Real estate open home safety risks

Those of you in the market to buy or sell property may have noticed the appearance of health and safety hazard registers at open homes over the last month. Some real estate agencies have been spooked by possible health and safety liabilities if open home attendees hurt themselves whilst inspecting a property.

I find it very odd that an average residential home could be a workplace health and safety risk.

Does your home become a ‘place of work’?

Real estate agents are presenting hazard registers to open home attendees before they enter the home. These hazard registers list all the potential health and safety hazards on the property, and the attendee signs it to say they have been made aware of the hazards. This has been brought about due to concerns around the new Health and Safety at Work Act 2015 which came into effect in April this year.

Real estate agencies argue that when a real estate agent shows an open home, that property becomes the agent’s place of work. Under health and safety law that agent will have a duty to ensure so far as is reasonably practicable the health and safety of any person entering the workplace.

Is all this necessary, and is your home a health and safety risk to potential purchasers? Probably not.

Normal household conditions

I am aware of open home hazard registers that list tripping and slipping hazards such as steps and stairs. I don’t think it’s reasonably practicable to list normal household conditions such as these.

If I was selling my home through a real estate agent, I would be concerned that unnecessary health and safety processes would detract from the salability of the home.

Extra work or an over-reaction?

The Real Estate Institute of New Zealand (“REINZ”) complains the new health and safety laws create extra work and are impractical. Some agencies say they have to use two agents to brief large groups of people on all the potential hazards.

The problem I have with REINZ is they are complaining bitterly about taking these extra measures, yet WorkSafe New Zealand the agency responsible for policing workplace health and safety, have not told the real estate industry to do any of this. In fact they have told REINZ that most of what they are doing is an overreaction.

Would it ever be necessary to have a health and safety hazard register at an open home?

Yes, in limited circumstances if there was significant risk such as ongoing construction, building work, or open trenches for example.

Apart from that, it is reasonable to assume your average open home is not a health and safety risk.