Brand EditorialEPMEPM: Best Practice & Legislation

(Rental) House Rules: Sharon Fox-Slater

When it comes to Rental House Rules, rule number one is don’t DIY, cautions Sharon Fox-Slater.

Seduced by the plummy tones of Laurence Llewelyn-Bowen (aka LLB) or the ocker Scottie Cam, the return of home renovation shows like House Rules and The Block is often a siren call to would-be DIYers.

And while picking up the power tools at their own home is one thing, landlords having (or letting the tenants have) a red-hot crack at their investment property is another.

When it comes to rental properties, DIY is a risky proposition. The risk of injury is universal, but the risk of voiding the landlord’s insurance is a real possibility.

Emergency departments across the nation fill with hapless or plain unlucky DIYers every weekend. In fact, figures from the National Injury Surveillance Unit reveal around 25,000 people each year seek treatment related to ladder falls, nail gun injuries and accidents with lawnmowers and power tools. And, annually, more than 3,000 Australians (or a rate of 13 people per 100,000) are hospitalised as a result of injury from a DIY job, according to data from the Australian Institute of Health and Welfare.

As sure as spring will follow winter, in the next few weeks there are bound to be media reports about amateur tradies deciding that what they see the contestants on the reno shows do, they can do themselves – only to wind up in the ER or doctor’s surgery nursing a DIY inflicted injury.

Enthusiasm often trumps skill too, and frequently actual tradies need to be called in to fix or finish an owner’s handiwork. Damage is often the result when DIYers overestimate their prowess with the tools.

Research commissioned by hipages, in partnership with News Corp, found DIY disasters cost an average of $1,500 to repair and more than 2.3 million homeowners admitted to having had a DIY job go pear-shaped.

Injury and damage are key considerations when it comes to DIY and insurance – and maintaining insurance cover.

It’s important to know that if a tenant causes damage or, worse still, is injured while undertaking work or repairs at the rental, the landlord’s insurance may not cover their liability. Damage or injury caused or suffered by landlords undertaking works also may not be covered.

Any repairs at the investment property should be carried out by experienced, insured and (where applicable) licensed tradies. The law requires some works to be undertaken by licensed contractors, such as electrical and plumbing jobs. If they aren’t, it can not only result in hefty fines, but also have serious ramifications for insurance and potentially void the policy.

Master Builders Australia also notes that if work on a property doesn’t comply with building regulations it will subtract from the value of the property when it comes time sell (and may require expensive rectification works to bring the property up to code before it can be sold).

Inspections provide the ideal time to keep an eye on over-zealous tenants with a penchant for DIY. It’s also a prime opportunity to identify work that needs to be done and remind the landlord that you have a little black book brimming with trusted tradies to take care of any repairs or maintenance that needs to be carried out.

While you can’t stop a landlord from undertaking a bit of DIY at their investment property (but speak up if their actions will jeopardise your duty of care or insurance), you can caution them against taking the risk. Reminding them that tradies carry their own insurance in case of damage or injury (making sure checking the tradie is in fact licensed/qualified and insured a must) and that most repairs and maintenance carried out by a professional are tax deductible, might be just the incentive they need to “step away from the power tools” and safeguard their insurance cover.

Good to know: Reality TV reno shows like House Rules not only encourage DIY, they are impacting actual tradies. A survey by ServiceSeeking.com.au found 37 per cent of tradies believed these programs harmed their business because they placed “unrealistic expectations on time frames” and led people to believe there were “quick fixes” to major problems. As the intermediary between owner and tradie, agents need to balance the expectations of landlords and tenants and the work required by tradies to get the job done properly and safely. As always, good communication is key. Good luck!

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