man falling off ladderTo DIY or not to DIY, that is the question

Aside from the possibility of inflicting injury, DIY poses some significant insurance risks, making the practice best avoided at rentals.

How hard can it be… The landlord has all the kit and they’ve seen that guy on Better Homes & Gardens take on everything from fixing a leaky tap to building a granny flat out the back without any problems. Heck, the tenant is a proven dab hand with an Allen key too, and it’s only a slight progression to power tools right? And the agent has so much inspection experience they could identify an issue, like structural problems, electrical faults, plumbing time-bombs and even the presence of asbestos, in their sleep. So, what could possibly go wrong?


Emergency departments across the nation fill with hapless or plain unlucky DIYers every weekend. In fact, figures from the National Injury Surveillance Unit reveal around 25,000 people each year seek treatment related to ladder falls, nail gun injuries and accidents with lawnmowers and power tools. And, annually, more than 3,000 Australians (or a rate of 13 people per 100,000) are hospitalised as a result of injury from a DIY job, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

The leading causes of injury:

  • 38 per cent ladder-related falls
    • 63 per cent of which resulted in fractures
    • 8 per cent an open wound
    • 7 per cent concussion
  • 27 per cent powered hand tools and household machinery
    • 11 per cent of powered saw injuries were partial or complete amputation of a finger
    • 22 per cent of powered drill injuries were open wound of finger
    • 17 per cent of powered nail gun injuries resulted in an open palm wound and a further 17 per cent an open wound of the finger(s)
  • 13 per cent falls from buildings or structures
  • 8 per cent lawnmowers
  • 7 per cent non-powered hand tools

And for the record, 81 per cent of those wounded are men and the 65-74 age group accounts for the most hospitalisations.

Then of course, there are the insurance issues.

It’s important to know that if a tenant causes damage or, worse still, is injured while undertaking work or repairs at the rental, the landlord’s insurance may not cover their liability. Damage or injury caused or suffered by landlords undertaking works also may not be covered.

Any repairs at the investment property should be carried out by experienced, insured and (where applicable) licensed tradies (see the break-out). Just because a trip to Bunnings can yield everything needed to undertake pretty much any task – and a quick Google can provide a step-by-step video tutorial – it doesn’t mean an amateur should give it a red hot go. Well, not if maintaining insurance cover is a desirable outcome.

The law requires some works to be undertaken by licensed contractors, such as electrical and plumbing jobs. If they aren’t, it can not only result in hefty fines, but also have serious ramifications for insurance and potentially void the policy. To say it would be a false economy to DIY or hire a ‘cowboy’ handyman to fix an electrical problem, only to have the property burn down as a result of the fault, is an understatement. It makes the few hundred dollars a licensed sparkie would have charged pale into insignificance when compared to the repair cost an owner faces when their insurance claim is declined as a result of the non-licensed work.

PMs could also find themselves in hot water if they knowingly allow works to be undertaken by tenants, landlords or unlicensed contractors that result in damage or injury (making Professional Indemnity insurance a good idea).

When it comes to rental properties, DIY is a risky proposition. So, if for no other reason, suggesting landlords or tenants “step away from the power tools” and calling in the professionals can safeguard the landlord’s (and your) insurance cover. If DIY fever looks like it might strike, remind owners that most repairs and maintenance work undertaken by tradies are also tax deductible.

Cowboys don’t just roam the open plains

A recent case before the Adelaide Magistrate’s Court highlights why landlords and PMs should only engage the services of fully licensed tradies.

Unlicensed builder Paul Arneric was fined over $15,000 for delivering poor work at investment properties. He admitted to breaching the Australian Consumer Law and the Building Work Contractors Act for both not doing work when paid and performing substandard work. As a result, the builder was fined a total of $15,569 – $10,600 fine plus $800 in prosecution fees and $4,169 in compensation to the victims.

Sadly, this was not an isolated case and there are many homeowners and investors who have been taken for a ride by ‘cowboy’ tradies. So making sure that any tradie that is hired to undertake work at an investment property is qualified, insured and, where applicable licensed, is a must.