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Top tips from a claims specialist
Case studies

Top tips from a claims specialist

23 Oct 2019 9 mins read

It would be fair to say that, in his decade-long tenure in our claims department, Sadi Iftekhar has seen it all. 

From the straightforward to the complex, the unusual to the downright devastating, Sadi has handled more than 7,550 claims and authorised more than $18 million in payouts to policyholders.

So who better to ask for top tips when it comes to submitting a landlord insurance claim?

Tell us a bit about your insurance career?

When I finished university I went straight to work with EBM RentCover. I spent a year in client services and then moved to the claims department. I’ve been working as a claims specialist for more than 10 years now. 

Your job title is Senior Claims Specialist but the team call you the ‘claims guru’. With more than 7,550 claims handled worth more than $18 million under your belt, you must have handled all sorts of claims.

There are two main types of claim we deal with. The first is tenant-related claims which are for damage caused by tenants and claims for loss of rent. The second type of claim we get is for non-tenant related damage, such as fire or storm damage.

So you must have some top tips for landlords looking at making a claim... 

My top tip for landlords when submitting a claim is to make sure they have all the right documentation. To support a loss of rent claim you’ll need to submit a copy of the lease agreement, the rent ledger, and evidence that you collected a bond. You’ll also need to show that you followed the procedure for serving notices or eviction. If you need to make a claim for damage you need to have evidence of the loss – copies of inspection reports, condition reports (entry and exit reports if the claim is for tenant-related damage), plus any photos or video of the damage. If the damage was caused by a criminal act, for example burglary or malicious acts by the tenant, a police crime reference number will also be helpful. You’ll also need to supply quotes for repairs.

Insurance providers will assess a claim in much the same way as a tribunal or court would. If you went to tribunal to claim damage costs from your tenant, you’d need to prove that you suffered a loss. You would need to show that you had an agreement with the tenant, that you collected a bond. Present evidence of the condition of the property when they moved in versus the state it was in when they moved out. The court would use the evidence you provide to determine if you suffered a loss that can be recouped from your tenant. We use the supporting documentation (that is, the evidence) you supply to determine if you have a valid claim under your policy.

And your top tip for property managers?

Unless a repair is urgent, you should only seek quotes for repairs, not arrange them. If the repair is urgent you of course need to make the property safe and prevent any further loss. But if the property has been damaged and the repair is not urgent, then it’s best not to have the problem fixed before a claim is assessed. Instead, get the quotes and submit a claim. 

Some agents jump the gun a bit and organise thousands of dollars’ worth of repairs assuming insurance will cover it, to sometimes find the claim is not supported. The agent is just trying to expedite the repair on their client’s behalf – which is great – but they can get caught short if the claim is denied or the payout doesn’t cover all of the costs.   

At EBM RentCover we work with clients to minimise emotional and financial stress associated with making an insurance claim. How do we do it?

Being caught in a situation where you need to make a claim can be complicated and confusing. Whether a property has been damaged by Mother Nature or a tenant has stopped paying rent – making a claim against insurance can cause stress and frustration. At EBM RentCover, we believe knowing how to respond in times of disaster makes the whole process easier. So, we actually work to guide clients through an insurance claim, explaining exactly what documentation is needed and offering tips for maximising payouts. 

Then, as a Claims Specialist reviewing a claim, I like to work on the premise of utmost good faith – this underpins every decision I make when approving or declining a claim. Approving claims is obviously a lot simpler than declining claims… because we are dealing with happy clients. But, of course, there are times when claims simply can’t be paid because they are not covered under the policy. When this happens, I like to again work one-to-one with the client so they understand exactly why the policy is not responding. I find that support during a situation that is not covered is just as important as support during an approval and can mean the world of difference to a client who is trying to understand why they will not receive any funds. 

Lastly, I like to put myself in the shoes of the client… if it was me on the other end of the phone submitting a claim, I would want to talk to a real person who can sympathise with my situation and understand that I am dealing with an investment that is ultimately an income. This is what I think about when communicating with clients. 

