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When good tenants go bad

24 February 2016 Sharon Fox-Slater

Every property manager and landlord dreams of the ideal tenant – the person who pays on time, keeps the place clean and only complains when genuine attention is needed.

A tenant who does the gardening, tidies up around the house and identifies problems before they occur is the ultimate find. But, when they bring out the ladder or start-up the power tools, the benefits can quickly swing out of favour.

That’s the time to reign in your top tenant and explain the complexities of property maintenance and insurance at a rental home.

As most PMs are aware, landlords and tenants usually need, and are covered by different insurance products. That means if damage or injury occurs while your tenant is undertaking repairs at your property, potentially neither of you are covered.

Any savings and convenience extracted from your tenant’s DIY help can quickly be absorbed by costly repair work or, worse, medical bills.

Regular inspections provide the ideal time to keep an eye on overzealous tenants and identify work that needs to be done.

Many repairs can be resolved by DIY landlords or paid handymen, but some jobs remain strictly in the realm of professionals, especially from a landlord insurance perspective.

Repairs and other work best left to experts include:

  • Electrical work: Apart from being dangerous, most DIY electrical work is illegal.
  • Plumbing: The rules of what you can and can’t do yourself differs from state to state, but DIY plumbing is generally restricted to minor work such as reseating taps.
  • Structural work: Knocking out a few walls seems easy, but you need to understand where the load-bearing walls are to avoid a disaster. Pay a professional to help.
  • Roof repairs: While the repairs can be difficult, moving around on a roof can be dangerous. Make sure you’re prepared before climbing up.
  • Asbestos: Removing asbestos is a potentially hazardous job covered by various legislative requirements from state to state. Consider getting professional help.

If you’re unsure about what property maintenance is covered under your insurance policy, speak to your insurer or broker before proceeding.

When good tenants go bad
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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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