“Storm season” is a common event in Australia. It is the period between November and March, when heavy rain and lashes of wind can frequently occur. However storms can hit outside the storm season and result in serious damage to your property.

What can cause storm damage?

From an insurer’s standpoint, the following events comprise typical storm damage:

  • Storm – a severe atmospheric disturbance accompanied by strong winds, rain, lightning, hail, snow or dust.
  • Thunderstorms – these can bring lightning, hail, wind gusts and flash flooding. Extreme thunderstorms can often cause large damage to property as well as injury or death.
  • Lightning – often occurs during thunderstorms. Severe lightning can affect your property’s electricity network and even bring down powerlines.
  • Hail – hailstorms can be particularly destructive when it comes to anything made of glass, such as your car and house windows.
  • Rainwater – this includes water overflowing from stormwater drains.
  • Runoff – overflow from swimming pools, spas and tanks resulting from excess rainwater.
  • Storm surge – seawater rushing onshore due to strong winds or sea movements.
  • Land gales – powerful winds that can cause damage and injuries.

If you live near the sea, you might also want to determine whether your home faces any potential risks. These can range from king tides and coastal erosion, to subsidence and building collapse.

Before you move into a new home, check that your home and contents insurance policy is up-to-date and covers storm damage.

What should I do when my home has sustained storm damage?

If your property has been damaged during a storm, make sure you follow these steps:

  • Disconnect all electrical devices and stay away from fallen trees or power lines.
  • If you have pets, keep them sheltered or inside.
  • Contact the SES if there is a storm-related emergency at your property.
  • If there is a life-threatening emergency, call 000 immediately.
  • If your house is under threat of collapse or breakage, shelter in the strongest room.

After the storm has passed:

  • Contact your insurer immediately and provide as much documented evidence of storm damage incurred as possible.
  • Have your receipts ready if you need to back up your claim.
  • Lodge a claim with your insurer.

Many insurance policies also include temporary accommodation if your property becomes unliveable as the result of storm damage.

After you have lodged a storm damage claim, your insurer may send an assessor to inspect your property. The assessor will provide the insurer with their findings, which will help the insurer decide whether to accept or decline your claim.

If the assessor cannot determine if the damage was caused by storm or flood, they will organise a hydrologist (a water specialist), who will assess your property and the surrounding area to determine the exact cause of the damage.

What types of storm damage am I covered for?

Your home and contents policy outlines the events you will receive financial cover for if your property suffers storm damage. Check if you’re insured for related events and if your policy lists any additional features.

If your home was damaged during a storm and you need to carry out repairs, find out which ones are excluded under storm damage. Keep in mind that if you live in a coastal area, you might not be covered for storm surge-related damages, with the exception of tsunami damages.

If you believe your home is at risk of storm or flood damage, you should review the terms and conditions of your home and contents policy. These are usually listed in your Policy Disclosure Statement (PDS). Contact your insurer should you have any questions or if you are confused about a particular event and your level of cover.