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Landlord insurers to stop chasing tenants for accidental damage

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Residential landlord insurance providers will no longer pursue tenants for unintentional or accidental damage caused, responding to a months-long public pressure campaign by WEstjustice and Choice.

The campaigners say they have secured commitments from the industry to stop the practice, labelling it “unethical” and saying insurers involved in the cases that they examined had little or no evidence that the renters were responsible for the loss.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says it acknowledges the work of the consumer groups engaging directly with those ICA members who offer residential landlord insurance.

“Residential landlord insurers have been responsive to feedback regarding this issue, and many insurers have responded by adjusting their practices and procedures,” a spokesman for ICA told insuranceNEWS.com.au today.

WEstjustice, which provides free legal services in west Melbourne, says the changes represent a “big win” for consumers who live in tenanted properties.

“The landlord insurance industry committing to this minimum standard is a big win for renters across Australia,” Acting Legal Director Matthew Martin told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“Renters can no longer be pursued directly by landlord insurers for accidental damage claims and should only receive letters from landlord insurers to confirm if the renter has insurance cover for accidental damage.”

WEstjustice and Choice have been working in the last few months behind the scenes to stop the practice. They raised the matter publicly as early as August, after investigating a number of cases in relation to tenants who were being chased to pay for their landlords’ insurance claims.

“Suncorp, IAG and QBE have changed their initial practices and agreed to stop sending bills to uninsured tenants for accidental damage,” Choice Director of Campaigns Erin Turner said.

“This is very welcome news and will stop the stress and harm caused in the past.”

IAG and QBE confirmed they will not press tenants to pay for accidental or unintentional damage caused while Suncorp says it will leave it to the ICA to respond on behalf of the industry.

“We will only consider a recovery where there is evidence of a legal liability of the tenant and they are insured, or for intentional or malicious damage by the tenant,” a spokesman for IAG told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“We’ve also reaffirmed our policy that we won’t pursue a recovery where we identify that the tenant is experiencing hardship.

“Our processes already considered the hardship that might be experienced by tenants, however, we have taken on board the concerns raised by Choice and WEstJustice to help provide clarity on this issue for tenants.”

QBE says it takes the wellbeing of both customers and third parties to claims such as tenants very seriously.

“Ensuring vulnerable people are protected is important to QBE and we will not pursue a tenant that is vulnerable or is suffering financial hardship,” a spokesman told insuranceNEWS.com.au.

“For Landlord Insurance products, QBE will only pursue tenants if they have insurance cover or if the damage is intentional or malicious.”

Chubb, which was involved in one of the cases investigated by the campaign, says it has stopped offering residential landlord insurance since April this year.

Ms Turner of Choice says not every insurance brand has engaged in the practice, naming Hollard, Youi and Auto & General as among those that have not pursued renters for accidental damage.