Summertime in Australia… beaches, barbies, budgie-smugglers… and bushfires. While the postcard images are idyllic (and a little scary when it comes to the togs), the reality is that the chance of a natural disaster warms up as the weather does.
The risk of cyclones, storms, floods and bushfires soars between November and April, often resulting in devastating damage bills.
The outlook for this year’s disaster season is sobering. The Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre predicts that large parts of southern Australia will face above-normal bushfire activity. For those in northern Australia, the Bureau of Meteorology notes that there is a 56 per cent chance of an above-average number of cyclones this season.
Now is the time to check with your landlords that their investment property is protected should Mother Nature unleash her wrath.
From an insurance perspective, once a disaster has struck, it is too late to arrange appropriate cover, so early risk mitigation is a must. If you are having the discussion with your clients, here are a few questions to cover:
• Is their policy up to date? It is easy for policies to lapse and leave the owner at risk.
• Is the level of cover (including sum insured) sufficient? Underinsurance is rife in Australia and it’s only at claim time that many people realise their oversight.
• What risks are covered under the policy? Many policies exclude flood cover, for example.
• What are the inclusions and exclusions, and the limitations and excesses that apply? Not all policies are created equal, or cover the same things, so it’s important that yours specifically includes the eventualities (insured events) that each owner needs.
• What are the policyholder’s obligations (such as loss mitigation) under cover? This is important for the owner and agent to understand before the property is damaged, as failing to limit losses could have repercussions come claim time. It’s also important to understand the requirements when it comes to repairs. For example, do all repairs including urgent ones need to be authorised by the insurer before the work is commissioned?
• Is the insurance on the property a standard building policy or a landlord policy that offers extra benefits? Owners relying on home and contents insurance should read their policies carefully as they may not be covered if the home is rented out. Specialised landlord insurance covers risks unique to investment properties, including loss of rent, which can be invaluable if the property is damaged or destroyed and unable to be leased.
Now is a good time to chat with your clients about maintenance and to reach for your little black book of trades. It’s a condition of most building policies that the premises be properly maintained, and failure to do so can void the policy.
Reminding tenants that the landlord’s insurance won’t cover the loss of their possessions, too, might help ease some heartache down the track if disaster strikes.
Authorised representatives of landlord insurers can help update or put new policies in place, while other PMs might like to suggest their clients look into securing cover to help limit the chance of being hit by the fallout from extreme weather conditions this summer.
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.