What you need to know about landlord insurance

If you’ve scrimped and saved in the hopes of achieving financial security through an investment property it makes sense to insure such a valuable asset.

It’s no secret that Australians are among the most real-estate obsessed people in the world.

Around two million Australians own an investment property. A disproportionate number of these people have their own business. They are typically hoping to set themselves up financially through what they see as a safe, easy to understand investment (and perhaps reduce their tax through negative gearing).

Buying property might be less complicated than attempting to play the stock market, but all investments have the potential to end in tears. Ian Mabbutt, the Head of Personal Lines at Steadfast Underwriting Agencies, explains why it’s a good idea for investment property owners to make sure they have the right landlord insurance.

What is landlord insurance?
“Landlord insurance is the home and contents insurance you take out on a property you own but rent out rather than live in,” Ian says. “It’s a policy that will cover you for most things – public liability, storm damage, fire, theft and so on. That noted, these policies don’t cover wear and tear. Also, if owners want to be covered for loss of rental income they need to choose – and pay extra for – the rent-cover option. Loss of rental income is the biggest issue owners face but rent cover isn’t standard on landlord insurance policies.”

Read the full Steadfast article here.

How to minimise being underinsured

Many Australians, especially those who own businesses, discover they don’t have the cover they need in the worst possible circumstances.

Insurance is one of those subjects that many people glaze over. So, just to test how knowledgeable you are about this important but unsexy topic, see how many of the following you can answer.

Questions

  1. What type of insurance can provide cover if a natural disaster results in my business having to shut down for a period of time?
  2. What type of insurance can provide cover if a client takes legal action against me? In what industries is it mandatory to have this insurance?
  3. What type of insurance can provide a payout to cover costs relating to everything from a broken window to a tax audit to a light-fingered employee?
  4. What type of insurance is legally required if you employ staff? What is the penalty for failing to take out this insurance?

Answers:

  1. Business interruption insurance.
  2. Professional liability insurance (also called professional indemnity insurance). Those working in the medical, accounting, law and financial advice industries.
  3. Business insurance.
  4. Workers’ compensation insurance. It varies from state to state but you’ll typically be at risk of jail time if an employee has been injured (or worse). NSW imposes a ‘double avoided penalty’ equivalent to double the amount you should have paid in workers’ compensation premiums.

One in ten businesses have no cover

If you failed to get all (or any) of the answers right, you can take solace in being a typical Aussie. Survey after survey has shown that Australians don’t have a good grasp on what insurance policies might be relevant to them. Unsurprisingly, Australia is one of the most underinsured nations in the developed world (underinsurance is when an individual or business has no or inadequate insurance to cover their legal liabilities, or the cost of loss or damage to their assets).

The Insurance Council of Australia’s 2015 report on non-insurance in the SME sector showed a non-insurance rate of 12.8 per cent. Paul Nielsen, director and chair of the Council of Small Business Australia (COSBOA), says many SMEs are in denial. “Business owners tend to think it won’t happen to them. Because of this, some SMEs view insurance as dead money,” he says.

Read the full Steadfast article here.

Why small businesses use an insurance broker

Small business owners tend to be born optimists with little inclination to think about what could go wrong. That’s why it pays to have an insurance broker in your corner to safeguard what you’ve worked for.

Paul Harrison’s family-owned shoe shop in Sydney’s Neutral Bay has operated out of various locations for more than half a century. It’s used insurance brokers for the past 35 years.

“When I came on board, we already had insurance but not at the level we needed,” says Harrison. “Most of the insurance we had was good, but it took time. If we made a claim, an assessor would come along; then he’d send you forms to fill out before repairs could begin. All that time you’re not trading.”

Save yourself time

Anyone who has compared car, home or health insurance policies to try to find the best deal knows how time consuming it can be. Choosing a business insurance package is even more complex because of the range of risks requiring cover.

A business insurance broker will not only save you time sourcing the right policy, they can also save time and money if you need to make a claim.

That was Harrison’s recent experience with his long standing Steadfast insurance broker.

“We had a leakage from the residential unit above our premises that ruined our ceiling, stock and floor. With rent and wages to pay, you can’t afford to be out of business for two months. Our business insurance broker was onto it straight away. We were able to replace our flooring within two days and probably missed five days’ trading in all”.

Utilise your business insurance broker’s experience

Small business owners are great at what they do, whether it’s running a café or a consultancy. But they are rarely insurance experts. “What they may not understand is the broad range of risks they face,” says Dallas Booth, chief executive of the National Insurance Brokers Association(NIBA).

A business insurance broker will help identify the risks your business faces, then get the insurance package that matches those risks. “There’s no point buying a business package off the shelf if it only covers some of your risks,” says Booth.

“I don’t think you can do that on your own. You may think you know what can go wrong but you never realise how much [an adverse event] impacts on your business going forward,” says Harrison.

Read the full Steadfast article here. 

How to create and maintain an SMB inventory list

It can take just moments for fire, flood or thieves to wipe out years of hard work, asset accumulation and stock. But it can be months before you realise the full extent of the damage – and even longer to recover – if you don’t have a detailed and up-to-date inventory list encompassing business asset including equipment, as well as stock.

