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Harcourts fined for rental property safety failings

Harcourts Timaru was fined $55,000 and required to pay $12,500 reparation for failing to take all practicable steps to ensure the safety of gas appliances and fittings when leasing out a property and for engaging a person who was not authorised to do gas-fitting. Crew Cut franchisee, Larry Warner, was sentenced to 200 hours community work and required to pay $2000 reparation for doing the unauthorised work.

Harcourts Timaru and Larry Warner pleaded guilty last year to breaches of the Gas Act 1992 and the Plumbers, Gasfitters and Drainlayers Act 2006 and were sentenced in Timaru District Court on 19 March 2015.

In early June 2014, Harcourts Timaru engaged Crew Cut to remove a gas heater from a property they managed. Larry Warner was not authorised to do this work and the gas supply was left uncapped. A new tenant moved into the property and arranged for new gas cylinders to be delivered and connected.

The next day the tenant noted a strong smell of gas. Following an investigation by WorkSafe’s Energy Safety, it was estimated that 35kgs of gas had leaked into the house. This follows a similar incident in 2013 in Ruakaka which resulted in the death of a 19-year-old woman who suffered horrific burns when the leaked gas was ignited, exploding and destroying the rental property she had moved into a few days before.

“Harcourts Timaru operates under a national brand and has considerable expertise in property management,” says Richard Lamb, Energy Safety’s Compliance Officer. “They should have known better.

“Always use an appropriately qualified person to do gas and electrical work on any property. All landlords, including property managers, have a duty to ensure the safety of gas and electrical installations, appliances and fittings in properties they lease.