A warning has been issued for landlords whose tenants keep animals – or in this case, a covert pet refuge centre.
The Insurance & Financial Services Ombudsman, Karen Stevens, issued the warning after a landlord was shocked to find her tenants had caused thousands of dollars worth of damage after keeping at least 20 cats and 4 dogs inside the house, as well as multiple ducks and rabbits.
“The tenants had set up an animal rescue operation at the house”, says Stevens.
Unbeknown to the landlord, the tenants were caring for stray kittens and cats until they could find permanent homes for them. The house was uninhabitable from the urine stench and the ruined vinyl floor, which had been chewed by dogs. The damage included a hole in the bathroom floor, found to be caused by a “wild” cat the tenant had kept in the bathroom.
The landlord made an insurance claim for the damage. Carpets, vinyl flooring and curtains were damaged, and the floors had to be professionally cleaned, treated with odour treatment and sealed with a specialised paint to contain the stench of urine. The insurer declined the claim based on a policy exclusion for loss caused by scratching, chewing, tearing or soiling by household pets.
IFSO, in its findings, agreed with the insurer. Stevens says it’s vital that landlords know what’s in their insurance policies and that your property managers are doing regular checks.
“Landlords, check what you are covered for”, she cautioned. “Make sure your tenants abide by the conditions of the rental. Your lovely tenant could be hiding a menagerie of secrets that, in the end, you might well have to pay for.”
Stevens also recommends regular checks on properties. “Make sure your (or your property manager’s) visits are regular. Maintain good communication and a good relationship with your tenants. Most tenants are happy to look after your property, but you can’t just assume that."