Legislative reforms that came into force this week will see Bay of Plenty property owners, managers and body corporate committees facing increased liabilities and new responsibilities for health and safety.
Ignorance of what is happening at 'ground level' will be no defence.
"The regulations include obligations on property owners and body corporates to identify hazards, include and maintain a hierarchy of control measures, as well as the introduction of more onerous duties to provide information, supervision, training and instruction," said Kane Tarrant, Colliers International's national facilities manager for real estate management.
"Ignorance of what is happening at 'ground level' will be no defence."
The changes result from the coming into force of the Health and Safety at Work Act 2015, as well as new compulsory Health and Safety at Work regulations. Property owners and body corporates are now deemed to be a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) who manages or controls a workplace, and had to protect the health and safety of those people associated with their workplace.
Geoff Felton, a body corporate consultant in Colliers Hamilton office, which handles property management across the Bay, noted that a body corporate had a responsibility with respect to its common property to identify hazards.
"And if work needs to be done on the exterior, the body corporate will also need to be involved to make sure the workplace is safe, because it has huge consequences penalty-wise."
Heath Young, chief operating officer of Realty Services, which has the Bayleys franchise in the Bay, Waikato and Taranaki, and owns Eve's Real Estate, said one of the key messages coming through was that a lot of the requirements should already be in place under current best practice and health and safety regulations.
"We think it's a case of bringing it so it's more prominent for people in terms of priority and importance," he said.
Property managers and landlords had to ensure that contractors had their own health and safety policies in place, he said.
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Steve Lovegrove, owner of Professionals McDowell Rotorua, said the firm had been working with suppliers on the issues over the past year.
"Many of the smaller suppliers haven't yet created their own health and safety manuals and procedures, so we've been working with them to help them achieve that, as well as bringing our own procedures into line to meet the requirements of the new act."
Richard Evans, co-director of Rotorua Rentals, said the full impact was not yet known, and noted the Residential Tenancies Act already required landlords to comply with its health and safety provisions.
"It does mean they're going to have to be responsible - and most are - about fixing things."
He recommended that private landlords hire a professional property manager to ensure health and safety issues were covered properly.
"It will only take one or two private landlords to get hit [under the new law] and the alarm bells will ring."
Health and Safety at Work Act 2015:
* Came into force this month.
* Deems property owners and body corporates to be a Person Conducting a Business or Undertaking (PCBU) who manages or controls a workplace
* As PCBUs they become responsible for on-site safety.