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Landlords must take steps to protect their property against people moving in illegally, a landlord insurance firm has warned, according to Terri Scheer Insurance, squatters trashing vacant rentals is a common problem.
“If a squatter breaks into a vacant rental property and lives there illegally, it can potentially result in damage to the property and subsequent loss of rental income for landlords while the damage is being repaired,” Terri Scheer Insurance executive manager Carolyn Parrella said.
“We have seen situations where a squatter has broken doors and windows to force entry into a property, punched holes in walls, ripped up carpet and sprayed graffiti throughout.”
While this damage is being repaired, the property often cannot be re-let, causing further expense to the landlord, Ms Parrella said.
Investors facing extended vacancies can take precautions to protect their investments.
Ms Parrella suggests installing deadlocks on external doors and windows, or even an active local or back-to-base alarm system.
In addition, she encourages landlords to regularly inspect their property and to maintain it in good condition.
“Consider hiring a gardener to regularly maintain the exterior of the property,” Ms Parrella said.
“Long grass, excess leaves covering pathways and overgrown foliage can make it obvious that the property is unoccupied, and may make the property an easy target for squatters.”
Collecting mail, installing a timed lighting system and asking a neighbour to keep an eye out can all help safeguard the property, she suggests.
In addition, Ms Parrella urges investors to ensure they have the correct level of insurance coverage.
“A good landlord insurance policy should protect landlords against malicious damage to the property, such as damage to carpets or blinds,” Ms Parrella said.
“However, damage to the building itself may be at the landlord’s expense unless they have a suitable building insurance policy in place.”