Investment Property Damaged by Tenant but Not Vacated. When Should Insurance Be Notified?

Hi OzBargainers,

I've seen some pretty useful forum posts in my years browsing around the site, and I'm reaching out to get some advice/opinions from people that have been in similar situations.

Summary:
Location: VIC
Residential Tenancy Agreement in place.
Tenant started defaulting on rent pre-covid. Notice of breach issued for non-payment of rent.
Tenant caught up on rent payments however had caused multiple damages to the house. Notice of breach issued for damage to property.
Tenant has caused more damage and is now about 3 months behind on rent. Tenants are on Centrelink and are/were receiving increased payments during covid as well as rent assistance payments.
Notice to vacate issued by landlord to tenant.
VCAT application for compensation and possession lodged. Considered hiring private lawyer but cost is prohibitive, especially with no indication of maximum fees.
Quote to repair damages came to more than $13,000, not including clean up costs.
Tenant failed to vacate by given date. Has possibly abandoned property, and left large equipment on lawn and random belongings around house.
VCAT suggests that even though premises is possibly abandoned, a separate notice of possession needs to be lodged again (additional fee involved).

Questions:
1. Is there anything else that can be done at this point to secure possession of the property, receive rent owed, and payment for damages?
2. At which point should insurance be notified? After VCAT proceedings? If we notify them prior would there be any advantage/disadvantage? Could they help in any way perhaps?

Any constructive/helpful advice would be much appreciated.

TIA

Comments

  • +1 vote

    Investment Property Damaged by Tenant but Not Vacated

    Sorry to hear this.

    I think, this is a scenario, where having a REA could have been helpful. Sounds like you are the landlord dealing directly with the tenant.

  • +1 vote

    The real estate agent should be able to take care of going to vcat. Insurance should take care of damages, hopefully you don't have an annoying policy where they are going to decide it is accidental damage when they only cover malicious damage (happened to an ozbargainer earlier). Insurance will do the job of chasing up the tenant and getting what they can out of them.

    If you don't have an agent and don't have insurance, a bit of an expensive mistake. Best of luck! Hopefully someone here can help.

  • +3 votes

    How come you real estate agent didn't pick any of these issues earlier during routine inspections?

    • +2 votes

      Notice to vacate issued by landlord to tenant.

      Sounds like OP = "REA" / Landlord combo.

      Despite the dislikes of REA in OzB… However, this post is like an OzB classic, "I don't have car insurance…"

      • +1 vote

        Not worth the stress self managing IP

        •  

          Agreed. I am not the landlord however am trying to get information for and support a friend.
          Due to many incidents of real estate agents charging high fees but not adequately protecting the interests of the landlord, it was decided to self-manage the IP. Agreed that when it comes to going to VCAT it's easier if it's managed by a REA. Lesson learned. I think overall if you manage to find a good agent it's worth paying their fees.

  • +2 votes

    Unfortunately in my experience these things take insane amounts of time to get an eviction. It could be months of out of pocket rent

    I would say, once the tenant is out then you can assess the damage, get quotes for clean up and repairs then log insurance claims. Insurance will also take the bond you can claim into consideration, so if there are items that insurance doesn't cover (eg changing locks or cleanup), that's where the bond should be directed to first.

    The reality is you'll still be out of pocket. A lot of insurance companies cap rent payouts to 10 weeks. You've mentioned they are already 3 months behind and it'll probably take another 2 to 3 months to get a vcat ruling. You'll also need to pay the excess (and your insurance might also slug you with an excess for each claim… One for rent default, one for damage, one for cleanup)

    Sorry to hear you're going through this. It's an unfortunate situation that investors are exposed to. You just need to accept that it happens, do your best to protect yourself from happening in the future and get the property ready and tenanted asap. No amount of tenant background checks / due diligence can guarantee this doesn't happen (altho you still need to do this)

    Fyi, there is a service from Barclay's mis which is similar to a debt recovery service. My agent subscribes for me and it cost about $88 per annum. Rip off? Maybe, they say they help with debt recoveries, sending letters, court costs etc (although I have a feeling it's just "try" to do and "too bad so sad" if nothing comes out of it). I've not used it just yet so i can't comment on their effectiveness. dyor to see if you see value in it and if it's right for you.

    All the best

  • +3 votes

    Change the locks with cheap ones from Bunnies ASAP. Go back about 3 days latter and see if there is any forced entry and if not then physically take possession and hire one of those "we collect garbage" type companies and get them to come and take everything away.

    Make sure you take allot of photo's and keep records and get receipts for everything. Ring up the insurance company today as they need to be able to go when you need them to otherwise you will have to wait for them. Make sure you have photo's of the damage and dumped crap. Also make sure you read the insurance policy from one end to another ASAP so you know what you are covered for and what you are not covered for and what you need to supply the insurance company.

    Next time get a REA to let the place out.Ring them up today so you can have tenants once the place is fixed.

    •  

      I don't think the locks can be changed unless a possession order is issued by VCAT, am I right? Do you mean the landlord can go in and change the locks even though the tenants' belongings are on the premises?

      •  

        Need vcat.

  • +1 vote

    So they appear to have left, but didn’t take all their crap with them? Sounds like the vacated, possibly on time, but just didn’t clean up - which lines up with someone who has damaged the property. They obviously don’t care for possessions.