Don't get burnt

QFRS area commander Steve Murray says severe penalties apply if you rent out ‘budget accommodation’ without complying with safety legislation.
QFRS area commander Steve Murray says severe penalties apply if you rent out ‘budget accommodation’ without complying with safety legislation.

AT a time when many low-income families are struggling to find rental accommodation in Emerald, the Queensland Fire and Rescue Service has slammed the practice of some property owners and delivered a stern warning to real estate agents.

QFRS area commander Steve Murray said he was shocked to discover an eight-bedroom rental property being advertised by a local real estate agent where tenants were offered a room for $600 a week, $100 a night, or all eight for $3000 a week.

“Legislation clearly states that any rental property with six or more occupants paying individual rent is deemed to be budget accommodation,” Mr Murray said.

“There have been several concerns raised with me about a number of properties being let out with a substantial number of rooms within one building.

“I need to advise the community that once there are six or more occupants sharing common facilities and paying individual rent, it is no longer classified as a dwelling, and there are a number of building requirements that need to be adhered to.”

Mr Murray said he informed the real estate agent about the legislation and the property was swiftly removed from the market.

He said there had been a number of cases in Emerald where more than six occupants were paying individual rent at a single property that did not comply with the Building and Other Legislation Act - a result of the devastating hostel fire in Childers that killed 15 backpackers in 2000.

He said several buildings were inspected and deemed to be breaking legislation, landing the owners with substantial fines.

“This is about safety, and the community needs to know what they are getting themselves into if they wish to offer their house like this,” Mr Murray said.

Once properties cross the line and become classified as budget accommodation, there is a substantial list of building requirements needed in place.

Some inclusions are the installation of a hard-wire smoke alarm system and exit lights. Exit doors need to have the appropriate door handle hardware and there needs to be a formulated fire safety management plan. Emergency lights have to be installed and all equipment needs to be maintained on a six-monthly basis.

“The owner of any building found to be in breach of any of these regulations will be fined,” Mr Murray said.

“If it is owned by a company, the directors or owners of that company will be fined.”

Central Highlands Regional Council Mayor Peter Maguire said he was concerned that some might be operating “boarding houses” that placed the safety of occupants in possible danger.

He acknowledged there was a serious rental crisis and vowed the CHRC was working with all relevant parties to combat the problem.

“We’re working our hardest to try and put people in houses,” he said. “We are very aware of the rental problem. All you have to do is look around town. There are people living all over the place and if they haven’t left town, then they are staying with friends or relying on temporary accommodation. We have heard about huge prices being paid for rentals all across the Highlands - $3000 a week certainly seems a bit steep.”

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