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REINSW: proposed changes are dangerous

26 April 2016

REINSW has spoken out against proposed changes which permit tenants to occupy properties that have loose-fill asbestos provided the tenant is made aware.

REINSW believes these properties are dangerous and should not be leased under any circumstances, and has made a submission in response.

It is the understanding of REINSW that the NSW Government has recommended a number of amendments to the Residential Tenancies Regulation 2010 (NSW) ("the Regulation") including:

a) Causing a rental property that is registered on the loose-fill asbestos register (LFAI) as constituting a ‘material’ fact for the purposes of section 26 of the Residential Tenancies Act 2010 and clause 7 of the Regulation

This new clause requires a landlord to notify the tenant if, at the time of entering into the residential tenancy agreement, their property is on the LFAI Register. If a premises is subsequently listed on the LFAI Register during a tenancy, a landlord must notify a tenant within 14 days.

REINSW strongly believes that any properties listed on the LFAI Register are ‘patently dangerous’ and ‘uninhabitable’ and therefore ‘should not be leased under any circumstances’.

REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin said: “This new regulation is positioning real estate professionals as the fall-guy by making us deal with the inherent dangers of asbestos. While everyone in society must unfortunately contribute to dealing with the issue, agents are being asked to shoulder a disproportionate amount of the burden.

“It also troubles me that there is no professional indemnity insurer who will cover agents for asbestos related claims, and I believe that's because they know the risk is too great.

“While an agent can notify people of the existence of asbestos, I am concerned injured parties will seek to hold agents responsible when something goes wrong.”

The amendments are set to come into effect on 30 May 2016. REINSW believes 31 October 2016 would be a better date as it would allow the NSW Government time to consider the issue further.

REINSW also supports the 2010 Ombudsman's report on asbestos which made recommendations on how to respond to the problem.

As a result of important recommendations in the report not being actioned, REINSW CEO Tim McKibbin wrote to the NSW Premier in March 2016 requesting that the recommendations be reviewed and implemented.

This included the establishment of a dedicated authority to deal with asbestos, and making reports a condition of a residential sale or lease. These reports would then be filed on a central register which would allow consumers to make informed decisions. 


     
  Check if your house has asbestos
Residential property owners in NSW with homes built before 1980 have until 1 August 2016 to register their properties to be tested for loose-fill asbestos.

NSW Fair Trading has established an Implementation Taskforce responsible for overseeing and implementing the NSW Government Voluntary Purchase and Demolition Program.

The initiative will allow homeowners in 28 Local Government Areas to receive free sample testing.

Any property found with loose-fill asbestos insulation will then have the option to sell their home valued on the basis it was free of asbestos as of 29 June 2015. So far6000 have been tested and 91 properties have tested positive.

A state-wide awareness program is being rolled out over the next few months to publicise the campaign. 

The Implementation Taskforce will remain in place until all properties registered before 1 August have been demolished and the soil remediated. For more information and the list of 28 Local Government Areas visit here or call 13 77 88.