Rental Safety Checks: The Ultimate Guide for Rental Providers of Properties in Victoria/Melbourne

Welcome, Property Owners and Managers of Victoria!

We understand the challenges you face when it comes to Rental Safety Checks and the impact they have on your properties. 

These mandatory checks can be time-consuming, costly, and the outcomes can be downright confusing at times. However, we are here to be your guiding light through these murky waters.

As seasoned professionals in property maintenance, we recognise the utmost importance of safety inspections. They not only safeguard your tenants but also protect your valuable investments and prevent liabilities and claims.

That’s why we compiled this ultimate guide to rental safety inspections in Victoria—a comprehensive resource designed to help you navigate the intricacies of this process with ease.

Throughout this guide, we delve into the legal requirements, practical tips, and best practices for choosing a reliable provider to conduct mandatory safety inspections.

Our focus will be on crucial aspects such as gas, electrical systems, and smoke alarms. 

By delving into the specific regulations set forth by the Victorian government, including the 2021 changes to the Rental Tenancies Act and the new rental minimum standards, we ensure that your property remains compliant.

In a world where companies like Rent Rabbit are evaluating rental providers, staying updated on safety and compliance has never been more critical. Therefore, our mission is to equip you with the knowledge and insights necessary to keep your finger on the pulse. 

The Rental Tenancies Regulations 2021 and the Minimum Rental Standards

The Rental Tenancies Regulations 2021 came into effect on the 29th March, 2021 and included a number of major changes that affect both owners and renters.

A key part of the new regulations was the introduction of the Rental Minimum Standards, 14-point checklist owners must comply with.

This Rental Minimum Standards Checklist includes: 

  1.   Locks – on all doors.
  2.   Vermin-proof bins – are to be provided.
  3.   Toilets – are installed and connected.
  4.   Bathroom facilities – must include hot/cold water.
  5.   Kitchen facilities – are provided with a dedicated food preparation area and a cooktop in good working order that has 2 or more working burners.
  6.   Laundry facilities – must have hot/cold water.
  7.   Structural soundness – of property.
  8.   Mould and dampness – free of.
  9.   Electrical safety – provided switchboards up to date with the current regulations in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 and ensuring that all power and lighting sub-circuits are RCD/RCBO protected.
  10.   Window coverings – have blinds or curtains.
  11.   Windows – that can open have a latch.
  12.   Lighting – is adequately provided.
  13.   Ventilation – is provided adequately to prevent mould/dampness.
  14.   Heating – is provided and installed in the main living area of the rented premises and complies with a certain energy efficiency.

How often should you do Rental Safety Checks in Melbourne/Victoria?

Additionally, Part C – Safety Related Activities mandated that:

  • Gas Safety Checks be conducted every 2 years if the rented premises contains any gas appliances, fixtures or fittings by a qualified gas plumber
  • Electrical Safety Checks be conducted every 2 years by a licensed or registered electrician.
  • Smoke Alarm Safety Checks be conducted every year noting that repair/replacement must be undertaken by a qualified person.

Consequences of Not Doing Rental Safety Checks or Complying 

In any large group of individuals, there are always some who fail to follow the rules and conduct either rental safety checks or maintain their property to meet the minimum rental standards.

This could be a very expensive mistake with fines proposed.

The amount will depend on the breach. However, we have heard quoted amounts of up to $55,000 split between both owners and property managers. 

As such, as a property manager, it is imperative to have your clients comply or have no choice but to dismiss them as clients – prior to any fines or notes in the Consumer Affairs black book.

On the other hand, if a property does not meet the minimum standards and as a result, a renter is harmed – the consequences and liabilities could be catastrophic. 

Arranging Rental Safety Checks – Roles and Responsibilities 

Choosing a service provider for safety checks is like choosing any other maintenance company – there is the good, the bad and the ugly.

In this new market space of a few years old, there are many cowboys out there and new companies popping in for a quick dollar – so an understanding of what you’re looking for is imperative to choosing the correct provider.

Important rental safety checks service factors to consider include, but are not limited to:

  • Qualified and trained technicians
  • Pricing and pricing transparency
  • Local contact for questions
  • Clear and concise reporting
  • Ability to conduct follow-up work (often underappreciated)
  • Reminder process for ongoing checks
  • Reviews and references

The roles and responsibilities of each person during a safety check are:

Rental provider: Choose and/or sign off on chosen company and follow-up works.

