25 – Insurance for Landlords

insuranceAs we move progressively closer to the “launch” of our first investment property, our handler at Open Wealth noted we should start looking at insurance options. I seem to write a lot about insurance!

For our family home, we have building insurance because the bank requires it and this is the same for an investment property, of course. Although the building itself is a depreciating asset, it’s what allows us to generate revenue on the land (an appreciating asset) and would be expensive to repair or rebuild in the event of fire, flood, impact from space debris (!), etc, etc.

We also have contents insurance to cover the things inside the house like the furniture, clothing, pots and pans, and the TV. Notably, our insurance company classifies window and floor coverings under the banner of contents insurance.

As landlords we have a few more things to consider, such as malicious damage by a tenant and lost rental income for reasons like the tenant not paying rent. We also need public liability insurance to cover things like a tenant injuring himself because he tripped over a crack in our driveway, for example. In general, these things come under the heading of “landlord insurance”.

When I initially started comparing insurance products, I assumed we’d need standard building (and possibly contents) cover and then bolt on a landlord insurance product through the same insurer or another insurer. I was surprised to find that many insurers selling landlord insurance already bundle building and landlord under the heading of Landlord Insurance, and typically include public liability insurance as part of that offering. These products also tend to cover window and floor coverings too—either through the building component of the policy or through a modest contents component.

As usual, the pricing and inclusions for insurance from the various providers varies widely. I’ve received quotes ranging in cost from $600 to nearly $2000 for our 4x2 single storey IP. Some insurers will include removal of rubbish and motor burnout while others do not. Some insurers include theft by a tenant while others list it as optional. Most insurers will deduct the bond from any claim payment for themselves—but not all. Some insurers will insure you only if the property is managed by a licensed property manager and has a fixed term lease in place—i.e. not a periodic lease; others offer flexibility on these points. The only way to get to the point of a like for like comparison is to read the (lengthy—and boring) product disclosure statements for each product you may be considering. Needless to say, the last few evenings at our house have been painfully dry!

I’ve also investigated having a broker recommend a suitable insurance product and thus far Queensland Insurance Services has supplied me with a few quotes after I submitted a fact finder document to them.

One nice feature offered by some insurers like Allianz and CGU is the option to pay monthly, instead of annually, at no extra cost. Normally I’d prefer the convenience (and cost savings) of paying annually for personal bills but when it comes to an investment property I’m thinking more about cashflow—especially in these early days when the property will be negatively geared.

In terms of paying for running costs like these, we’ve got a few options. The easiest would be to have the property manager deduct the payment amount from rents collected and then make the payment on our behalf. I haven’t set this up yet but likely will once I’ve got a grip on it all. An alternative would be to pay costs from the line of credit account we have associated with this property—and into which rental income and tax variations are paid.

I’m still in the process of exploring insurance companies in Queensland. As we’re insured through GIO in Western Australia, I’d hoped to insure this property in Queensland with them as well to obtain a multi-policy discount. Unfortunately GIO don’t offer insurance in Queensland—despite the fact their parent company, Suncorp—does. Which is frustrating.

Mortgage Choice referred me to Allianz and they’ve come back with a strong quote; I’d initially written them off because their online quote system told me they don’t insure for flood but the rep I spoke to following the Mortgage Choice referral was able to add flood cover. I’ve also had a look at RACQ but they don’t offer landlord insurance.

Suncorp seems to be very similar to GIO here but they are a little pricey. I’ve also looked at Commbank, Terri Sheer (owned by Suncorp—also a little expensive but recommended to me by our newly-appointed property manager, who gets a $22 kickback if we sign up), CGU (very cheap but offering a strong insurance product as far as I can tell), and QBE.

As I do with all of my insurance purchases, I’ll increase the basic excess to at least $1000. I’m not sure if this is a wise move or not for the small cost savings. That’s the unfortunate thing about tenants: they’re largely outside of your control in your house (er, investment property)!

One final aspect to consider when selecting an insurer is how likely they’ll be to pay a claim. This will likely come down to experience and anecdotal evidence from jaded (or maybe the odd happy) customers who post about their experience online.

Insurance, despite being awkward and boring, is one of those things required to manage risk. You pay the premium in the hope you’ll never need to make a claim.

I suppose a disclaimer is also worth posting: I'm just a guy, I'm not an accountant, lawyer, solicitor, tax agent, mortgage broker, banker, financial adviser, insurance agent, land developer, builder, government agent, or anything else so I disclaim your application of anything I write here is to be applied at your own risk. What I write may be incorrect and you are best to seek your own professional advice (tax, legal, financial, and otherwise) before entering into contracts or spending your money. Your situation is unique to you and what I write here reflects my experience only. This content is not professional advice and is not tailored to your situation. I'm learning too and expect to make many, many mistakes along the way.

Enjoy,

Michael

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