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One in five Victorian rentals not up to electrical switchboard standard

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One in five Victorian rental properties needed a switchboard the upgrade, according to Detector Inspector. Picture: David Caird

Victorian landlords have spent tens of millions of dollars combined on compulsory switchboard upgrades under a new minimum standard that must be met by next month.

About one in five rental properties needed the upgrade — which costs about $1300 — to meet the requirement, according to data from leading industry player Detector Inspector.

The incoming electrical safety standard requires rental properties to have “modern-style” switchboards, with circuit breakers and electrical safety switches installed by March 29.

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But industry capacity to get the work done by deadline is expected to become an issue as landlords dash late to make the switch before it becomes illegal to rent their properties out.

From January 2021 to December 2022, Detector Inspector completed 81,440 electrical safety checks, finding 15,489 had a switchboard that didn’t meet the minimum rental standards.

This represents 19 per cent — almost 1 in 5 properties — needing the costly upgrade.

Detector Inspector director Jordan Kagan Gescheit said his company serviced about 45 per cent of agencies in Victoria and also conducted electrical and gas safety checks, which are required every two years under the minimum standards, introduced since March 29, 2021.

“We went from about 80-100 technicians on the road to just over 300 on the road (in Victoria), a scale up of 300 per cent over that two-year period,” he said.

One in five Victorian rentals needed the upgrade, according to Detector Inspector.

Mr Kagan Gescheit said the electrical switchboard upgrades cost about $1000-$1200 on average, with electrical safety checks costing about $300, and gas safety checks about $400 individually before GST — but all of these requirements could be packaged up for a discount.

He stressed the importance of the minimum standards for safety, pointing out half of rental providers were not even getting smoke alarm checks annually prior to the laws coming in.

“We have come across, at times, properties that have needed to be fully rewired because homes have unsafe old cotton cabling throughout the property,” he said.

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“And those types of homes are being rented out and those renters have no idea of the risks of renting out a property like that … we have found a surprising amount of defects.”

But Barry Plant head of property management Emma Gordon said it was “a real challenge” for staff to know what should be done when rental providers would not comply, amid “plenty of pushback”.

“There is a heightened level of stress among property managers at the moment trying to encourage landlords to spend money to meet the new legislative requirements that come in March. What do we do when landlords say ‘we’re not prepared to do that’?”, she said.

Consumer Affairs Victoria advised if a rental property did not meet the minimum standards, a renter could end the lease agreement before they moved in or request an urgent repair, which must be done immediately, at any time after they moved in.

It said it did not audit rental properties, but renters could make an application to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal if a rental provider failed to act on an urgent repair.

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