Weather woes: where do you stand?

The lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer might be coming to an end – but the manic weather is unlikely to abate. Do you know your obligations if your rental is damaged?
 
The season might be changing from summer to autumn in a Storm Damanged Housecouple of weeks, but there are still months to go before disaster season (November to April) comes to an end.
 
Bushfires are rife at this time of year in southern Australia and the Bushfire & Natural Hazards Cooperative Research Centre warns of above-normal fire conditions with heightened risk of bushfire in New South Wales, Victoria and WA.
 
It’s also cyclone season in the north, with the Bureau of Meteorology warning of an above-average cyclone season.
 
And despite the postcard image of an Aussie summer being all beach and BBQs, the risk of storms and floods also soars. RentCover’s flood cover now also includes damage caused by rising water from rivers and dams, providing owners with property in flood-prone areas with a new level of protection against the fallout from the wrath of Mother Nature. The expanded cover is available for new policies issued after 1 February and for renewals after 1 April.
 
When bad weather strikes it often leaves enormous bills for repairs in its wake. Last disaster season resulted in insured losses of more than $630 million, according to the Insurance Council of Australia.
 
Investment properties are not immune from natural disasters and if the property is damaged it’s important that landlords and PMs know their obligations.
  • Inspecting the property
    Landlords/PMs can inspect a destroyed or damaged property at any time so long as the local authority/emergency services agree. The usual arrangements apply if the property is still leased and the tenants are living there (i.e. you need to give notice of an inspection).
  • Repairs
    The owner is responsible for maintenance and repairs needed to bring the property back to a liveable condition. The tenant is responsible for cleaning or disposing of their damaged possessions.
  • Ending the lease
    If the property has been destroyed or is unsafe to live in, the tenancy agreement needs to be dissolved. If the property is liveable but the tenant no longer wishes to live there, a negotiation to end the lease is required. If the tenant believes the premises is liveable and wants to stay but is asked to leave by the owner/PM, they can dispute the request.
  • Alternate accommodation
    A landlord is not generally required to provide alternative accommodation if the property has been destroyed. If the property is deemed unliveable and the tenant needs to live elsewhere while repairs are carried out, rental payments during the repair period can be negotiated.
  • Rent
    The tenant remains responsible for paying the rent so long as there is a valid lease, even if they are forced to evacuate. If the property is damaged, rent payments during the period can be negotiated.
  • Tenant possessions
    A landlord is not required to compensate the tenant for any possessions damaged or destroyed in the disaster (unless shown to have been negligent). Tenants need to claim on their own contents insurance.
The requirements in each state or territory can vary, so make sure you are up-to-date with your jurisdiction’s legislation. In the event you need to claim on your RentCover policy, our team are on hand to help.