This article was originally publisehd on 25/11/2019 and was reviewed and updated accordingly on the above date.
The festive season is all about coming together, exchanging gifts, eating good food and taking a well-earned break after a long year. However, the holidays can also present risks for landlords.
We don’t mean to be a grinch, but sometimes the reality is that the festive season can bring troubles for those managing rental properties. However, with a little vigilance and planning, landlords and real estate agents don’t need to worry about the safety of investments.
To make sure rental properties are protected this festive season, here are some tips and tricks to help you stay on the front-foot…
An expensive time of year
Christmas is an expensive time of year and no-one wants to miss out on sharing in the joy and festivities, which can sometimes mean tenants prioritise gift-giving, feasting, socialising and holidays over paying their rent.
Did you know??… Insurance claims for rental losses spike in the first three months of the year. To avoid getting Scrooged:
- Be proactive about rent payments – could you offer an incentive for early payment?
- Keep on top of arrears – a little understanding can go a long way, but the property is an investment and you need to address late payments immediately as partial and missed payments can snowball quicker than the flakes falling in a snowdome. For tips on how to respond to tenant hardship during COVID-19, click here.
- Ensure you have landlord insurance that covers loss of rent due to default.
The increased risk of fire…
It wouldn’t be Christmas without a bit of twinkle and sparkle. Glittering indoor fairy lights, houses festooned with flashing outdoor light shows, trees illuminated by hanging candles… a warming glow is part and parcel of the season. But sadly, that comforting radiance can easily turn into a blazing inferno as dodgy lights, overloaded power points, flammable decorations, and makeshift power stations boasting extension cords, double adaptors and multiple power boards increase the risk of fire.
But you don’t have to darken your tenants’ festive spirit… just remind them about a few safety basics:
- Only use interior and exterior lights fit-for-purpose and certified as meeting safety standards.
- Check all lights for wear and that the fuses and wattage/voltage are correct before using; follow the manufacturer’s safety precautions and directions.
- Don’t connect too many strings of lights together.
- Don’t overload power boards and avoid connecting extension cords together.
- Avoid running power cords across heavy traffic areas, under rugs, through open windows or sliding doorways.
- Don’t hang lights on any flammable surface.
- Lights should be switched off each night or when no one us home.
- While it isn’t common in Australian tenancy agreements, if your lease says candles are banned, make sure to remind renters of this fact.
- Keep candles clear of curtains and furnishings, the Christmas tree, decorations and other flammable items.
- Never put candles under the tree or hang them as decorations.
- Secure candles firmly in non-combustible holders that won’t tip over.
- Never leave a lit candle unattended, check it regularly to ensure it hasn’t burnt down too far and extinguish when you leave the room/home or go to bed.
- Make sure the tree and any other decorations don’t obscure or trigger smoke detectors and security alarm sensors.
Parties sometimes equal damage…
Children desperate to rip open presents, cooking up a festive storm, over-excited pets, family getting their groove on to the Jingle Bell Rock, friends coming over for seasonal drinkies… if your tenants are entertaining, then the risk of accidental damage is present too.
While your tenants are ultimately responsible for the damage they, their pets and guests cause, it is wise to make sure you have accidental damage cover in your landlord insurance policy. You don’t want to foot the bill if a tree goes through a window, the kitchen catches fire or you have to replace carpets stained with mulled wine and cranberry sauce.
Checking you are covered for malicious damage is also a wise move, especially if you have a holiday let or are leasing via an accommodation platform, as sometimes these types of rentals become party central. If a par-tay gets out of hand, you don’t want to be left holding the (financial) Santa sack if the revellers cause damage.
Thieves love the holiday season…
Do you know who loves Christmas even more than a four-year-old? Thieves. So many goodies (often proudly on display), so many opportunities (people on holiday) and so many trusting people (leaving doors and windows open). That sound you hear on the roof may not be Santa and his reindeer but a burglar coming in to help themselves.
Avoid the misery of falling victim by:
- Reminding renters about basic security measures, for example, locking up and not leaving keys ‘hidden’ outside.
- Checking on the safety and security of the property. If your tenants suffer a loss and it turns out to be your fault, for example you didn’t repair broken window locks, then they may be able to claim compensation from you.
- Asking tenants to let you know if they are going away so you can keep an eye on the property.
- Suggesting tenants have renters’ contents insurance, as your landlord cover doesn’t’ extend to their possessions.
- Ensuring your landlord insurance covers your contents and also malicious damage – they don’t call it ‘breaking’ and entering for no reason.
Listing rentals on Airbnb…
Enterprising tenants may think it’s a great idea to list their rental on an accommodation platform while they are on vay-cay. But if they have taken off and left the rental in the hands of guests then they have basically sub-let the property. And that’s a big no, no when it comes to landlord insurance. Either let your tenants know it’s a no-go or talk to your insurer to see if they will extend cover.
By being prepared for the potential challenges of the season, and protecting yourself and your property with the right insurance, you can help ensure yours is more a White Christmas than a Black Christmas.
*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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