Property manager: Send work order to chosen company to attend and arrange rental safety checks, schedule reminders if not completed in time, and schedule yearly reminders.

Tenant: Allow access for technicians to attend.

Simple.

Rental Safety Checks Report Outputs

rental safety check report

Before we jump into each check, it’s important to understand what’s required from a reporting perspective and how to interpret the results.

Requirements included in each report include:

  • Date of test
  • Technicians/s’ name and relevant license number
  • Address

….with each report being kept on file until the next report is made.

4 Categories for Rental Safety Checks Outputs by Appliance Fixer

The results of the reports can be presented in a number of ways. At Appliance Fixer, the way we’ve found works best for both Property Managers and Rental Providers is to split this into 4 categories:

Adequate and Satisfactory: This output implies that the inspected areas or aspects of the rental property meet the required safety standards.

Attention Recommended: This category signifies areas where improvements or modifications are suggested to enhance safety, address potential risks, prevent a fault from occurring or restore function to a non-imperative item. 

An example of Attention Recommended would be due to a single blown downlight globe – it’s not a necessity to fix this (if there is enough light), but we should fix it to get it working.

Attention Required: This output indicates areas that require remedial actions due to existing issues, potential hazards, faults or non-compliance issues. 

These would be required to be fixed to meet the relevant standards whether gas, electrical, building or rental. 

An example of Attention Required would be a cooktop that only has 1 burner working out of 4.

Urgent and Unsafe: This category highlights conditions or situations that pose an immediate threat to the safety and well-being of the occupants. 

A very important note here is that requirements and urgent items MUST be addressed for the property to be compliant or the owner and property manager could be liable.

To simplify in dot points:

  • Once the test is conducted, a report is sent to the property manager/owner 
  • Any items that are not compliant must be subsequently actioned 
  • Evidence of their action must be provided and held by the property manager/owner (as an example, an invoice or a photo of said works). As such, if an audit is ever undertaken then evidence of both safety check reports and rectification works can be provided 
  • Note that safety check reports need not be changed 

Now that’s clear how each item is addressed, let’s deep-dive into each safety inspection.

Gas Safety Checks

Gas safety checks are, in our opinion, the most important of the group.

Natural gas leaks can lead to fires and explosions.

Carbon monoxide leaks (spillage) can go undetected as they don’t smell, and lead to significant health hazards and fatalities.

In fact, this is exactly what happened to a young Australian Sonia:

“The Victorian Coroner has released her findings following an inquest into the death of Sonia Sofianopoulos who was killed by carbon monoxide poisoning in July 2017. “This is a very sad time for the Sofianopoulos family and I extend my condolences to them,” Director of Energy Safety, Paul Fearon said. In her findings, Coroner Hawkins said a combination of events caused Ms Sofianopoulos’ death including:

  • A faulty draught diverter in the open flue heater which caused carbon monoxide spillage from an open flue space heater into living areas
  • The sealing of Ms Sofianopoulos’ unit which significantly reduced ventilation
  • The operation of exhaust fans which created what is known as a ‘negative pressure’ environment where carbon monoxide was drawn into living spaces”

Source: https://www.esv.vic.gov.au/media-centre/news/coroners-findings-death-sonia-sofianopoulos

And so the next question is, how does a gas safety check exactly work?

What is done on a gas safety check?

The definition of a gas safety inspection was originally provided in the new RTA 2021.

In essence, the inspection includes both visual and basic inspections and testing of:

  1. The Main Gas Line (if applicable)
  2. Each Gas Appliance 
    1. Testing
    2. Servicing

Step 2 is repeated per appliance.

Gas Line Overview

Testing the main gas line is best explained for a standalone house.

Reference: Appliance Fixer Gas Safety Check conducted on February 2024 in Fitzroy, VIC

The gas line extends from the gas meter and runs to each gas appliance. Sometimes is sequential, sometimes they fork or tee off. It all depends.

The first test is to ensure that there are no leaks in the gas line.

To explain how this works, imagine that the gas line is a garden hose with the tap turned on and the line full of water between the tap and a trigger nozzle at the other end. If there are leaks, you’ll see little bits of water spurting out. 

This is what we’re testing for.

