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What’s your point of difference?

05 August 2014 Sharon Fox-Slater

sharon 2Many property investors choose an agency based on price alone – focusing their preference on the percentage of rent charged as a management fee – much to the chagrin of property managers.

Blogger: Sharon Fox-Slater, general manager at RentCover

To be able to charge more than competitors, landlords need to appreciate what your agency will do for them that others won’t, or what marketers call your 'USP', or unique selling point.

Landlords will hear a lot of similar claims from all of the agencies they approach about how carefully tenants are selected and screened, how much they “care” – so similar statements won’t make your business stand out.

What sort of things might form a true point of difference? Here are some examples:

  • A Townsville agency promises to rent out your property within 14 days – and to pay the rent from day 15 onwards. They also promise to return the month’s management fees if you’re unhappy with their services. Their blog shows them making good on their promises, with headlines like: “We stuffed up and we paid for it”
  • A Perth business compensates property investors $100 if they do not return phone calls or emails the same business day; refunds the last 90 days’ management fee if any issue brought to their attention is not rectified immediately; and has a quality tenant “guarantee” – no leasing fee for a new tenant if the previous one they recommended had to be evicted.
  • A nationwide property management brand points to differences including the use of video for both routine inspections and in advertisements, and boasts that their property managers are mostly property investors themselves and long-term owner operators, not staff on wages.
  • A Melbourne group boasts senior managers who are registered building practitioners to provide better advice on maintenance and builder defect corrections.
  • A Tasmanian agency promotes the fact their long-standing principal is available 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and that they call for tenders for all maintenance annually to ensure the best possible rates for work.
  • A Sydney group offers a rental guarantee to investors who already own property – rent 365 days a year, regardless of whether the property is between tenants.
  • A Brisbane business offers a free 60-day trial, and a program of preventative maintenance and annual building, plumbing and termite inspections.

Like property managers, EBM Insurance Brokers works hard to convince landlords not to shop for landlord insurance on price alone: specialist policies like RentCover really do offer superior protection and cover.

One of our other points of difference is that we process most claims ourselves instead of going back to the policy underwriter. Processing claims in-house helps minimise frustration because the landlord (or their property manager) is dealing with someone empowered to make a decision, which enables claims to be paid more quickly.

Most claims are paid within a day or two of receiving completed paperwork but you can also ask about “interim” payments to help with cash flow, particularly in complex cases that take a bit longer to finalise.

Over the last 20 years, EBM has built an outstanding reputation for service, efficiency and fairness when dealing with claims. And we do pay out.

In the last year, RentCover policies have paid out over $12 million in claims. Feel free to quote me on that figure next time you hear a landlord claiming that insurance is a waste of money because insurers “never pay”!


About Sharon Fox-Slater

Sharon Fox-Slater is the general manager of RentCover, a division of EBM Insurance Brokers, which insures 120,000 investment properties around Australia. With 20 years’ experience in landlord insurance, Sharon’s top priority is customer service and positive customer comments are her biggest marker of success. Despite leaving school at 15, Sharon has forged a ground-breaking career – she was the first woman to become a fellow of the National Insurance Brokers Association. Sharon was recently honoured to have been included in Insurance Business magazine’s Elite Brokers 2013 list.

sharon 2Carbon monoxide is a silent killer – a poisonous gas you can’t see, smell or taste – and it could be an issue in any home with a gas heating system.

Blogger: Sharon Fox-Slater, general manager at RentCover

Potentially fatal levels of carbon monoxide can be produced if a heater is faulty or poorly maintained, is inadequately ventilated, has no mechanism to direct pollutants outside or has a dodgy or blocked flue.

Appliance manufacturers and governmental bodies recommend having heaters professionally checked every two years. If any of the following warning signs occur it is important to seek immediate attention:

  • a yellow or sooty flame (rather than sharp and blue) except in a decorative log fire;
  • a pilot light which extinguishes unexpectedly or “pops” when lighting;
  • signs of heat damage such as discoloration of walls or heater panels;
  • soot stains around the heater; and
  • walls which are too hot to touch when the heater is operating.

I urge all property managers to raise this issue with landlords, and to ensure that heater inspections are conducted by a gas fitter who is:

  • licensed;
  • qualified to check for carbon monoxide leakage; and
  • equipped with a carbon monoxide analyser.

Landlords can also buy carbon monoxide detectors as a backup for about the same price as smoke detectors, but these are not always reliable and you still need to have gas heaters regularly serviced.

The need to check heaters has been brought to greater public attention after two children died in Victoria in May 2010. Thedeaths of Chase and Tyler Robinson – aged eight and six – were attributed to an unserviced gas wall heater in their rented home which emitted 500 times the safe level of carbon monoxide.

Feeling bad, they crawled into bed with their mother, Vanessa, who was severely affected but survived the incident.

Symptoms of carbon monoxide poisoning can be mistaken for the flu, food poisoning or a hangover and include tiredness, shortness of breath, headaches, dizziness, nausea, weakness, confusion and chest pain.

Pets can also suffer from carbon monoxide poisoning, and it can be a warning sign if a person and their pet gets ill at the same time. In some cases, pet owners have only become aware of the poisoning after their pet has died.

If a tenant complains of symptoms which only occur in the home, or which disappear or get better when they leave the premises, it could be a pointer to possible carbon monoxide poisoning.


About Sharon Fox-Slater

Sharon Fox-Slater is the general manager of RentCover, a division of EBM Insurance Brokers, which insures 120,000 investment properties around Australia. With 20 years’ experience in landlord insurance, Sharon’s top priority is customer service and positive customer comments are her biggest marker of success. Despite leaving school at 15, Sharon has forged a ground-breaking career – she was the first woman to become a fellow of the National Insurance Brokers Association. Sharon was recently honoured to have been included in Insurance Business magazine’s Elite Brokers 2013 list.

What’s your point of difference?
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Sharon Fox-Slater is the managing director of RentCover, a division of EBM, which insures 120,000 investment properties around Australia. With over 20 years’ experience in landlord insurance, Sharon’s top priority is customer service and positive customer comments are her biggest marker of success. Despite leaving school at 15, Sharon has forged a ground-breaking career – she was the first woman to become a fellow of the National Insurance Brokers Association. Sharon was honoured to have been included in Insurance Business magazine’s Elite Brokers 2013 list.

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