Why You Should Be Insuring The Hell Out Of Your Rental Property

I came across this wicked article in the Globe and Mail courtesy of one of our founders, Steve Palmer, who recently purchased a new house in Vancouver. A house that has a basement suite. A lot of people in Vancouver have basement units that they rent out. Know why? Because living in Vancouver is friggin’ expensive. Like an arm and a leg expensive. Supplemental rental income is kind of a way of life out west.

Don Campbell, president of the Real Estate Investment Network (REIN) makes probably what is one of the best points when it comes to real estate investment. Get the appropriate insurance.

The article mentions a bit of an epidemic in Canada. A lot of untrained landlords are under-insuring their rental properties or in some cases, conveniently forgetting to disclose to their insurance companies that they have a tenant. In certain places, like Vancouver, where a large majority of homeowners rent out basement suites, this can spell disaster if the appropriate insurance isn’t in place. Check out this gem:

Last year Aviva Canada insurance company released statistics that show water damage is the leading home insurance claim, partly due to the high number of basements that are being finished to make livable. Nationwide, B.C. had the highest increase in average claim cost due to water damage, at 205 per cent. I’m guessing that increase reflects the fact that almost every homeowner in Vancouver depends on the income from a basement suite to get by. For Vancouverites, basement dwelling is a fact of life. We even forget that’s not the case for every city.

Imagine: The couple renting your basement suite gets hit with some water damage. Loses a bunch of stuff. If you haven’t disclosed to your insurance carrier that someone was “living” down there, you could have a serious problem. Even more, if your tenants didn’t have renter’s insurance, you could really be in a pickle.  There’s more than an awkward situation to be had here. Renting a secondary suite is considered a material change in risk, and it does have the potential to void your insurance policy without the acknowledgment of your insurance carrier. As a matter of fact, Campbell goes so far as to say that you should not only disclose that you have a rental unit and that your insurance company knows what time it is on your place, but that you should get it in writing like the 10 commandments on stone tablets (from your insurance company). In the event of an issue — and a refusal of claim — you can meet your broker for lunch and shove an email in his face.

I’m really summarizing the article here, but landlords need to get intimately acquainted with a few terms:

  • Guaranteed replacement cost
  • Tenants or renters insurance (something Campbell insists he wants to see before he hands the keys over to tenants), and
  • Rental revenue loss or rent loss insurance

In short — cheaping out to save a few bucks on your premium is one of the single worst ideas anyone who rents out a unit can have. Here’s a free tip from me as this is something I like to do once a year: have a meeting with your insurance broker or carrier, and make sure everything is on the up and up. Make sure they know everything, and ask them questions about worst case scenarios, like if there was a total loss on your property. Seriously. It doesn’t hurt.

You can read the full article on the Globe and Mail site.

What do you think? Do you insist on tenant’s insurance before handing over the keys? Do you review your insurance coverage on your property or properties every year? Share your comments and stories!

The Stripper With Dirty Feet: A Tenant From Hell Story

Came across this great post by Mike Holman at Money Smarts.

The story is by Rachelle Berube over at Landlord Rescue – who runs a wicked blog that’s both funny and highly informative. Anyone making rental property management humorous deserves a Pulitzer in my books. There’s a bunch of other gems here too – like the Ultimate Guide To Giving Your Tenant Proper Legal Notice To Leave Once Your Property Is Sold or this hilarious post about renting to friends and family.

Property Investment Project U.K.

Came across this gem of a find, in Property Investment Project. It’s a website/blog dedicated to all of the ups and downs associated with buying, renting (letting as they call it in the U.K.), and managing income real estate. Besides being one of the most informative resources I’ve come across, this is one of the funniest takes on being a landlord I’ve ever found. Seriously. Whether you’re in the U.S., Canada, or the U.K. – there’s stuff to be gleaned here that you can find useful, regardless of the country you’re in.

