to fix flood damage, says Housing Minister
RAY Hicks has suffered debilitating pain after a balcony he was sitting on gave way.
"I was lucky to survive," Ray said.
The accident at his home in 2004 resulted in Ray having six fractured vertebrae, being unable to work, and living in "never ending agony".
A boarder in the rental property, Ray said the original tenancy agreement had mentioned problems with the handrails and a step being loose, but repairs had never been done, an issue he believes both real estate agents and property owners should be held accountable for.
"They shouldn't be allowed to get away with it."
Following the recent flash flooding and current flooding of the Fitzroy River, Housing and Public Works Minister Tim Mander has urged tenants and landlords to work together to arrange the cleaning and repair of rental properties damaged during this week's floods.
"We know that a lot of people are going to be wondering where they stand and who is responsible for what when it comes to the clean-up process," Mr Mander said.
"At times like this it's particularly important that tenants and land-lords communicate, either directly or through a property manager, about the clean-up and any repairs that are needed."
Ray said after his accident the property was examined by a building inspector, who wrote in a report that the balcony, stairs and handrail posed a severe safety risk.
As well as recommending the removal and re-installation of the stairs and handrails, the report stated the deck itself also required considerable attention and repairs should be undertaken immediately so they would no longer pose such a dangerous and hazardous risk.
He claims that even a year after that report the repairs still had not been done.
Ray said his life had been turned upside down by the accident.
Activities he used to enjoy, like fishing and boating, are now out of the question, and he can't even rock his grandson to sleep.
"Just nursing my grandson will lay me out for a day and a half.
"That is what it takes from you, you can't get it back."
Getting through on patch pain medication, Ray said he had tried everywhere to get a job since the accident but found some work only aggravated the injury, and other jobs just hadn't been available to him.
"Nobody wants you because you've had a back injury."
Ray feels the message should have been loud and clear about defective balconies when seven-week-old Isabella Diefenbach lost her life in 2010 when she fell from her father's arms, when a termite infested board gave way under him.
Residential Tenancies Authority general manager Fergus Smith said following flooding like this week landlords were responsible for cleaning up the building itself, including fences, gardens and pools, while tenants were responsible for cleaning or removing their own possessions.
"Landlords need to ensure a property is fit to live in," Mr Smith said.
"That means taking care of the repairs and maintenance needed to bring the property back to a liveable condition.
"They also need to comply with health and safety laws."
Ray believes that many rental homes would fail a safety test but tenants are afraid to speak up because it might jeopardise where they are living.
No longer renting, Ray said he has little to lose now, and hopes his experience may work in favour of someone else in the long run.
"Changes clearly must be made to help prevent this from occurring ever again."
He wants tenants to get together to try to enforce new laws for their safety.
"There should be a roadworthy for a home. It should be safe to live in."
KNOW YOUR RIGHTS
Where a property is partially damaged and the tenant continues to live there, the landlord will need to arrange entry to the premises for repairs, by mutual agreement, or by serving an entry notice (Form 9).
If a property is partially damaged, the landlord and the tenant may negotiate an agreement to reduce the rent until the premises are returned to the condition it was in before the disaster.
A tenancy agreement could be ended early where the landlord and tenant agree the premises were unliveable.
Find out more at rta.qld.gov.au or call the RTA on 1300 366 311.
Should communicate with tenants about the state of the rental property
Are responsible for the repairs and maintenance to bring the property back to a liveable condition
Must comply with health and safety laws
Need to communicate with tenants about entering the premises for repairs
Should communicate with landlords/property managers about the state of the rental property
Are responsible for removing or cleaning their possessions