It’s fairly easy to name your business’s key assets – you’ll probably think of the premises, and the tools and technology that you handle every day.

But what about those items that aren’t necessarily right in your face and that you accumulate over time? Signage, cleaning equipment and office supplies such as staplers and labelers can add up to a significant investment if they all need to be replaced at once.

Because they are not handled or used every day, it can take time to realise they were stolen or destroyed. But this doesn’t make them any less significant to the running of your business.

Not having these items can hamper your efforts to get back up and running quickly. And this – minimising the interruption to your business – is where a detailed and up-to-date office inventory list is important.

To view the full article, please visit Steadfast Well Covered here.

How to protect your business against non-compliant cladding

The UK’s Grenfell Tower disaster has had widespread implications for professionals in Australia’s construction industry. Here’s how to help protect yourself if you’re a contractor who’s worked on any Australian building project.

The UK Grenfell Tower disaster claimed the lives of 72 people on 14 June 2017.

The tragedy unfolded on television and computer screens around the globe, serving as a sharp and tragic wake-up call to governments and regulators around the world that cheap, non-compliant cladding materials could create devastating fire hazards for high rise buildings.

In Australia, the threat combustible cladding poses remains very real. As evidenced by a recent fire at an inner city high-rise in Melbourne that forced the evacuation of hundreds of residents and required more than 60 fire fighters to bring it under control.

Authorities and insurance companies have been quick to put new procedures and policies in place, including the Victorian Cladding Taskforce and NSW’s Fire Safety and External Wall Cladding Taskforce

In NSW, new laws require owners of existing buildings with combustible cladding that fall within specified categories to register their building with the NSW Cladding Registration portal by 22 February 2019.

As non-compliant buildings are identified around the nation, owners may be ordered to remove the cladding from their buildings.

This has been seen already at the Lacrosse tower building in Docklands, Melbourne, which caught fire in 2014. In turn, the apartment owners are now suing the builder and other consultants to cover the costs.

“They’ve initiated legal action against the builder and a lot of the consultants who worked on the project,”  explains Steadfast’s Broker Technical Manager, Michael White.

“Because one thing about all these kinds of situations is that anybody who had anything to do with the project, no matter how remote, can get sued.”

To view the full article, please visit Steadfast Well Covered here.

Fair Employment Seperation

Made redundant or fired?

When contemplating firing an employee, proper process must be followed otherwise there is the real risk of the employer facing an unfair dismissal claim.

To avoid the risk, some employers use ‘redundancy’ as an alternative to firing. It’s quicker, sounds nicer and is less painful to all concerned but often has a very poor outcome as happened in a recent Federal Court case.

The employer had sought to argue to the court that their principal motivation for making the employee redundant was financial, in that the Division in which the employee worked was running at a loss. It was claimed that they needed to make the employee redundant to cut costs.

Previously, the employee had had an ‘impressive’ career, but there had been some tension between the employee and their supervisor. A number of written complaints, including two accusations of bullying, had been made by the employee about the supervisor’s management practices.

Unfortunately for the employer, there was some evidence of animosity and information was found on the supervisor’s computer confirming that he had already begun making preparations for the redundancy of the employee.

The Federal Court found the employer had breached the Fair Work Act, fined them $37,000 and ordered them to reinstate the employee. The Court’s conclusion was the employee had unfairly been made redundant…”at least partly because they had been prepared to exercise their workplace rights by making complaints about the behaviour of their immediate supervisor”.

In a final observation, the Court warned the employer that the employee could have been entitled to compensation of up to almost $2million if she wasn’t reinstated.

How do you find good staff?

For decades, the employment section of the newspaper was traditionally the way job seekers got connected with employers…but that doesn’t work anymore! Job seekers, especially young ones, just don’t bother looking there.

The job-hunting space has been taken over by web-based employment agencies such as Seek and myriad jobs boards in niche industries, colleges and universities. Social media in all its forms also offers opportunities for employers seeking staff. With some exceptions, 21st century technology has seen the demise of newspaper classifieds as the conduit between a job seeker and their next job.

On the upside, internet-based employee hunting is proving a cheaper and more efficient way of finding that ‘ideal’ person.

On the downside, it can mean that employers will receive a large number of applications from people who do not have the required skills or experience. Reducing the deluge of applications to a short list takes a lot of time and resources.

An alternative is the recruitment company. They have extensive databases of ‘good fit’ potential candidates which enables them to provide suitable applicants at short notice. Recruitment agencies can be costly, however, a benefit is the ‘suitability guarantee’ that usually comes with the successful candidate.

Another difficulty for employers, especially in very small businesses (2 to 5 staff), is the many hats that an employee in a small firm needs to wear. The ability to multi-task with reasonable efficiency is not everyone’s idea of a perfect job. Fortunately, there are many individuals who thrive on the stimulation of job variety rather than the fixed, clearly defined job role description that starts ‘here’ and ends ‘there’.

Generally, people who are comfortable multi-tasking and working across different roles, are the diamonds that small business is looking for to provide the necessary flexibility, so essential in small business.