WEstjustice and CHOICE have secured insurance industry commitments to stop the practice of unfairly pursuing renters for accidental damage. This change means that no renter in Australia should receive a bill for accidental or unintentional property damage to the homes they rent. All major insurers committed to the minimum standard and have agreed they won't send bills demanding payment directly to tenants when a claim is made on landlord insurance following an accident.
This announcement follows investigations by CHOICE and the ABC in September that found some insurers were demanding payment from people who rent with little or no evidence that they owe the money.
Quotes attributable to Erin Turner, Director of Campaigns, CHOICE
Over the last three months we've been working behind the scenes to stop unfair bills from insurers. The insurance sector has listened to the problems we raised and acted to improve their practices.
I want to recognise that some brands have done the right thing from the start. Brands like Auto & General, Youi and Hollard have only asked people who rent if they have insurance, rather than send them a bill. Commonwealth Bank stands out head and shoulders above other insurers: they never take action against renters for accidents. Commonwealth Bank did the right thing before anyone asked them to.
Suncorp, IAG and QBE have changed their initial practices and agreed to stop sending bills to uninsured tenants for accidental damage. This is very welcome news and will stop the stress and harm caused in the past.
We have promises from all major insurers that they will do the right thing by people who rent but we know that industry practices do change over time. CHOICE will watch this issue closely to make sure that all insurers keep up with the minimum standards they have commited to as of November 2021.
Quotes attributable to Matthew Martin, Acting Legal Director, WEstjustice
CHOICE and WEstjustice launched a campaign to stamp out this conduct. Our advocacy has fortunately led to all landlord insurers committing not to pursue uninsured renters for accidental damage at a minimum.
The minimum standard will now be that landlord insurers only deal directly with a renter's contents insurer for accidental damage claims and not make demands of the renter themselves, only pursuing renters directly for intentional damage. This is a significant improvement on previous practices.
The next step will be for certain landlord insurers to continue to improve on their commitments by only pursuing intentional damage confirmed by robust evidence like a police report, and for landlord insurers to offer protections to renters under strata insurance policies as well.
This is a huge win for renters around Australia. Ultimately, it means renters should never directly receive letters of demand from landlord insurers for accidental damage claims. This will lay the groundwork to move toward best practice across the industry of treating renters as third party beneficiaries under a landlord insurance policy unless there has been intentional damage, like in New Zealand and the UK. We hope to have this protection for renters legislated in time.
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Read the full story here: www.choice.com.au/landlordscore
Read the earlier investigation on the CHOICE website: www.choice.com.au/insurance-robodebt
Read the ABC piece here: https://www.abc.net.au/news/2021-09-09/gio-suncorp-insurance-company-wants-money-over-fire/100414092