Vandalism by Tenants Insurance—A Must Have

*This post is sponsored by one of REIN’s Trusted PartnersPark Insurance. To become a contributing editor or to learn about our sponsorship opportunities, please contact us at david@reincanada.com.

“It’s astounding the amount of damage they could cause in such a short amount of time,” said Sean Fyfe, a young family man with an investment property in Saskatoon. According to the National Post, he and his wife, Miranda, were left to tackle a huge mess left behind by renters in their Saskatoon home.  They estimate that it will cost approximately $14,000 to repair the property.

“Every inch of the house is damaged in some way,” reports Sean. The damage included broken appliances, doors torn off frames, stained carpets, and unbelievably gaping holes in the walls stuffed with garbage and rotting food!

To add insult to injury, all this damage was done to a freshly renovated home—new paint and carpets, updated bathrooms, and brand-new appliances.

Their insurance will not cover the damage, so the Fyfes report maxing out their credit cards and investing much sweat equity to repair their home. “We really weren’t in a position to afford something like this,” reports Sean.

This is far from the only horror story of this nature. Is there anything that real estate investors can do to protect themselves from a similar nightmare? Here are some essential tips:

1. Choose an insurance policy that includes Vandalism or Malicious Acts by Tenants Coverage. Many insurance policies do not include this coverage, but a few do. So, be sure to review your current policy and ensure you have this essential coverage for real estate investors.

As with all insurance policies, it is also important to understand what is and is not covered under your policy. For example, there is a differentiation made between vandalism and slovenliness. While actual physical damage would usually be covered under a policy which includes Vandalism and Malicious Acts by Tenants coverage, items such as abandoned garbage and over-all uncleanliness would generally not be covered.

2. Screen.  Screen.  Screen. This may seem obvious, but haphazard screening can result in unsavoury tenants who leave unwary investors with a nightmarish clean-up upon leaving. Make sure you have a comprehensive rental application form, and that you personally contact former landlords, employers, and other references before renting your property out to anyone.

3. Conduct a move-in inspection with ALL new tenants. This report confirms the condition of the property prior to the tenant’s occupancy and makes any new damage the obvious responsibility of the tenant.

4. Make regular visits to your rental property. Individual provinces will have specific laws regarding how often and under what conditions you can inspect a tenant’s home.  Become familiar with these requirements and make regular legal visits to your investment properties to ensure all is in good order.

Too much cannot be said about taking the above tips seriously. Vandalism by tenants is a serious issue, which continues to plague many investors. Just ask Yolandi Lombard, a frustrated landlord that saw her tenant occupy her property for three months without paying rent and then left thousands of dollars of damage upon leaving. 

According to a recent CBC report, Lombard’s home was allegedly left in shambles—items including the fridge and microwave were missing, garbage was strewn around the house, and holes were punched in the walls.

Lombard said, “I didn’t know people like this existed. I didn’t know that anybody would think it’s OK to treat anybody’s house this way.” Unfortunately, as this and other reports indicate, this type of tenant does exist, and it is essential that investment property owners are aware of the dangers and take steps to mitigate these risks.

Chris Westrop is the Commercial Insurance Manager at Park Insurance. He has over 25 years of experience in the commercial insurance business and is a Chartered Insurance Professional with the Insurance Institute of Canada and a member of the Professional Liability Underwriting Society. He is also a REIN member and a regular attendee of many of our programs. Chris may be reached at (604) 659-3133 or cwestrop@park.ca.

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