It would be fair to say that 2021 was a cracker. Issues like COVID-19, new legislation and unemployment have had a big impact on property investors and, as we head into the festive season, now is a good time to take stock and make plans for the year ahead.
Here are five things you should do going into 2022:
Check your landlord insurance
Landlord insurance is a sound investment, but you should make sure you’ve invested in the right policy, especially one that gives you good cover for tenant-related claims.
The fact is, rental properties have their own unique sets of risks and standard home and contents policies are not designed to suit. For example, they rarely cover losses like rent default.
Depending on the policy, landlord insurance covers a range of insured events, like damage from fire, storms or flooding, as well as legal liability and financial protection for tenant-related issues, such as lost rent or damage, whether it be accidental, pet, intentional or malicious.
Different policies suit different types of properties (houses, units, unfurnished, fully-furnished) and different letting scenarios (fixed-term, short-term). And because they suit different scenarios, they cover different risks. So, read the PDS and ask questions to make sure the policy is a good match for the risks you face and that your sums insured are realistic, so you don’t risk being under-insured.
Don’t set and forget either. Be sure you periodically review the cover to make sure it is still right for your needs.
Keep on top of legislative changes
The last couple of years have seen changes to residential legislation across the country. Some measures were temporary (like COVID-19 eviction moratoriums), but some have become permanent (like domestic violence provisions). Legislation has been completely overhauled in some jurisdictions, with new rules and regulations for things like minimum standards and allowing pets or modifications.
As someone involved in leasing a property, whether you’re a landlord or PM, you must comply with applicable legislation when it comes to any matter relating to residential tenancy. Depending on where the property is located, there could be several relevant pieces of legislation that apply – and you need to be aware of your obligations. Ignorance of the law is no defence.
PMs are required to keep on top of legislation and advise their landlords accordingly, but even those landlords who have engaged a PM should have a general understanding of the laws. If the landlord is self-managing, then they need to be a full bottle or risk coming unstuck if something goes wrong at the rental. If you are a self-managing landlord, perhaps 2022 is the time to consider appointing a professional to manage your investment property portfolio?
Fine-tune your tenant screening process
There is a good argument that getting the right tenants into the rental in the first place reduces the risk of problems. Of course, some risks are not tenant-related, but many are, such as rental losses if tenants abscond or experience financial hardship, accidental damage caused by tenants, their kids, pets or guests, or malicious damage if tenants smash up the place, or steal fixtures and fittings…
When it comes to selecting tenants, it can pay to be choosey, so:
- Pre-screen prospective tenants by asking a few simple questions, like enquiring about pets or letting them know you’ll be running background checks.
- Ask all prospective tenants to fill in a rental application form and closely scrutinise the information they supply.
- Check identification.
- Thoroughly check references (landlord, employer and character).
- Confirm income and employment status.
- Review their deposit ledger (only available if they have previously rented through a real estate agent).
- Search tenancy databases to check they haven’t been ‘blacklisted’.
- Conduct an interview.
But remember, your enquiries must not breach privacy laws and you can’t discriminate against prospective tenants based on things like gender, age or race.
Plan ahead for repairs
Adequately maintaining the property is a requirement in practically all building insurance policies and failing to do so could jeopardise cover. That’s why it’s important to keep on top of regular jobs.
While you can plan for maintenance and on-going repairs/upgrades/replacements, other repairs are needed out of the blue. Be sure to budget for these, especially as urgent and emergency repairs must be made within legislated timeframes and to specific standards.
NOTE: Maintenance is not covered under your EBM RentCover landlord insurance policy.
Invest in the rental property
Beyond meeting your duty of care towards tenants by ensuring the property is safe and fit for habitation, and keeping on top of maintenance and repairs, consider improvements to the property. A lick of fresh paint and other enhancements can make a tenant feel appreciated and houseproud, so they may be more inclined to look after the property. Things that improve comfort, like heating and cooling, or make life easier, like installing a dishwasher, can also go a long way to make tenants feel they are more than a rent payment.
At EBM RentCover, we work to ensure landlords and PMs are equipped to protect rental properties. If you want to chat about cover or claims, contact 1800 661 662.
*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 there, contact 1800 961 017 if you have any questions.
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