Openrent pushing insurance?

Buildings insurance is not a legal requirement, yet the OpenRent contract stipulates as a condition within the contract text the landlord must evidence their current buildings insurance to the tenant. Whether I have buildings insurance or not is neither here nor there as far as the tenant is concerned (at least as far as I can see). We have enough to do as it is without having to do more than completely necessary. But in this climate of tenants looking for any excuse to call foul, obliging me to provide proof to the tenant when I am not required to do so just adds another layer of jeopardy.

Though the cynic in me can’t help but think OpenRent do this so they market their products.

Another example of this is, whilst completely unnecessary, as part of the contract initiation I was prompted to include all the expiry dates of EPCs, EIRCs, PAT tests. But I already have a property management system, so this is just duplicating. You can leave it blank, but the way it is scripted suggests it is mandatory yet none of this information forms part of the contract (other than confirming it is/will be current). OpenRent tout this as a reminder service but, as I said, more likely for marketing purposes.

Also, you do not appear to be able to include provisions for other charges in addition to the rent, as in my case where I needed to include a service charge for water. I had to include it in the rent, so when water charges increase I can only do this via an increase in the rent.

I know the OpenRent service can’t be all things to all people, but…

Hi @Martin12

Thanks for your questions.

While you’re right that it isn’t a legal requirement for landlords to have buildings insurance (and contents insurance if the property is let furnished) it is considered industry best practice to include landlord insurance as a requirement in the contract. By ensuring that the property is insured the tenants have peace of mind that the landlord will be able to resolve any issues with the property (such as leaking roof or problem with the boiler). We are always happy to offer a quote for insurance but there is no obligation to use any of our services and you are welcome to take out a policy with a third party.

We do ask landlords to confirm that they have valid EPCs, gas safety certificates and Electrical Safety reports before issuing the contract; or that the requirement does not apply to their property (e.g. listed properties are not required to have an EPC). We also offer the option for landlords to enter an expiry date which means that they will get automatic reminders before each report expires. However, if you don’t want to receive the reminders you are welcome to leave the date boxes blank.

Under the Tenant Fees Act 2019 all charges (such as water charge, maintenance service, etc.) must be included in the rent. If you want to include a full breakdown of what is included in the rent then you are welcome to add a custom clause to your contract.

Our aim at OpenRent is to offer a hassle free experience for as many landlords and tenants as possible and we always welcome feedback from our users. I hope that the explanations above make sense and if you have any further questions about our Rent Now tenancy creation service then you are welcome to contact our customer support team.

Thanks for your response, but I’m not sure you got to the nub of my issue. Firstly, the OpenRent contract stipulates buildings insurance. Buildings insurance is not the same as landlord insurance and it does not provide the assurances you suggest the tenant would benefit from i.e. leaking roof or boiler issues. As I said in my original post, a landlord having buildings insurance, as far as the tenant is concerned, is neither here nor there and, since it is not necessary, should not be included. Further, if we are at the stage of contact signing, the tenant has already agreed to take the property so any additional “assurance” is redundant. As I said, in such a litigious environment (only the other week Landlordzone published an article about ambulance chaser lawyers looking to sue landlords) contracting the need to have buildings insurance in place, however advisable, just adds another layer of jeopardy, for example in the event the landlord lets it lapse by mistake.

Also, I did say in my OP I understand the need to ensure all certs etc are up to date, but the form script asks for dates and does not suggest this information is optional. Sure, you can leave it blank, but to the uninitiated they may not understand this is the case and provide OpenRent with information they do not have to provide which will be used for the purposes of marketing. It is a bit sneaky.

Look, you guys provide a reasonable service but, like many, I don’t like dodgy marketing practices, I just sooner OpenRent be upfront about the purpose of collecting data - aside from being an obligation under GDPR where the express purpose of data collection must be highlighted.

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While not being a legal requirement, surely it is best practice to have building insurance in place anyway? All the AST says about the insurance is to “To insure the building of the Premises under a general household policy with a reputable insurer” so I’m not sure what assurances are being suggested? These assurances would automatically fall under the previous paragraph outlining the landlord’s statutory repairing obligations anyway. Since Openrent have already acknowledged the insurance is not a legal requirement, if this clause then prompts people to at least consider building insurance, is this not a good thing?

