Basil Taylor of Rapid Solutions advises pest managers on how to avoid a claim being made against them when it comes to timber pest inspections.
With the termite season upon us, pest managers start to get excited about potential termite work. However, whether carrying out termite inspections and treatments, or pre- purchase pest inspections, it’s important to follow good process and accurate reporting.
Termites can get even the most experienced pest manager into deep trouble if he or she fails to report their activity in a premises correctly. With over 25 years in the industry, Rapid Solutions has seen all manner of termite damage claims. In fact, Rapid Solutions has seen over 150 claims for termite management and today averages one new termite-related claim every month.
Here we explore the precautions pest managers should take to avoid a termite-related insurance claim.
Record conducive conditions
Take your time in detecting and recording conditions conducive to timber pest activity. This includes having loose timber lying around on the ground level of a property or beside it, moisture under the house, garden beds and shrubbery against a building, and wood piled against a garage wall. These are only a handful of the many circumstances that attract termites or increase the likelihood of them making a home within a property.
Correctly identify activity and species
Pinpoint any active termites in and around the property (and consider using a termite detection device such as Termatrac during your inspection). Then correctly identify the termite species and report carefully on both these aspects. As only certain species cause damage to properties, these are the termites to focus on during your inspection.
Produce accurate reports
Due to the unreliability of human memory, real-time reporting goes a long way to ensuring accurate paperwork. If every aspect of your report is carefully recorded while onsite, as you go through the property, you are much less likely to forget the key information such as termite conducive conditions, construction issues and termite species present. An onsite reporting app such as Rapid Inspect can assist with this.
Take plenty of photos
Visually recording all areas of a property is important, as photos clearly record the circumstances without bias. It is just as important to photograph a dry sub floor as it is a wet sub floor (e.g. under wet areas such as the bathroom, kitchen and laundry). This means you can prove at a later date that an area was dry at the time of reporting, assisting with any contentious claims.
Make appropriate recommendations
Another facet to best practice reporting is getting the treatment recommendations right first time. This means drawing on your experience and having a sound understanding of Australian Standards.
Using a reporting system that is compliant with Australian Standards will guide you towards reporting in accordance with these standards, specifically, AS 4349.3- 2010 and AS 3660.2-2017. Make sure you are fully aware of these requirements, from both a claims and homeowner’s perspective. Being aware of the necessary compliance checks helps protect against a termite-related insurance claim.
Apply appropriate treatment and advice
Ensure that the correct termite management system is installed, whether it is a chemical treatment system and/ or monitoring and baiting system. Focused customer service is also key – make sure the prospective or existing property owner is completely aware of any conditions reported. Ideally, discuss with them while onsite. Clearly highlight the key findings and recommendations in your introductory email that accompanies the inspection report. Follow up with a phone call to con rm receipt and discuss the situation.
Checking the customer received and understands the inspection report encourages them to trust in you, promotes customer loyalty and encourages positive word of mouth recommendations. And helps to avoid a termite management insurance claim, if things turn sour. The real-life example in the box below illustrates what not to do and how a claim could have been avoided.
A real-life example
A pest manager who was a Rapid Solutions client was employed to conduct a pest and building report for a prospective homeowner. At the time of site inspection, drill holes were noted around the perimeter of the property structure, indicating a previous termite treatment had been undertaken.
The pest manager recorded this in the site notes; however the report was completed at a later date and these particular notes were overlooked. Hence, they did not appear in the final report that was prepared for the prospective homeowner.
This customer went ahead and bought the home and subsequently discovered an area of termite damage that led to further investigations. Extensive termite damage was found throughout the entire structure.
Unsurprisingly, the customer decided to sue the pest manager for damages. The pest manager (who was thankfully insured) brought Rapid Solutions into the picture and the Rapid Solutions team dealt with the claimant on the pest manager’s behalf. A six-figure sum and legal proceedings were involved.
Although the situation was resolved from a litigation perspective, Rapid Solutions had no influence over the considerable reputational damage the pest manager would have experienced. The pest manager also lost their 65% no claim bonus, resulting in a significantly higher insurance premium for a number of years.
In mitigating the risk of a claim, it is clear that completing your reporting onsite, in real time, has enormous advantages over trying to work from memory when back in the office. Trying to decipher notes and chase information down the track is in no way ideal. This after-the-fact reporting approach causes gaps in reports whereas real-time reporting considerably reduces the probability of missing key findings and improves the report’s accuracy.
In choosing an onsite reporting app, it is important that the pest manager has confidence that it meets all reporting requirements and will be backed by their insurance company. Using the extensive experience gathered over 25 years in the industry, the Rapid Inspect app has been designed not only to make pest managers’ lives easier, but ensures compliance with Australian Standards and reduces the risk of a termite claim being made.