Insurance in your rented home: what are the responsibilities of the tenant and the property owner?
Supplied by Naked
You’ve just returned home after a long day at work, only to find that the geyser in your rented apartment has burst. The deluge has drowned your brand-new 4K television as well as the PlayStation 5. Plus, that expensive-looking carpeting is ruined.
What comes next? Will you need to fork out money for a new TV and gaming console? And who will be responsible for fixing the geyser and replacing the carpet?
Ernest North, co-founder of digital insurance platform Naked explains what will be for your account and what the owner of the property is responsible for.
The building and permanent fixtures are the property owner’s responsibility
It’s up to the landlord to ensure that the property they lease to you is safe and suitable to live in. This responsibility encompasses repairs and maintenance of the building and its features—but not your personal belongings. If you turn the building upside down, everything that remains in place is the property owner’s responsibility. Everything that falls out is your responsibility.
If there’s a leak in the roof or the DB board keeps tripping, the property owner needs to fix it. In the case of a natural event like a flash flood or a hailstorm causing serious damage to the property, the landlord must fix it and make it habitable again. The same goes if a burglar damages a door or the roof to get into the property, or if there is a fire that causes serious damage.
But in each of these cases, if your personal stuff gets stolen, damaged or destroyed, it will be up to you to arrange for repairs or replacement. However, if a visitor to the property gets hurt (or suffers damage to their possessions) due to the landlord’s negligence or inherent risk in the property, the owner may be liable. For instance, if someone gets hurt on a poorly maintained staircase, the landlord may need to pay.
If you warned your landlord about a leak in the roof and they didn’t attend to it, they will technically be liable for the damages. If you do warn your landlord about an issue like this, it’s wise to put it in writing. But in practice, it’s easiest to have your own home contents insurance, and to claim from your own policy. If the landlord is in fact liable, it’s best to have your insurer fight that legal battle to try and reclaim the claim cost.
It’s also a good idea to ask for a copy of the landlord’s building insurance policy so that you know exactly what is covered and what isn’t. Many building insurance policies include an “alternative accommodation or loss of rent clause”, which provides to either arrange for alternative accommodation or to pay the owner the equivalent of the rental while the house is uninhabitable. During that time (when the building is being fixed), your landlord should either waive your rental payment, or arrange for the alternative accommodation, especially if they have that benefit under their building insurance policy. Bear in mind that in a sectional title, the body corporate will probably hold the building insurance on behalf of the property owners.
Your stuff is your responsibility
All your movable items are your responsibility—no matter how they get stolen or broken. You may also be responsible for damage to other people’s belongings or injuries in your rented home if it is due to your negligence or due to an accident. For example, you could be held responsible for your friend’s injury if your dog gives them a serious nip. Or if you leave a tap running and the water floods the downstairs apartment, they may look to you to replace their carpeting.
Listen to my podcast on how household insurance works
As a renter, the best way to protect your own valuables is to get home contents insurance. You will be able to claim for the repair or replacement of your things if something unforeseen happens, like a burst geyser, a fire or a burglary. If you have only one or two expensive items you want to insure — like a smartphone and notebook — you can also look into buying standalone cover for those valuables.
Home contents insurance usually also includes personal liability as a welcome bonus. This form of insurance protects you against legal liability in a range of scenarios – a few examples include your dog attacking someone’s pedigreed show dog, a friend slipping on a loose rug and breaking a bone or your kid smashing a cricket ball into the neighbour’s sliding glass door.
Before you sign a lease for a wonderful new flat or house, read the terms and agreements carefully to understand what your landlord is committing to and what your responsibilities will be. Before you move in, be sure to check the home for visible repairs and maintenance issues, and ask for anything glaring to be fixed. Be sure to take lots of photos, especially if you spot signs of rising damp or cracks in the walls.
Finally, don’t be shy to ask to see their home building insurance policy — if they are properly covered, it means that they will be able to help you quickly should gale force winds rip the roof off the house or if a waterpipe bursts and brings the ceiling down. The last thing you want is to be stuck in an unlivable home fighting with a landlord who doesn’t have the money on hand to make urgent repairs.
This insightful article on insurance in your rented home was provided by Naked.