The website has a comprehensive list of everything you’re going to want to know if you’re a landlord in the U.K. Everything. Their landlord F.A.Q. is an gleefully exhaustive list of topics and frequently asked questions. The landlord guide is chock full of seriously valuable “how-to’s” on a wide range of things, like finding tenants, pets, and even evicting tenants.

The blog is what sold me on reading this all night last. I literally read the entries for a couple of hours. It’s the equivalent of a George Carlin stand up routine, and really puts a human face on the job of being a landlord. I touched on this in the kick off piece we posted on the blog back on December 11th. Being a landlord isn’t easy – really – it’s not.

I really feel that the misconception about being a landlord needs to change, regardless of what country you’re in, and it’s something we’re trying to do with Renting Well. For every assumption that landlords are rich, there’s a slick marketing campaign advertising “how to get rich in real estate”, with a couple on a beachfront somewhere, clearly retired from all of the multi families and duplexes they bought, who assure you that it’s easy to do it to through their beaming whitened smiles. This kind of drives me bananas. I snicker a bit when I watch a lot of these home improvement shows too. As much as I genuinely love them, sometimes I find they present having tenants in a bit of an inaccurate light. Yes, you can invest 50,000 bucks into having a basement ensuite that looks like it jumped out of a catalogue, and yes, you can have your tenants cover your mortgage ( or a large portion of it) – but there’s a whole lot more to it than that. There’s the job. The landlord job. It gives the goods – warts and all. Definitely worth a read – but to be taken with a grain of salt.

RCMP Warns Alberta Landlords and Tenants About Kijiji Rental Scam

Came across this informative piece courtesy of the Alberta Landlords Association. The RCMP issued a formal warning to landlords and tenants in Canmore, Alberta about a Kijiji scam. I took special notice of this, because this is the kind of thing that gives landlords a bad name.

Culprits posted ads on the classifieds website Kijiji advertising houses or condos for rent, with all money transactions completed through e-mail. The victims were advised that 24 hours before their arrival, they would receive a pin code to enter the property. But in one case, after thousands of dollars was transferred, all correspondence halted before a pin code could be sent. Further investigation found that the properties were never really in fact for rent in the first place (big surprise).

A similar occurrence was reported in Halifax. Check this out. There’s a nice Soundcloud clip of a rundown of how it occurs courtesy of Scott Simpson with the Halifax Regional Police.

Unfortunately, this has become a common thing. Similar incidents have occurred in Montreal, Winnipeg, and Calgary.

Most of the cases involve a landlord out of town, unable to show the unit, who asks for a damage deposit or first and last month’s rent to be wired to them. Sometimes – as in the case in Calgary listed above, someone has the gall to show up and actually conduct showings on a unit, and then ask for money.

The ALA has some valuable tips to share on how landlords and tenants can avoid getting caught up in these kinds of messes. Tenants should ask to see the property before committing anything financially, and receive a receipt for any monies given. Landlords should make sure tenants know who they are, where the property is, and give a receipt for any rent paid.

Hub Pages posted a nice little ditty on how to avoid getting scammed here. Kijiji has also posted some valuable tips on how to avoid getting victimized here.

Landlord Fumes Over Tenant Damages in Sarnia

Came across this piece in the Sarnia Observer. A local landlord got burned by tenants who had been evicted. I think this really emphasizes the necessity to inspect a unit prior to a tenant leaving as it becomes very difficult to obtain any restitution with the LTB once they’re gone. You can read the article here:

http://www.theobserver.ca/2012/10/18/landlord-fumes-over-tenant-damages

As most Ontario landlords know (or should know), once a tenant vacates a rental property you can’t make an application for damages to the Ontario Landlord and Tenant Board. Jean Guy Lecours, the victim in this case, now faces the only option he has left, which is to pursue damages via small claims court – which will undoubtedly cost a small fortune.

Do you have a story like this? What are your thoughts on Ontario’s landlord and tenant laws?