For the record, do many landlords or agents ‘try it on’ when it comes to insurance claims? 

There are some people who think insurance claims are fair game and that they are entitled to exaggerate their losses. They’re rare but it does happen and it is my job to sniff those ones out!

In my experience, 99 per cent of people are honest. And even though people are more aware of what they can and can’t claim, and the recourse open to them if they are not happy with a decision, they appreciate it when we find ways to help them.

Open: Sadi’s claim files

Despite having handled thousands of claims, there are some that stick in Sadi’s memory:

Claim one – Sadi’s first encounter with “fly excrement”

We received a call from a landlord with a two-bedroom apartment in Docklands (Vic). They called saying they needed someone from EBM RentCover there right away. They hadn’t lodged a claim yet but said they were at the premises with their property manager to do the final inspection and the condition of the apartment was so bad they couldn’t actually enter the property. There was so much rubbish in the apartment they couldn’t get in and the stench was terrible. The tenant had moved out but left a stack of rubbish and her possessions behind. 

Now, having seen a lot of claims for property damage and clean-up in his time, Sadi thought the landlord and PM may have been exaggerating just how bad it was. So he asked the landlord/PM to send over some photos. But when the photos arrived he could see the state the property was in and arranged for an assessor to visit immediately. The assessor attended the apartment the next day and called Sadi to advise he wasn’t going into the premises to assess the damage – it was in such an appalling state and not safe to enter. The assessor agreed to get some quotes for a forensic cleaning. The quotes came in at $40K+ and $38K, which included the costs to clean up all the cat poo and pee throughout the apartment (the owner had about 10 cats at the property). It was also the first time Sadi had seen photos of fly excrement all over a ceiling and air-con: “The flies had obviously been feeding on all the cat faeces and left orange excrement over all the surfaces in the apartment. I’d never seen anything like it!”

It took 3-4 weeks for the clean-up to be completed and then the assessor could actually enter the property to assess the situation. What he found was major damage – with the bathroom, kitchen and all flooring throughout the property needing to be replaced. The quote to repair all the damage topped $40K. 

EBM RentCover paid the $35K for the clean-up and a further $15K for the damage repairs, taking the claim to the maximum damage claim limit which was $50K at that time (it is now $65K). In addition, the landlord received nine months’ worth of loss of rent.

Claim two – a tragic tale

An agent attended the investment property in Sydney to conduct an inspection and saw blood all over the place. The police were called and discovered that the tenant had taken their own life. Sadi arranged for an assessor to attend the house, who described what he saw as being like ‘a horror movie’. EBM RentCover paid for the forensic cleaning and minor damage costs, which together with loss of rent, totalled $25K. 

Sadi said that tenants dying at a rental was not uncommon and while most cases were tenants passing in their sleep, on occasion the death was the result of suicide or homicide. “It’s very traumatic for the landlord to have someone die at their investment property,” said Sadi. “Thankfully while many of these claims are tragic and emotionally charged for all concerned, from an insurance perspective they are quite straightforward and the policyholder can be paid out quickly.”

Claim three – police investigation results in losses

In March this year Sadi handled the claim from a landlord whose Burwood Heights (NSW) property had been the scene of a murder. A 17-year-old was taken to the property where he was tortured and killed by three other men, allegedly over a $500 gaming debt. The landlord was able to claim almost $19K in loss of rent as the property was un-tenantable during the police investigation, and also for the forensic cleaning required as the police had trampled lots of dust through the property during the investigation. “Sometimes the circumstances around a claim can be very emotional, but as an insurance professional I have to stay detached and focussed,” said Sadi. “I can’t get caught up in the emotion, I have a job to do and that’s to help the landlord recoup their losses.”

EBM RentCover invests in innovative technologies to help provide excellent client support from cover to claim. Our online claims portal allows you to easily tell us what happened, provide necessary quotes and invoices, upload documentation and submit a claim.  

*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 954 374 if you have any questions. 

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