In May 2010, a ten month old baby girl was being held by her father on a balcony, when his foot fell through a rotten piece of wood and she slipped from his arms.
The baby, named Isabella, died following the accident.
Her parents lived in a rental property in Queensland, and had made a series of complaints about the state of the deck to both their real estate agent and their landlord.
After the accident, they took the matter to court, which placed a spotlight on some problems within the rental property industry.
Yesterday (September 19), Rockhampton coroner Annette Hennessy made several suggestions about how the industry can improve processes to ensure the safety of renters in the state.
The family’s lawyer, Gino Andrieri, said that Isabella’s parents wanted to raise awareness about this issue so that other people do not find themselves in the same situation.
“The priority of the Diefenbach family has always been to ensure lessons are learned and that something like this can never happen to another family,” Mr Andrieri said in a statement.
“We are hopeful today will see the start of this, right across Queensland’s real estate industry.”
Mr Andrieri outlined some of the coroner’s key recommendations, which involve making some changes to legislation.
“Importantly, the coroner has recommended amending current state laws to ensure mandatory inspections are undertaken on decks that are 10-years-old or more before a property is placed on the rental market, and that ongoing checks of decks are undertaken every three years thereafter,” he explained.
In addition, the corner would like to see tenants be able to access more information about the safety of their rental properties, so that they can make informed decisions about moving into a place.
“The coroner has also called on the real estate industry to ensure wood rot is classified as an emergency repair – meaning any time this is identified in a rental property it must be acted on as an immediate priority,” Mr Andrieri added.
Vrege Kolokossian, a partner at GMP, has urged renters to be aware of their rights. If they have contacted their property manager or landlord various times about a problem, and this repair is not made or done to an appropriate standard, and this results in an injury, then they may be able to claim compensation.
“I don’t think people are aware fully of their entitlements and their rights – and that’s the key thing, knowing their rights,” he said in an interview.
If you believe you may be eligible for compensation then make the time to speak to an accredited personal injury lawyer.