What you need to know before hiring a house sitter

If you have planned a holiday away from your house this December, you might be considering hiring a house sitter. House sitters offer an affordable and convenient way to ensure that your property, pets, garden and many other aspects are looked after in your absence.

When hiring a house sitter, Lizette Erasmus, head of insurance expertise at IntegriSure, advises that it is important to be aware of both the pros and cons of this option. She offers the below advice and tips to consider when hiring a house sitter.  “Choosing the right house sitter is vitally important as this person will have direct contact with the most valuable assets you have in your name for a period of time,” says Erasmus. “It is crucial to ensure you are properly covered and protected should any unforeseen incidents or damages occur.”

Infographic design by IntegriSure Brokers

Infographic design by IntegriSure Brokers

The 2015 Crime Statistics, released by the South Africa Police Service (SAPS), stated a total of 714 households were burgled each day in the country, and highlighted a marked increase in violent property crimes “With this in mind, having a house sitter as an added deterrent and safeguard for your property can be highly beneficial, and can offer home owners peace of mind while away from their property. However, it is also important to note that it is the ultimate responsibility of the homeowner and policy holder to ensure that the relevant and correct safety measures are already in place, to protect not only your own property, but also the house sitter,” she says. “Before going on holiday, make sure that security systems in place are in proper working order, and address any security maintenance issues before leaving.”

Erasmus explains that when selecting the right house sitter for you, it is important to take certain considerations into account when screening potential candidates, “When choosing to use a house sitter, it is advisable to hire from a reputable company offering these professional services to people, who are able to properly screen and train candidates. Alternatively, use someone you know and trust such as a family friend or a close relative.”

When it comes to mitigating risks should an incident occur, such as a robbery or damages incurred as a result of the house sitters actions, it is always important to review the insurance cover provided in terms of your policy. “Specifically, enquire whether malicious damage as well as theft cover form part of the standard insured perils. These are miscellaneous precautions worth considering before leaving for holiday or hiring a house sitter,” explains Erasmus.

Other important steps to take when you have chosen a house sitter to occupy your home to avoid compromising situations on your part:

  • Ensure the house sitter has your contact details in the event of an emergency;
  • Provide the house sitter with contact details of your security company, neighbourhood watch, neighbours details, local police, fire brigade services as well as veterinary details if you have any pets;
  • Ensure the house sitter knows where the main power supply is as well as main water supply tap that could be closed in the event of an emergency such as a burst geyser;
  • Provide the house sitter with contact details of your Assistance Services in respect of your home owners financial services provider in order for emergency repairs to be conducted as soon as possible to minimise any resultant damage;
  • Lock away all electronic equipment such as laptops or iPads as well as valuable jewellery that you are not taking with you. Also remove valuable ornaments and art work from the main reception and lounge areas and lock away in a room that will be unused during this period;
  • Inform the house sitter if any service provider will be coming to do work in and around your home to prevent any possibility of thieves gaining illegal access to your home.

If you opt not to make use of a house sitter it is still important to note that insurers do require that the policy holder notifies them in the event of your home being unoccupied for a period of 60 days or more. This is viewed as a change in risk and insurers may apply an additional premium for the period that your home is unoccupied. Erasmus recommends contacting your Financial Service Provider to review you cover prior to departing on vacation to ensure that you enjoy the necessary cover for your trip and home while away.

“Choosing to implement a house sitter during the December holidays is a good idea and will offer owners choosing this option a way to follow up daily on the situation at home.  Taking the above steps into consideration will assist in the process being easy and stress free, giving you peace of mind while you are away,” concludes Erasmus.

Uber taxi service poses new liability challenges

This article first appeared on Bizcommunity.com on 13 July, 2015
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Questions around passenger liability have been raised when making use of Uber, the real-time cab sharing application and taxi service.
According to Lizette Erasmus, head of insurance expertise at IntegriSure, the rise of services like Uber can be credited to more individuals seeing this as a safer transport alternative, especially in high-risk situations such as after consuming alcohol, or at odd hours of the evening.

“The liability challenges lie in that when an accident does occur, it becomes difficult to determine where accountability lies. Insurance companies need to carefully reassess policies provided in this instance. In the same way, policy holders – whether they are passengers or drivers – need to ensure that they have the appropriate cover in situations such as these.”

Own insurance
According to Uber, each driver contracted by the organisation is responsible for getting their own passenger liability insurance, as they are independent contractors.

“This type of insurance protects the passenger, should the driver be deemed liable for the cause of an accident,” Erasmus explains.

“It is important that every Uber driver has this type of policy in place for business purposes, as opposed to personal purposes. This is to ensure full passenger protection, as well as their personal financial protection.” There have been incidents in certain countries where insurance providers denied the claims of drivers due to them only being in possession of personal cover and not business liability insurance, which means the drivers in question were forced to cover the costs of damages directly out of their own pockets.

In a break-through USA case, however, a Californian court found that Uber drivers are not contractors, but can be defined as employees. As a result, this case found that the Uber organisation itself, rather than the drivers, may be liable for insurance payments.

Legislative changes
“Rulings like this could change the responsibility matrix in terms of who the passenger can hold liable for any damage that may occur, and indicate potential legislative changes which could take place locally in the future,” says Erasmus.

“With the spotlight on Uber in South Africa at the moment, the conversation around liability is indeed a crucial one for both drivers and passengers, while clarity on how both drivers and users of the Uber service can ensure they are fully protected is set to be a key point of focus,” she concludes.