Apartment window safety, what you need to know
Each year in Australia, around 50 children fall from windows or balconies. These falls normally occur in warmer months when families leave windows and doors to balconies open.
In an effort to protect the lives and wellbeing of children, the NSW Government has made amendments to the Strata Schemes Managing Act. The changes to this legislation are in direct response to troubling statistics arising from the rate of injury and even death in children falling from windows or balconies.
What are the requirements for window safety?
Under the amended legislation, windows with an elevation of 2 metres from the outside and 1.7 metres on the inside must be fastened with a safety lock that will restrict the windows opening. This includes common property spaces and apartments above ground floor. The locks installed must be fitted and conform to the prescribed guidelines to ensure quality and compliance.
The gap with the engaged lock or stopping device must be no more than 12.5cm in width when fully extended. The window with the active lock must also be capable of resisting a force of 250 newtons, the equivalent of 25.5kg of pressure.
What does this mean for apartment owners?
The windows of strata apartments form part of the common property and therefore it is the owners corporation responsibilities to ensure each window meets requirements.
Property owners within the apartment building are able to install the compliant locks after notifying the owner’s corporation of their intent. (Be aware that owners are responsible to repair any damage cause by the installation)
Tenants, however, must obtain written permission from their landlord. Under the Act, landlords must not unreasonably refuse requests to install child safety locks on windows.
It is the responsibility of the owner’s corporation to ensure that all common spaces are up to code and comply with the new safety measures.
Confusion over strata window safety - Can I still open my window fully?
The legislation allows for locks that have an option to disengage, providing it is childproof, so that the window can still be fully opened should children not be present.
Security bars or grills may be suitable, but only if they comply with the required width limitation of 12.5cm between each bar. Flyscreens do not comply unless they are the reinforced security type and capable of resisting the very strong outward pressure which would prevent a child falling through.
Dr Cathy Sherry, Senior Lecturer of Law at the University of New South Wales, said: ‘In fact, the legislation allows locks and limiting devices to have an override, as long as it is child-proof. That way, if there are no young children present, people can open their windows as wide as they want.’
What is the deadline for new locks to be installed?
The new legislation will require compliance by 13 March 2018. If the window safety requirements are not met by the due date, owners corporations face fines.
The amendments by the NSW Government go hand in hand with a campaign championed by NSW Health called ‘Kids Don’t Fly’. Their publications are designed to inform parents and carers on effective methods to protect children from falling from windows and balconies.
In 2010 the State Government estimates that 34 children were hospitalised following falls from a window in NSW alone, with an additional 46 children hospitalised after falls from balconies. The locks proposed in this legislation will provide a preventative measure for child safety, while also allowing full use of the window when appropriate. It will allow parents to be sure of the safety of their children from falls so long as the locks are engaged.
Remember, ‘Kids Don’t Fly!’
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