Figures from Kidsafe, a not-for-profit charitable organisation dedicated to preventing unintentional childhood injuries, indicates that approximately 250 Australian children are killed and more than 50,000 hospitalised each year due to unintentional injuries.
Rather worryingly, more than half of fatalities and injuries in children aged up to four years occur in their own homes or backyards.
“Keeping children safe is a priority for any family, and landlords can help to play a role in this,” said Carolyn Parrella, executive manager of Terri Scheer Insurance. “When purchasing or building a rental property, landlords often think of the functional features that will appeal to tenants but can sometimes overlook the safety features – which are equally important.
“Providing a rental property that is free from hazards to children increases a landlord’s pool of prospective tenants, as it will attract families and couples with young children. However, it can also help reduce the likelihood of a landlord being held legally liable if a tenant or guest injures themselves at the property.”
Listed below are some of the most common ways children injure themselves or die in their homes or backyards. Also included are some tips landlords can apply to child-proof their investment properties.
Falls from heights
“Falls from balconies and windows are common ways for children to be injured,” said Parrella. “If your investment property has a balcony, the balustrade should run vertical so that it cannot be climbed and positioned close enough together that children can’t slip through. All windows should be fitted with heavy duty flyscreens that can resist the weight of a child when opened to stop them from falling through.”
Landlords should also allow tenants to install their own child-proof gates at the top of stairs to prevent toddlers from falling.
While backyard swimming pools provide hours of leisurely fun in the summer months, they’re also a hotspot for child drownings. “As per state laws, all swimming pools should be fenced and fitted with child-proof locking mechanisms,” said Parrella.
Unfortunately, it doesn’t take a lot of water for children to drown. As water features and fishponds also pose dangers, landlords should consider leaving them out of family-oriented properties.
“Curtain and blind cords and pulleys pose a strangulation risk to small children,” Parrella said.
The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission’s mandatory guidelines require corded windows to pose no safety risks to tenants. Landlords who cannot abide by the ACCC’s guidelines should completely remove such window coverings and replace them with newer units.
“A specialised form of insurance can cover landlords for the risks associated with owning an investment property, such as legal liability,” Parrella said. “This means landlords may be covered for expenses incurred if a law suit arises as a result of a tenant suffering bodily injury at the property or damage or loss where the landlord is found responsible.”