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East coast floods – know your rights when it comes to insurance

3 min read
2 Mar 2022

Thousands of flood-affected residents are looking to make insurance claims to recoup for lost and damaged property. Based on past flood events, the recovery bill could be in the hundreds of millions. 

We’ve pulled together a guide to help people understand what to expect during the process.

I need to claim. What do I need to do?

Check your policy to understand what you can claim, what you’re covered for and how much you’re covered for. You will also need to pay an excess.

Remember that insurers may have exclusions and specific terminology around storms, flooding and weather events. 

Compare the Market insurance expert Stephen Zeller shared this advice.

“When disaster strikes, your mind races to deal with priorities. When you don’t have to worry about your family’s safety, it’s time to assess the damage and take steps to claim for losses and repairs,” Mr Zeller said. 

“It’s usually a good idea to lodge your claim as soon as possible. Many insurers do not require you to wait for the water to recede to lodge your claim and your policy might include conditions on timeframes for reporting.

“Collect any photos and documents that could help support your claim. The more information and evidence you have the better. You may also want to consider: reports from your energy distributor for power cuts, information from emergency services, councils, receipts, photos and videos of your property.

“You can reach out to your insurer over the phone or online to lodge your claim. 

“A lot of people have been affected, so keep in mind there may be some delays,” Mr Zeller said.

Under normal circumstances, insurers usually respond to claims within 10 business days and inform whether a claim is accepted, denied or needs further information to process. 

If you aren’t happy with a response, you can follow up with the insurance company or file a complaint with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Will I be covered?

Most home insurance and contents insurance policies cover storms (including damage caused by lightning, cyclones, strong winds, rainwater, hail) but flood cover is typically optional. 

Take a look at your Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to understand the inclusions and exclusions. In most cases, flood and storm or rainwater cover will be separate insured events.

Policies that include flooding usually include events caused by rising water levels or rainfall that’s caused overflowing rivers, streams, dams and creeks.

All policies differ but common exclusions can include:

  • Storm surges, king tides and high tides caused by the sea
  • Flooding not caused by rainfall (such as a landslide)
  • Flooding caused by blocked stormwater drains, gutters or water pipes
  • Rainwater damage caused by lack of maintenance, faulty designs or structural defects
  • Damage caused because windows/doors were left open
  • Vehicle damage as a result of driving through a flooded road

Inclusions and exclusion do vary, so if anything is unclear it’s best to check with your insurance company directly.

Will I be impacted by insurance embargos? 

Home and contents insurance can be subject to an embargo.

If an insurable incident (including storms that South East Queensland/Northern New South Wales areas currently experiencing) is imminent or already occurring, many insurers may refuse to sell policies to those in affected areas or may impose a no-claims period (e.g. 72 hours) on new policies.

Be sure to have cover in place well in advance to prevent your claim from being impacted by embargoes and waiting periods.

Our thoughts are with everyone impacted by the past week’s events.

If your area is affected, keep an eye out for warnings and announcements from local authorities to protect your safety.

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avatar of author: Phillip Portman

Written by Phillip Portman

When he’s not busy writing, Phillip can usually be found at the movies, playing with his Italian Greyhound Wilma, hanging out with his cockatiel Tiki, or talking about everything pop culture. He has a Bachelor of Arts in Communication and Journalism and has previously written about health, entertainment, and lifestyle for various publications. Phillip loves to help others and hopes that people learn something new from his articles.

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