Last week on Wednesday, 10 October 2018, the Consumer Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (the Bill) was introduced into the WA Parliament by the Minister for Commerce and Industrial Relations. The Bill makes a wide range of changes to Western Australian consumer, tenancy and building laws. Notable among the changes is the introduction of an important change relating to tenants being allowed to affix furniture to walls to prevent it from toppling over and causing injury, and as a result the bill has become known as "the toppling furniture Bill".
The toppling furniture changes proposed by the Bill follow from the recommendations of the WA Coroner’s, delivered in November 2017, into the death of a 21-month-old child tragically killed in his family’s rental home by a falling chest of drawers in 2015. Evidence at the inquest revealed the drawers had not been secured because the landlord did not give permission for such to take place. In the report the Coroner found that the child, after waking up from his nap and while playing in his bedroom, came in contact with the chest of drawers, which toppled forward onto him.
In making the report the Coroner considered a separate report by the Western Australian Product Advocacy Network which found that there were 271 furniture-related injuries to children in the five-year period up to December 2016 in WA. Among these injuries, 148 involved furniture toppling over, and the most common piece of furniture involved was chests of drawers, and then television cabinets.
The Coroner's view from the evidence was that the problem with efforts to raise safety standards was that under legislation governing residential tenancies: "landlords are entitled to decline consent to a tenant affixing any fixture".
As a result, the Coroner recommended the Government consider amending the Residential Tenancies Act 1987 (WA) ("the RTA") to ensure a landlord cannot stop a tenant from affixing furniture, "if the fixture relates to anchoring a television or item of furniture to a wall for the purposes of child safety... Rather, the Act should provide that for those specific fixtures, such an item may be affixed with the lessor's consent [and the lessor shall not unreasonably withhold such consent]."
Following from the above section 47 of the RTA is proposed to be amended to provide for the circumstances in which a tenant may affix items and remove fixtures. Clause 67 of the Bill proposes to insert an new subsection 2A to provide that a tenant may affix furniture to the walls of the rental premises for the purposes of ensuring the safety of a child with the consent of the lessor. The consent may only be withheld in specifically identified circumstances which are set out in the subsection and are:
The proposed subsection also provides for additional conditions to be prescribed as follows:
The Bill will make the following proposed amendments:
As already indicated,the Bill makes amendments to a range of Acts administered by the Department to implement the recommendation of the WA Coroner and to increase outdated penalties and provide for "more efficient and effective regulation". The explanatory memorandum indicates the Bill, once enacted, will commence on proclamation but clause 2 also points out that there may be some delay in the commencement of sections 52 and 81 as they involve the introduction of a new option of imprisonment for some offences and will require amendments to the Integrated Courts Management System in consultation with the Department of Justice. The remaining provisions according to the explanatory memorandum will commence as soon as supporting Regulations have been prepared.
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Consumer Protection Legislation Amendment Bill 2018 (WA) and supporting explanatory memorandum as reported in the TimeBase LawOne Service.
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