It’s supposed to be the most wonderful time of the year, but it’s also a time when there are increased risks of accidents, fires and thefts at rentals, and all homes. So we’ve opened our Santa sack and pulled out a few seasonal safety and security tips for landlords, agents and their tenants.
The festive season can mean many different things to different people, but it can also mean risky times at rentals. And these are risks landlords and agents really shouldn’t ignore.
Yes, we know that you don’t want your tenants calling you Scrooge or the Grinch Who Stole Christmas behind your back, but we’re also sure you don’t want your festive season ruined either if you must deal with a disaster at a rental property.
The thing is, the festive season is a time when things are known to sometimes go a bit pear shaped. Such as, you ask?...
From cooking up a storm to decking the halls with boughs of fairy lights, the risk of house fire increases over the festive period. It’s why the fire and emergency services always put out warnings in the lead up to the big day. While most house fires start in kitchens, the number of electrical faults climb over the holiday season. Add in candles, flammable decorations and a dodgy light or two, and it’s fraught.
Then there’s the risk of accidents which can see property damaged and, worse still, visitors potentially injured. Think overly excited children, pets who knock things over and smash things, the relative who gets a little squiffy and spills mulled wine all over the carpet, or even the meter reader who takes a tumble over all the deliveries piled up at the front door.
And do you know who gets even more excited about the festive season than a four-year-old? Thieves. All the comings and goings, with doors left unlocked and windows open to let in a cool breeze. Presents piled high around the tree, on display to all the world. People away on holidays. Yes, it’s the most wonderful time of the year for the light-fingered.
Okay, you get it. So what can you do about it?
As a landlord or agent, you have a duty of care to make sure that a property is safe. This means you need to make sure the premises are structurally sound, but also that installations like gas appliances and hot water systems are functional and safe.
Beyond maintaining the property – and making sure that any conditions you’ve included in the tenancy agreement, such as not allowing candles to be used at the premises or forbidding external lights to be installed, are being respected.
It is the season for socialising! But the extra activity and people about opens the door to accidents.
That’s why it’s a good idea to check that the landlord insurance policy offers cover for accidental damage. Tenants are ultimately responsible for the damage they, their pets and guests cause, but what happens if they don’t make good? No one wants to foot the bill if a tree goes through a window, the kitchen catches fire or carpets must be replaced after they are stained with cranberry sauce.
Landlords (or their agent) also want to make sure the policy covers more serious accidents too. We’re talking about someone getting injured or having their property damaged while they’re on the rental property premises. If the reason why a tenant, guest or anyone else legally on the premises is hurt is because of something the landlord or agent did or didn’t do, then legal (public) liability cover is essential as you could be liable for compensation.
That odd sound outside the house may not be Santa’s sleigh landing on a roof with no snow, but a burglar coming in to help themselves. With so many goodies for the taking, so many opportunities (people on holidays) and so many trusting people (leaving doors and windows open in the warmer weather), the temptation is great.
Security infrastructure at the property (like functioning locks) is also part of a landlord’s and agent’s duty of care, so it is important to regularly check the safety and security of a rental. Be sure legal obligations are met, which are set out by the state/territory RTA. Of course, you aren’t responsible for your tenants’ lack of security consciousness (such as failing to lock doors and windows), but you are for the security infrastructure and if these aren’t functioning you could be held liable for losses that tenants suffer as a result of a break-in. Make sure you’re also on top of repairs and maintenance. If you’re lazy in your upkeep, you might also jeopardise your landlord insurance cover as you have an obligation to keep the premises in good repair.
Check that the landlord insurance policy offers cover for any of the landlord’s own contents (as opposed to the tenants’ goods) at the rental and also for malicious damage – they call it “breaking” and entering for a reason. Be sure to let tenants know what is expected of them if the property is damaged during a break-in too. Landlords and agents have an obligation as part of an insurance contract to prevent further loss, so securing a premises after an accident needs to happen smartly.
No-one wants to spend time filing police reports and insurance claims and arranging emergency repairs when they could be having another fruit mince pie or sipping a cocktail by the pool. By being prepared for the seasonal risks, you’ll hopefully be able to spend the holiday season not having to worry about a rental and tucking into a loaded turkey sandwich instead!
*While we have taken care to ensure the information above is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances and legislation after the displayed date may impact the accuracy of this article. If you need us we are here, contact 1800 661 662 if you have any questions.
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