The way we test this is with a device called a manometer. This pumps air pressure into the gas line and has a pressure gauge to read the change in pressure. If the pressure holds, there are no leaks. If the pressure drops, there’s a leak.

The pressure is allowed to drop for existing gas lines up to a certain rate. This depends on several factors like line size, ag, test equipment and conditions and whether the supply to the property is high or normal pressure.

As a ‘standard’ example, the allowable leakage rates are shown in the table below.

If there is a gas leak, the next step would be to try and find the gas leak with either a gas ‘sniffing’ device or with soapy water on the joins. 

Sometimes, it’s a quick fix. Sometimes, we need to replace the entire line because the current line is inaccessible (between walls, under the floor).

If there is no leak (fingers crossed), the next step would be to check each individual gas appliance.

Gas Appliance Testing and Servicing

There are many different types of gas appliances and gas! For this whole article, we have assumed that gas relates to natural gas, but there is also LPG to contend with.

For the standard Melbourne home (metro), we are looking for the following gas appliances:

  • Cooktop
  • Oven
  • Hot Water Service
  • Ducted Heater
  • Space Heater
  • Wall Furnace
  • Gas Log Fire 
  • Pool Heater
  • BBQ (generally LPG)

The types of tests and checks obviously differ per appliance, however, the checks are split into two areas:

  • Appliance Testing and Installation Check (AS 5601)
  • Appliance Servicing (as per AS 4575)

Below is a table describing both.

Gas Appliance Testing and Servicing – Checklist Example

Appliance Testing and Installation Check As per AS 5601

Appliance Servicing As per AS 4575

Is the installation safe and secure?

Check and commission the appliance for use?

Is the installation gastight?Has the appliance been cleaned of dust/debris?
Is the installation electrically safe?Are the gas pressures operating
within range?

Is the installation and its components accessible for testing and servicing?

Is the flame burning as it should?

Is the installation in the right place with adequate clearances?

Is the appliance operating correctly
Is there enough ventilation?

Are all safety valves and devices operating correctly?

Is there negative pressure or CO spillage?

Are the igniters and all other components operating correctly?

Is the appliance flue in good
condition?
 

 

Negative Pressure and Carbon Monoxide (CO) Spillage 

This topic deserves a particular mention.

Firstly, Carbon Monoxide (CO) is produced when a gas appliance is not burning correctly for whatever reason. (It’s dirty, the burners are warped, the heat exchanger is cracked, or it’s rusted).

CO dissipates outdoors which is why there are clearance requirements from outdoor appliance flues (to windows), whereas indoors, it can concentrate and cause problems we don’t want!

If a gas appliance is tested and serviced, as we are still getting CO readings indoors, it means that: 

  1.   The appliance is faulty and needs to be repaired/replaced
  2.   The mechanism (flue/chimney) is leaking and needs to be repaired/replaced
  3.   There is negative pressure

Negative pressure is when the airflow from indoors ‘through’ the appliance to the outdoors is too weak, resulting in airflow (now with CO) moving ‘backwards’ and spilling indoors.

This means there is an easy solution: increase the airflow.

How? By installing vents from the outdoors to indoors, changing the indoor air pressure.

How much? Simply open a nearby window and test how open the window (area squared) needs to be to prevent negative pressure.

Source: Energy Safe Victoria

Qualifications for Gas Safety Checks

If you are still with us by now, then you might understand that not your average Jo (or plumber) can conduct this check.

Only plumbers licensed or registered in Type-A appliance servicing are able to conduct these safety inspections (fun fact, these appliances are all called Type-A appliances).

What are Electrical Safety Checks?

Electrical safety checks are to ensure the property is electrically safe. Go figure.

It is to ensure that all installations, fixtures and fittings are in accordance with AS/NZS 3000 “Wiring rules” and AS/NZS 3019 “Electrical Installations – periodic verification.

Electrical safety checks must be conducted by qualified licensed or registered electricians.

The electrical check itself can be split into 3 areas:

  1.  Switchboard Testing
  2.   Fixed Appliance Testing
  3.   Lighting and Power Testing

Switchboard Testing

Electrical switchboards for domestic properties are simply a device that takes incoming power from the ‘street’, splits it into various ‘circuits’ and sends separate cables off to each circuit.

For example, the property might have two lighting circuits, one on the left side and one on the right. It might also have two power circuits (same splits), an oven circuit and an A/C circuit.

