Having a rental property sitting vacant is stressful enough for a landlord – how will I pay the mortgage, will I find a tenant and will I get a good tenant? Now there’s another trend that could have your clients losing sleep at night.
A new wave of ‘entrepreneurs’ are using vacant properties for unauthorised open house parties, leaving landlords with huge damage hangovers.
In Perth, there has been a spate of out-of-control parties being illegally held in vacant rentals by opportunistic ‘party planners’.
Targeting vacant properties, the culprits advertise the open house parties on social media and charge partygoers for attending. The gatherings often turn ugly, with police called on occasion.
One dastardly duo was recently charged with a string of offences relating to parties, which up to 1,000 people registered to attend, leaving trashed homes in their wake. The pair was charged with trespass, organising gatherings that became out of control, fraudulent appropriation of power, aggravated burglary, property damage and assaulting police officers.
In another incident, a wild party turned into a financial nightmare for the owner who racked up a damage bill of more than $160,000. The owner had only just renovated the property and had listed it online, including the date it would be available for lease. The home was targeted the weekend before its advertised available date.
Organisers promoted the party via social media, broke into the property and hundreds turned up on the night. Neighbours called the owner who rushed over to shut down the gathering. After the revellers who trashed the home were confronted, they retaliated by setting the property alight. Firefighters were unable to save the home, and it is not known if the owner had insurance.
While the media coverage has focused on incidents in Western Australia, it could happen anywhere where there are rentals sitting empty. PMs and landlords need to be vigilant.
‘For rent’ signs and listings can be a great way to attract potential new tenants but these mediums are also rich pickings for the unscrupulous looking for their next venue. Carefully reviewing the type of information included in an online listing may be one way of mitigating the risk of a property being targeted.
It’s also important for owners to make sure their landlord insurance is up-to-date and they understand their cover relative to vacant property. PMs and policyholders should check with their insurer if they have any questions, especially about terms and conditions related to unoccupied premises and their responsibilities and options.
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.