Landlords now liable for maintenance of emergency and safety features in commercial buildings

The new Tasmanian Building Act (2016) and Building Regulations (2016) (the Building Act) mean that landlords may no longer pass on to their tenants the legal obligation to maintain essential safety or heath features of commercial buildings.

Previously, the Building Act required building owners or occupiers to maintain and undertake regular inspections of these features, which include exit doors and lighting, mechanical air handling devices, and fire-safety equipment such as fire sprinklers and extinguishers. Owners or occupiers were also required to obtain and display an annual maintenance certificate (or “Form 56 Certificate”) from an authorised contractor which certified that the inspection and subsequent maintenance had taken place.

While the annual maintenance certificate is no longer required, the maintenance and inspections must still be undertaken.  However, from 1 January 2017 these are now solely the responsibility of the building owner.

In cases where building owners already undertake the regular maintenance and inspection of the essential safety or heath features of their buildings, and either pass on the cost of doing so as an outgoing or absorb that cost in the rent, these changes will have very little practical effect.  Inspections will still need to take place but owners will no longer be required to display evidence of those inspections.  In practice, many contractors are still issuing building owners with inspection certificates, as records related inspections and maintenance must be provided to the Director of Building Control or his delegate upon request.

However, in situations where the tenant has the obligation to comply with the relevant provisions of the Building Act, both landlords and tenants should review their leases to consider the effect of these changes.   Landlords should ask for (and tenants should be prepared to provide) evidence that regular maintenance and inspections have taken place, and where possible building owners should arrange to assume responsibility of Building Act compliance (and pass on those costs as an outgoing).

If you have any queries or would like further information regarding this article, please contact:

David Shelley
Partner
M: 0427 183 217
E: dshelley@pageseager.com.au

Published: 11 April 2017

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