An insurance claims and compliance manager has offered practical tips on how to minimise open home inspection risks through waiver forms and supervision.
Nancy Rainbird from Realcover said her organisation has seen a number of claims against agencies arising from property theft as well as personal injury during open home inspections.
“Some argue that the most common risk posed by open house inspections – whether they be properties for sale or lease – is theft of the occupier’s valuables,” she said.
“The risk is higher when there is insufficient agency staff on site to monitor viewers, when agents don’t check or obtain identification from viewers entering the property, or when agents and property owners fail to check all valuables are secured in a safe place prior to inspection.”
One tool that can minimise the risk during open home inspections is a waiver form signed prior to entering the property or even a shortened version of a waiver document for the sign-in register.
“For example, ‘The attendee acknowledges that at all times while attending the open house/inspection they do so at their own risk and that the attendee (and other people in the care and control of the attendee) will not hold the owner, agent or any of their employees, contractors or agents liable for any personal injury, death, loss, theft or damage to their personal property, whether caused by the negligence of the owner, agent, their employees, contractors or agents, howsoever caused.’”
Ms Rainbird said an agent's professional indemnity insurance policy will respond if there is an allegation of a breach in professional duty.
“It is very important to note that an indemnity clause or signed waiver form will not always protect you as the courts will often go out of their way to read down the clauses against the agent/owner,” she said.
According to Ms Rainbird, agents and property managers can reduce the risks associated with open home inspections if at least two qualified agency staff are present.
“Have viewers fill out a sign-in sheet and check and record their identification details, and keep only one access door unlocked or ensure staff members are at the back and front door to monitor viewers entering and leaving,” she said.
“Secure and hide all valuables, ask the homeowner or tenant to reduce as much clutter in the house as possible, ensure items with any financial details are stored away and adopt waiver forms wherever possible.”
[Related: 11 essential inspection safety tips]