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Strata window safety has begun

12 March 2018

A new law has begun which requires all residential strata buildings in NSW to have safety devices installed on all above ground windows. But what does this mean for property managers and strata managers?

REINSW held a webinar on this issue to find out, with Reena Van Aalst, Managing Director of Strata Central, Sandy Hodgkins, General Manager of NNW Property and Shane Foley, Director of BIV Reports Pty Limited. Watch it in full here.

The NSW Government has brought in this new law in to protect children, with around 50 falling from windows or balconies in Australia every year. 

What does the regulation say? 

Shane explained that windows which open and have a two metre or greater fall on the outside, and a 1.7 metre or less height on the inside, must be restricted to opening only 12.5cm. They must also meet a pressure test of 250 newtons, or the same force as 25.5kg of weight in pressure.

However, windows only need to be locked when children are in the apartment or on all common access areas such as stair landings. The alternative is security screens, such as bars or grills which have gaps no bigger than 12.5cm and are capable of resisting strong outward pressure.

Shane added that if an owner's corporation or individual fail to comply, the NSW Civil and Administrative Tribunal can make them install window locks and force access to an apartment. However, they cannot bring an order to force the law until after 13 March 2018.

He said: “It is good practice is to use a supplier who can provide a compliance certificate and include photographs that supports each of the criteria.

“BIV also educate owners with brochures on which windows need the locks and what type of locks they need, which enables them to be more empowered and engaged.” 

What should strata managers do?

Reena said: “The first thing a strata manager needs to do is include a motion in the AGM agenda to show there's a requirement to install window locks and bring that to the owner's corporations attention. 

“We also need to include a budgetary allocation to ensure we have sufficient funds in the budget. The strata committee can then source quotes and it's really important to use reputable contractors who are suitably qualified in this field.

“Once the quote's approved, notices need to be sent out to the residents and property managers to make sure they're aware of the schedules we've outlined for access and installation. 

“Sometimes locksmiths will require access to provide a quote because not all windows are the same, especially in older buildings. This is when it is important to have a good relationship with property managers to gain access.”

Property manager processes

Sandy manages 1,156 properties with the majority of them being strata, and has put in place a process to deal with the new window safety law.

The process Sandy’s team follow once they get notification from strata that an installation is taking place, includes:

  • sending a letter and email to the tenants to let them know, including a pamphlet called Kids Don't Fly which contains information about preventing falls from windows and balconies
  • informing the tenants of the company installing the lock, their contact, timeframe to install and what to do if they can't be there
  • if access is not provided and further inspections are required, they are told additional costs will be charged to them
  • once the window locks are installed, the address is added into Sandy’s system which property managers check before attending routine inspections so they know to check the window locks
  • during the annual inspection reports, they take photos of the locks and which rooms they're in and send them to the owner.

Sandy added: “It's very important property managers have systems in place to monitor and report on the new window locks because we're not experts and shouldn't be giving advice.

“A property manager's role is very complex and you need to be vigilant and report if there's anything amiss. However, if you have systems in place, it makes your life a lot easier.”