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Top tips from an experienced claims specialist
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Top tips from an experienced claims specialist

12 Jan 2023 6 mins read

Sadi Iftekhar has settled more than 9,300 claims at EBM RentCover, so it’s fair to say he’s seen it all – from the average claim to the heartbreaking… or just plain hard to believe. That’s why we’ve asked him for his top tips on submitting a landlord insurance claim. Read on for more…

Tell us a bit about your insurance career

When I finished university I went straight to work with EBM RentCover. I spent a year on the phones, helping clients with cover, and then moved to the claims department. I’ve been working as a Claims Specialist for 15 years now.

Your job title is Senior Claims Specialist, but the team call you the ‘claims guru’. Tell us about the types of claims you handle.

There are two main types of claims 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. In regard to my role specifically, I tend to focus on more complex claims and claims that are expected to receive high payouts. This is due to my experience with the business. 

What are your top tips for people looking at making a claim?

My top tip comes before a claim. Make sure you keep maintenance up on your rental, to avoid even getting to the point where you need to make a claim. Some claims are unavoidable, of course, but others are not. For example, claims relating to storms, which are pretty topical at the moment – while we generally cover for damage through water entering the roof, the upkeep of the roof is the property owner’s responsibility. If the roof has not been properly maintained, it can be the difference between a claim being paid or not.

But in terms of making a claim…

My top tip when submitting a claim is to make sure you 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, by providing all the necessary documentation. 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.

At EBM RentCover we aim to minimise some of the emotional and financial stress associated with making an insurance claim. How do we do it?

EBM RentCover has worked hard to build a team of compassionate people with ‘can-do’ attitudes. I like to put myself in the shoes of the client, as do my other team members. From my experience, when people make a claim, they want to talk to a real person on the other end of the line; someone who can sympathise with the situation and understand that they are ultimately dealing with an investment that is an income.

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 helps makes the whole process easier. So, we work to guide clients through an insurance claim, explaining exactly what they need to do. 

As Claims Specialists reviewing a claim, we all work on the premise of utmost good faith – so this underpins every decision I make when approving or declining a claim. 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. 

For the record, do many landlords or agents ‘try it on’ when it comes to insurance claims? And what do you do if you smell a rat?

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!

Often, you can tell from the very beginning if something isn’t right, and we have an internal process for dealing with those claims. 

But it’s important to say that 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, the following three remain the most shocking to date, according to Sadi:

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. The tenant had moved out but left a stack of rubbish and her possessions behind, and the stench was terrible.

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 them to send over some photos. When the photos arrived and he saw the state of the property, he arranged for an assessor to visit immediately. The assessor attended the apartment the next day and called Sadi to advise he was not 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 conditioner: “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 almost four weeks for the clean-up to reach a standard that the assessor could actually safely enter the property and 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 $70K). In addition, the landlord received nine months’ worth of loss of rent.

Claim two – a tragic tale

An agent attended an 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, sadly, taken their own life. Sadi arranged for an assessor to attend the house, and the assessor likened the scene to a horror movie. EBM RentCover paid for the forensic cleaning and minor damage costs, which together with loss of rent, totalled $25K. 

Regrettably, 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 a result of suicide or homicide. “It’s very traumatic for the landlord to have someone die at their investment property,” said Sadi. “And while many of these claims are tragic and emotionally charged for all concerned, from an insurance perspective they are quite straightforward.”

Claim three – police investigation results in losses

In 2019, Sadi handled the claim from a landlord whose Burwood Heights (NSW) property had been the scene of a murder. Horrifically, 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 here, contact 1800 661 662 if you have any questions. 

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