With regards to the other certifications on the form, I don’t necessarily think it is a bad thing to have reminder dates in place? Not everyone will have a separate property management system like yourself so while it’s a duplication for you, I’m sure some landlords may find this function useful and most landlords are fully aware that they are under no obligation to purchase these via Openrent (these are mostly contracted out anyway so I doubt Openrent would make a huge profit from these as they are already mostly competitively priced). Plus it’s not like it takes a lot of time to tick the boxes. I take your point about GDPR though and that Openrent can’t be all things to all people.

Perhaps re-read my posts as I think, like Beth, you’ve missed the point. I’m not arguing whether or not insurance is necessary, I’m arguing it should not be stipulated the landlord requires it within the contract. If insurance is stipulated within the contract, whether it is a legal requirement or not, it becomes obligatory and, as I said, puts the landlord at unnecessary risk in the event they do not have it, such as lapsed policy. OpenRent know it’s not necessary, but include it simply as a prompt to buy insurance, hopefully theirs!

Neither am I arguing against reminders, I am arguing against including them in the on-line contract fields under the guise of being for reminders with no suggestion they are optional with the likely purpose of marketing their products at a later date.

I’ve had 30+ tenancies via Openrent and I’ve never had a tenant ask me about the building insurance so I think the risk is pretty small? Perhaps another landlord with more legal knowledge @David122 maybe? can confirm if this wording puts the landlord at additional risk. My understanding is that the tenancy agreement cannot override your statutory rights and responsibilities as dictated by the Landlord and Tenant Act 1985 (Landlord and Tenant Act 1985) - I can’t see a mention of building insurance here so my view is that having this paragraph in the AST, while unnecessary, doesn’t put the landlord in any additional risk.

I think you are wrong. We are seeing a marked increase in tenants challenging landlords in the courts with landlords having to defend rent repayment orders for trivial indiscretions such as not providing prescribed information at the correct time. In the example I gave of a lapsed policy, this is exactly the minor infraction no-win-no-fee lawyers could exploit. Even if the risk is minimal, why unnecessarily expose landlords to it? If OpenRent are looking to sell insurance it should not be done at the expense of landlords, and I am afraid Beth’s rather confused attempt at spin in her response completely ignored this concern.

And, BTW brokers make between 10 - 20% commission, so it’s not trivial which is why they are looking for ways to promote it.

I don’t have the legal background to comment I’m afraid. Just remembered that for flat owners in an apartment block, this would be a redundant clause anyway as building insurance is covered by service charges. If you are unhappy about the way the products are being advertised, you could report it to the ASA. In any case, this looks like something Openrent need to respond to.

They did respond, but it was just spin. I’m not particularly bothered, just got my goat a bit. Notwithstanding my argument vis-à-vis the unnecessary risk, I’m having to stuff about finding the paperwork (found the policy, but no certificate as I can see), scan the documents and get get is over to the tenant. As if we didn’t have enough to do, this is just another layer of crap we shouldn’t have to deal with and I suppose, if people call them out, maybe they will make improvements.

But the plot thickens. OpenRent called my tenant today. OpenRent asked them if they wanted assistance sorting out their broadband, phone, electric, council tax etc. I doubt they are doing this out of the kindness of their hearts, likely this is an opportunity for them to promote/sell partner products. I have to say, I think this is a cheek and, again, a breach of GDPR. My tenant says they did not knowingly agree to be contacted by OpenRent. But also, it’s interfering. The flat I let is on district heating, water is inclusive, has electric key meter and I advise the local council myself. My tenant called up all confused wondering what was going on because she thought the services OPenRent want to talk to her about were inclusive.

I think this is completely overstepping the line. I would not knowingly consent to OpenRent contacting my tenant. I have a duty to my tenant under GDPR and to expose them to unsolicited contact beyond the express purpose of the service I paid for is not on.

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Hi Martin,

I can see that you’ve contacted our customer support team and they responded to your queries yesterday. If you have any further questions then you are, of course, welcome to reply to our latest email.

Open rent wont admit when they are wrong, using phrases like its best practise, or its right in principle means they are just smokscreening their response instead of just saying okay we are wrong we will change it, poor show.

I’ve never given a copy of the insurance to a tenant and hadn’t noticed it in the Openrent tenancy agreement.
I agree, there’s no reason for it to be in there
Openrent? Can this be deleted? Or at least optional?