Avoid house sitter horror

Planning a trip and looking for someone to take care of the pets and water the plants? If you’re thinking about engaging a house or pet sitting agency, it’s important to understand the how-tos of hiring a sitter. 

The risks of hiring a dodgy house sitter were all too real for a Perth couple who returned from a five-week holiday to find the woman hired to stay with their dog had robbed them of jewellery and other belongings worth thousands of dollars and that their losses were not covered by insurance because the sitter was in the home with their consent.

To avoid coming home to distressed pets or missing items, do your research. Take some time to find a reliable sitter through a reputable business – it could spare you a lot of post-holiday pain.

Shop around. Contacting several sitting agencies will give you an idea of how services differ and will provide some background before you make a decision.

Consider using personally recommended or industry recognised people. If you’re looking for a person to pet sit, ask your vet or an animal refuge if they have any recommendations and make sure the person you hire is comfortable with your pet before you leave.

General internet searches for positive or negative reviews can be helpful, but don’t rely solely on online testimonials. Before engaging anyone to house or pet sit, ask for references you can contact.

If you engage an agency, ask to see police checks for their employees. Find out if the business has insurance for their employees and what is and is not covered should something go wrong during the sit.

Your own insurance might cover accidental loss and damage, but insurers may have exclusions for deliberate damage and theft caused by people lawfully on your property, including sitters and their guests. You should contact your insurer and discuss whether your policy can be modified while someone else is living at the premises in case something goes wrong.

Check that the business is registered with the Australian Securities and Investments Commission and, where applicable, that the business is the holder of an Employment Agents Licence with the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety.

Put the agreed details of your arrangement in writing. A written agreement provides a clear understanding of the obligations of both parties.

For added peace of mind while you’re away, ask a trusted family member, friend or a neighbour to drop in occasionally to check on the house.

Traders should know their rights and obligations under the Australian Consumer Law (ACL) as well.

If you are an agent engaging sitters on behalf of clients, you must ensure that information you provide is accurate and does not mislead or deceive.

You should also consider the security checks that can you can undertake, such as police clearances, to ensure the safety and wellbeing of your clients and their property, as well as your business reputation.

The ACL provides that services supplied will be fit for purpose and provided with due care and skill. This applies to the service of the sitter and your administrative services, regardless of whether you operate via a platform such as Airtasker or another sharing economy platform.

For more information call us on 1300 304 054 or visit www.consumerprotection.wa.gov.au.

Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard, by CP Media
Commissioner for Consumer Protection David Hillyard


Consumer Protection
Media release
31 Jan 2019

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