Handling a break-in at your investment property

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Q. A few weeks ago my investment property was broken into, and my tenant’s laptop and keys were stolen. It happened on a Friday night, so the next day the tenant called my property manager who arranged an emergency locksmith to change the locks on the front and back door, at a cost to me of $200. I’ve also paid around $100 to fix the security screen that the burglar damaged. Do I have to wear these expenses, or could they be claimed on my building or landlord’s insurance?
A It’s the landlord’s responsibility, in NSW at least, to maintain locks or other security devices  necessary to keep the residential premises reasonably secure. It is also up to the landlord to give the tenant a copy of the key or opening device to open any lock or security device that is added or altered. So, the responsibility and cost of changing locks and repairing the security screen rest with the landlord.
The good news is that most building insurance policies will cover the cost of the repairs (minus any excess) because they were caused by a burglary. The additional good news is that, because the invoice was for a repair, the excess should also be tax deductible.
It’s worth noting that landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover the tenant’s belongings, whether stolen in a robbery or, in the case of water leaks, caused by storm damage or a burst pipe. The only exception is if the landlord has been negligent, eg, by not fixing a faulty lock or not organising repairs to leaky plumbing, when advised by the tenant of the fault.
Essentially, the tenant is responsible for their belongings and it’s recommended at the time of signing up a new tenant that you give them an information pack with commonly used numbers, such as the telephone, electricity and gas companies.
As a landlord, you should also ensure that you organise your own insurance cover. While not a legal requirement, it certainly helps you when dealing with a tenant who is usually in a distressed state following a break-in. Note that landlord’s insurance policies usually don’t cover your goods and chattels in the case of theft or damage.

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