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How to help tenants after a break in

March 14, 2021

Not only are break ins a violation of a person’s space and possessions, they can be distressing for tenants living in a rented property. A tenant may feel very unsafe and want to terminate their lease. As well as dealing with the police and insurance reports, a tenant who wants to terminate a lease can make things more complicated for a property manager. But if the landlord has fulfilled their obligations it may not be as cut and dry as the tenant walking away.

Landlord responsibilities

Under the Residential Tenancies Act landlords are legally obligated to provide a secure, clean unit in good working order for a tenant to live in. Locks must be supplied and maintained, and broken doors and windows must be fixed within 24 hours.

If the landlord fails in their responsibility to do this, and the unit gets broken into, then the tenant has grounds to break the lease. But if the landlord has provided premises that are reasonably secure, and it is a forced entry, then a tribunal may rule for the locks to be changed but the tenant may not be able to break the lease.

Tenant responsibilities

Tenants are also responsible for making sure the property is safe to live in, such as locking doors and windows when they go out and not lending keys to friends. Any maintenance to locks and windows should be reported to the property manager or landlord in a timely manner by the tenant. If they are not reported and the property gets broken into, then the tenant may end up paying for some costs of the damage.

What to do immediately after a break-in

Contact Police & landlord/property manager

Tenants should report the break-in straight away to the police and notify the landlord or property manager. A timely report may help police to catch the culprits if they’re still in the neighbourhood, but it also means police can complete an immediate inspection and determine how the break in occurred and if there is any damage to the property. If the property is no longer secure to live in, then emergency repairs may need to be undertaken.

Making an Insurance Claim

As a property manager you should always advise tenants to take out contents insurance in the event of a break in. A landlord may have a separate insurance policy to cover damage to the unit but this doesn’t normally cover a tenant’s personal possessions.

If the tenants have contents insurance and the landlord has fulfilled their legal obligations to provide a secure property, then the tenant’s insurance company shouldn’t have any issues with filing a claim for them. But if the tenant or landlord have not done their duty of care according to the police report, then the insurance company may not pay out.

Both the tenant and the landlord may end up being liable for the costs of the break in.

Moving forward

Unfortunately, there is no guarantee when it comes to break ins, any home rental or owner occupied can be targeted. But the best strategy is always prevention, so both landlord and tenant need to work together to make this happen.

To prevent burglaries, consider:

  • Tightening up security by installing sensor lights, alarms, anti-slash security screens, window locks and double deadbolts
  • Clearing items around the property that could be used to break in such as loose bricks, gardening gear and tools
  • Cutting down shrubs and foliage around the property to make it harder for burglars to hide
  • If you’re on holiday, using timer lights to come on at night and arranging for a neighbour to collect your mail
  • Being vigilant about locking doors and windows when you go out, as well as those on the gates and fences.

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