Malicious Damage

 No one wants to be the one to tell their client that the settlement they’re expecting from a claim will never materialise. This is all too a familiar problem with insurers, when they learn of significant damage to a property, only to look over their clients policy to find one missing yet vital piece – Malicious Damage.

Quite simply, Malicious Damage is that which is not caused accidentally. It doesn’t have to be caused in a fit of rage brought on by an eviction, and is just as likely to be the result of animals kept at the property, or the illegal cultivation of cannabis.

But if the wrong policy has been purchased, then the outcome is the same, and it can be a great cause of upset for property owners like Richard and Rosalind Meryon of Devon. They returned from Jerusalem to find that their home of 36 years had been trashed by the tenants, who were refusing to pay the rent and had boarded themselves in to prevent eviction. What’s more, they had racked up £56,000 worth of damage, some of which was caused the hot and humid conditions needed to grow cannabis. The upshot of their dilemma was a simple misunderstanding of what they were covered for. The policy stated that they were not covered for malicious damage, and so their insurance provider was not going to pay.

Expert advice and the right insurance policy can make all the difference when it comes to such a situation – indeed it could be the difference between having to explain to your own client why they’re not entitled to compensation through their insurance, and getting the claims process underway.

The right insurance can help avoid frustration when your clients can come to make a claim, but it would be better still to avoid the stress a bad tenant brings in the first place by encouraging your client to take on a strict tenant-vetting stance.

As tempting as it is happily throw in the first tenant who comes along to get the rental income flowing, your client will be much better off in the long run attracting and keeping the kind of tenants which are going to make life easier, not harder.

Check whether your client has a process in place when choosing a tenant – one which includes screening applications to uncover the troublemakers. To do this, landlords can speak to previous management companies and landlords to see if there were any previous issues, even if it’s as simple as keeping a pet at a property without first seeking permission. It may not be the 50 dogs and cats that a mother and her daughter were keeping at their property in Hull, for which both were charged with animal cruelty, but it does open up to the possibility that the tenants may not be as open and honest as your client may have hoped.