The more detail, the better

January/February 2016 edition

By Renee Anestis

The importance of keeping detailed notes about the condition of properties under your management should never be underestimated.

Sasha Wood, Property Management Supervisor at Raine & Horne Lake Munmorah, knows all too well how detailed notes can work in a property manager’s favour.


“In an environment where people are quick to assign blame, it’s essential to make detailed file notes and keep accurate records. It could, quite literally, save you millions,” Ms Wood said.

Recently a guest of the tenant at a property managed by Ms Wood’s team complained that the wooden stairway was dangerous, slippery, and unstable. The guest alleged that she was walking down the stairs when she slipped, fell and sustained injury. The case went before the NSW District Court.

The tenant said they had reported the condition of the stairs to the property manager, who then failed to carry out repairs. The property manager denied receiving the complaints and could show that thorough routine inspections had been carried out. Copies of the inspection reports were sent to the landlord. They also had detailed file notes, including every phone call between them and the tenant.

The property manager’s standard procedure was for all maintenance and repairs to be reported in writing. They could show many other minor issues reported by the tenant in writing, but never anything about the stairs.

“The thoroughness of our ingoing inspection reports leaves very little room for argument at the end of a tenancy,” Ms Wood said. “We also take an extensive number of photos to accompany each ingoing inspection report. It’s very hard to argue with detailed reports and photos that match. These processes are for the benefit of all parties – us, the landlord and the tenant.”

According to Realcover Claims & Compliance Manager Nancy Rainbird, Ms Wood did exactly the right thing. “They did a great job keeping detailed file notes about everything,” she said. “Without that evidence, a judge will rely on verbal testimony, which is subject to interpretation. So what’s the moral of the story? The more detail, the better!”

While care has been taken in preparing this article, and the information in it has been obtained from sources that Realcover believe to be reliable, Realcover does not warrant, represent or guarantee the accuracy, adequacy, completeness or fitness for any purpose that the article may be used. Realcover accepts no liability for any loss or damage (whether caused by negligence or not) resulting from the use of this article.


Realcover’s inspection tips for property managers

-  Follow up on all maintenance requests in writing. Pass these on to the landlord and recommend expert advice.
-  Complete all documentation. Make sure everything is in writing and detailed file notes are kept.
-  Shift liability to the owner. If an owner refuses to undertake repairs and maintenance, keep a written record of their refusal.  
-  Ensure tradesmen have current insurance. This ensures any potential issues don’t come back on your own professional indemnity policy.
-  Stick to your agency agreement. It sets out the scope of your responsibilities, so be careful you can’t be held liable other things.  
-  Use indemnity clauses. An indemnity clause will aid your defence if a claim is brought against you.
-  Use technology. Protect yourself against a claim and manage your risks by investing in the most up-to-date software.
Let Realcover protect your business with professional indemnity insurance designed with your needs in mind. When it is time to renew your policy, contact Realcover on 1800 990 312 for a quote. REINSW members are eligible for a substantial discount off Realcover’s standard professional indemnity insurance premium (excluding charges).