Each circuit is ‘managed’ by a circuit breaker. The wiring comes out of the circuit breaker and supplies electrical current to that circuit.

Circuit breakers that are for ‘power’ or ‘lighting’ circuits must be ‘protected’ by a Residual Current Device (RCD) or must be an RCD/circuit breaker combination called an RCBO (residual current circuit breaker with overcurrent protection).

In accordance with the new rental minimum standards, the switchboard is one area that rental providers must update to the latest regulations to ensure all power and lighting circuits have RCD/RCBO protection.

Why? Well, RCD/RCBOs detect faults (earth-neutral) very easily and will ‘trip’ to ensure the user (renter) is not harmed.

During an electrical safety inspection, this is what we are testing for. We’re checking that the switchboard is accessible, in good condition, and has all the required components and trips/functions when tested.

Side note on wiring: from this point onwards, the wiring from the switchboard to each outlet is checked and tested to ensure continuity (continuous flow of current). 

Old wiring like VIR (Vulcanized Indian Rubber) or Cotton Cloth wiring, if deteriorated, can be dangerous and should be noted/checked and replaced if possible.

Fixed Appliance Testing

Fixed appliance testing is the next step in the electrical safety check.

This could be considered the ‘electrical’ version of the gas safety check, however, we don’t ‘service’ electrical appliances as a part of the check. Instead, we’re checking they work and are safe.

Note: Properties will have many more electrical appliances than gas appliances.

Electrical appliances include:

  • Ovens
  • Cooktops
  • Dishwashers
  • Washing Machines
  • Dryers
  • Rangehoods
  • Exhaust Fans
  • Bathroom Fans
  • Ceiling Fans
  • Air Conditioners
  • Hot Water Systems
  • Gas Appliances (testing the electrical connection to)
  • Solar Systems
  • Electric Vehicle Chargers 

Lighting and Power Testing

Last, but certainly not least, are the lights and power testing.

When it comes to power and lighting testing, we follow a systematic approach to ensure everything is safe and functioning as designed.

First, we inspect your switches, sockets, and lighting fixture for any visible damage or signs of wear and tear. 

Next, they will use specialized equipment to measure the voltage and current flowing through the circuits. This helps determine if the electrical supply is within safe limits and if any abnormalities are present.

For power circuits, we need to ensure earthing of the installation for safety reasons also.

Moving on to lighting testing, we assess the functionality of your lights. They will make sure all the switches are working correctly, bulbs are properly installed, and lighting fixtures are secured properly.

To summarize, what this entails is checking and testing every light and power point within the property (that we can get our hands on safely, or without moving furniture).

Any faulty lights and power points will be noted in the checks.

What are Smoke Alarm Safety Checks?

Reference: Appliance Fixer Smoke Alarm Safety Check conducted on April 2024 in Albert Park, VIC

Note: this section focuses on the regulations in Victoria, Australia as it differs from State to State

Only working smoke alarms save lives  – the slogan of a government marketing campaign some years ago (I think).

Wherever it came from, it stuck in my head.

And rightly so because it’s imperative that smoke alarms are periodically checked and serviced.

Smoke alarms must be checked every year (in Victoria) in accordance with the rental tenancies regulations of 2021.

As a rule of thumb, the purposes of smoke alarms are to awaken sleeping occupants to a fire. If you are awake, you may be aware before the smoke alarm goes off. 

The smoke alarm safety checks should be conducted by trained individuals and must be replaced by qualified electricians (if hardwired).

What Should a Smoke Alarm Safety Check Consist Of?

While some companies (we know of) press the test button and move on, a smoke alarm safety check should include:

Number of alarms test

  • Are there enough alarms to cover each bedroom
  • The example below as per ESM 03 from the VBA on smoke alarm locations.

Positional test

  • Are the alarms positioned in the correct locations as such to ‘detect’ smoke and not sit in dead air space
  • The example below as per ESM 03 from the VBA on smoke alarm locations.

Interconnectedness test

  • If required, be connected to every alarm in the system so that if one goes off, all go off

Function test

  • Be triggered when exposed to smoke

Decibel test

  • Be loud enough when triggered

Correct Power Source

  • Must be hardwired if the building was built (or majorly renovated) after August 1997

 …. as well as have its battery replaced, be cleaned of dust, be within the expiry date and be otherwise in good visual condition.

