By Peter Moran
The COVID-19 pandemic has had a profound impact on all facets of our lives – not just on a personal level, but also professionally. Here are some practical steps you can take to mitigate the risk of a potential Coronavirus-related claim.
While restrictions have eased, there’s no place for complacency and the risk of a COVID-19 related claim remains a very real risk for agents. Failure to properly enforce social distancing measures and comply with legislation changes could potentially result in a range of claims, such as:
- Personal injury suffered by a seller, buyer, landlord, tenant or member of the public due to a COVID-19 infection (e.g. general damages, medical expenses and domestic care assistance)
- Economic loss incurred by a seller, buyer, landlord, tenant or member of the public due to a COVID-19 infection (e.g. loss of wages and other financial remuneration)
- Economic loss sustained by a real estate agency due to an employee contracting COVID-19
- Reputational damage suffered by an agency or agent resulting from adverse publicity due to a COVID-19 infection
- Reputational damage suffered by an agency or agent resulting from a failure to comply with legislation (e.g. attempting to evict an impacted tenant without having participated in the required good faith negotiations)
- Breach of contract claim by a tenant due to failure to comply with residential tenancy legislation
- Order to pay costs incurred by a tenant involved in Tribunal proceedings (e.g. due to legal proceedings being commenced prematurely).
It’s essential for all agencies to take serious and considered precautions in response to the significant financial and reputational risks posed by potential COVID-19 related claims. For example:
- Clearly communicate social distancing requirements to all clients and interested parties, including sellers, buyers, landlords and tenants
- Document and retain copies of all these communications, including file notes of telephone calls
- Maintain appropriate records in connection with attempts to enforce social distancing measures (e.g. documenting those who attend a property and any cleaning undertaken following an open home inspection). These records will help in the defence of any claim made that the agency failed to take reasonable steps to enforce appropriate social distancing measures
- Stay up to date and comply with any legislation changes
- Clearly communicate legislation changes to clients.
If you’re in any doubt about your obligations in relation to the enforcement of social distancing measures or the operation of COVID-19 related legislation, you should seek legal advice.
The information contained in this article, which is current as at the date of publication, provides only a general overview of subjects covered. It is not intended to be taken as legal advice or advice regarding any individual situation and should not be relied upon as such.
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Realcover’s professional indemnity insurance policy has been designed with your needs in mind. For more information and to discuss your insurance needs, please contact Realcover by speaking with JLT representative on 1800 990 312 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
PETER MORAN is a Partner at Colin Biggers & Paisley (which is a panel lawyer of QBE).
Realcover is underwritten by QBE Insurance (Australia) Ltd and managed by JLT.