Smoke Alarm Installation

Smoke alarms can be purchased from many locations like the corner store, to Amazon to Bunnings and range in price from a few dollars to a few hundred dollars per unit.

If you consider the importance of this device (to save human lives or, then simply to save your investment property) we should be opting for those that are not cheap plastic pieces but of reputable quality.  Note that each smoke alarm installed must comply with 3786. 

Summary

  • The RTA released an update in March 2021 that highlighted the new rental minimum standards and the requirements for gas, electrical and smoke alarms safety checks
  • Failing to arrange the rental safety checks can result in exuberant fines of up to $55000 for both owners and property managers
  • As such, it is the responsibility of both owners and PMs to ensure properties are checked for safety and required follow-up work is conducted.
  • Choosing the right service provider extends beyond price with many factors to consider
  • Safety check outputs should include reports by checking all relevant details and the reports kept in a safe place
  • Gas safety checks include the testing and servicing of each gas appliance, as well as a gas mainline check (if applicable)
  • Electrical safety checks include the checking and testing of all electrical components including the switchboard, fixed appliances, lighting, power and wiring within
  • Smoke alarm safety checks ensure each property has enough smoke alarms, the right number of alarms and that each alarm is functional

Frequently Asked Questions:

Gas Safety

How much does a gas safety check cost in Victoria?

Gas safety inspections must be conducted by registered or licensed plumbers with the Type-A servicing specialisation. The cost of checks ranges depending on the number of gas appliances in the property and generally range between $250-450.

Are gas checks necessary?

Gas safety inspections are necessary for all rental properties in Victoria and must be conducted every-2 years by registered or licensed plumbers with the Type-A servicing specialisation.

How long does a gas test last?

Gas safety inspections are required every 2 years for rental properties in Victoria.

What is checked in a gas check?

A gas safety check in accordance with the rental standards contains a check on the main gas line (for leaks) as well as testing and servicing in accordance with AS 5601 and AS 4575. Every appliance that runs on gas is checked, for example, cooktops, ovens, hot water services, ducted heaters, space heaters, wall furnaces, gas log fires, pool heaters and BBQs.

Who is responsible for gas meter Victoria?

The gas meter and supply side on any domestic property is the responsibility of the gas distributor for your area (eg: Multinet, Australian Gas Networks, AusNet). It is the responsibility of the property owner for the gas line from the meter to the property and its appliances.  

Electrical Safety

How much does an electrical safety check cost in Victoria?

Electrical safety checks must be conducted by qualified licensed or registered electricians. The cost of these checks varies from supplier to supplier and depends on the size of the property, but generally ranges from $200-$300 per property.

What are the checklist for electrical safety?

Electrical safety check reports include a checklist of items inspected during the test and include testing the switchboard, fixed appliances (like an oven, cooktop, A/C, etc), wiring, lighting and power outlets.

When should old wiring be replaced?

In Australia, various types of wiring have been used over the past 100 years including Vulcanized Indian Rubber (early 1900s), Tough Rubber Sheathed (1920s-1940s), V-90 cables (1940s-1960s), and TPS cables of various kinds (1960s-today). Earlier models are known to be more hazardous, however, only require replacement if the cables are deteriorating and/or testing incorrectly.

Smoke Alarm Safety

Do smoke detectors expire?

Smoke alarms generally expire every 10 years. It is important to read the manufacturer’s instructions to verify this.

Can smoke detectors fail?

Absolutely, which is why it is extremely important to periodically check these. Just remember, we are trusting our lives with very small and very inexpensive devices.

Do smoke detectors detect gas leaks?

Smoke alarms are designed to detect smoke. However, there are Carbon Monoxide alarms that can be purchased for those who are extra cautious.

How many smoke alarms do I need?

This will depend on the property layout, number of bedrooms, location of kitchen and number of stories. As a general rule of thumb, a smoke alarm should protect sleeping occupants from a fire coming from the kitchen. If you are unsure, it’s best to contact your local professional for further guidance.

Are You Looking for an Affordable Yet Competent Safety Check Service Provider?

We’re happy to perform rental safety checks on any residential property in Melbourne and hopefully the rest of Victoria. If you’re interested in an annual safety check inspection, we encourage you to contact us here or give us a call at 1800-683-639. Stay safe all!

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