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Storm insurance: What does your policy cover?

Is your home protected by storm insurance? Get adequate insurance for natural disasters.

Over the last decade, several serious storms, floods and cyclones have ravaged different parts of Australia, leaving a path of destruction and thousands of devastated homeowners in their wake. And if you don’t have the right storm insurance cover in place when a natural disaster hits you could end up losing everything – your home and all your treasured possessions.

Regardless of where in Australia you live, it’s essential that you have enough cover for the cost of rebuilding your home and replacing its contents, if your home is affected by storm or other natural disaster.

How does your insurer define a storm?

Australian insurers define a storm as, "A violent disturbance of the atmosphere". Storms can generally be split into two distinct categories: thunderstorms and land gales.

Thunderstorms typically cause the most damage with hail, flash flooding, strong gusts of wind, lightning, flash flooding and tornadoes. Meanwhile, land gales refer to gale-force winds that occur over land.

Check if you are covered for disasters

Your insurance policy will state what natural disasters are covered. As a general rule, storm cover is included in most home and contents insurance policies, but you’ll need to check the fine print as the level of cover offered differs between insurers.

Flood cover is not always included, so if you live in a flood-prone area it’s important that you read through your policy documents closely. The coverage for other natural disasters, including cyclones, bushfires and flash floods, can also vary greatly from one policy to the next. Check the list of general exclusions so you can be certain of the type and level of cover available for your home.

How do Australian home insurers treat storm and floods

What is covered?What isn't covered?
  • Loss or damage to your contents caused by a storm
  • Loss or damage to your contents caused by lightning, including power surge caused by lightning

 

  • Damage or loss caused by collapse, erosion, landslide, landslip, mudslide, shrinkage, subsidence, vibration or any other earth movement
  • Damage or loss caused by flood
  • Damage or loss to gates, fences or wall fences that were in a state of disrepair
  • Damage or loss to swimming pools caused by water leaking down the sides, against the sides or getting underneath them
  • Damage or loss to your contents caused by actions or movements of the sea or storm surge
  • The cost of cleaning mud or clearing debris out of tanks, swimming pools or spas
  • The cost of cleaning your contents
  • If there is no record of lightning in your area at the time of the loss or damage
  • Damage or loss caused by power failures or surges by your power provider
  • Damage or loss without written confirmation from a qualified repairer saying lightning was the actual cause of the loss or damage
What is covered?What isn't covered?
Including loss or damage from:

  • Surface run-off rainwater from surrounding areas that occurs within 24 hours of a storm or heavy rain
  • The escape of rainwater from any drain, gutter or water pipe
  • Loss or damage caused by lightning

Including damage or loss caused by erosion, landslide, mudslide, subsidence or any other earth movement that occurs within 72 hours of a storm.

  • Damage or loss caused by flood
  • Damage or loss caused by hail, rain or wind entering your home due to:
    • A design fault, faulty workmanship or structural defect
    • Alteration work, building additions or renovations
    • An opening that was not created by the storm
    • Lack of maintenance
  • Loss or damage caused by power surge or fluctuation that is not a result of a lightning strike
  • Damage or loss to:
    • Driveways, gardens or garden borders, or paths
    • Fences and gates that are not structurally sound or well maintained
    • Garden retaining walls
    • Jetties, pontoons or wharves.
    • The cover and/or liner of a swimming pool or spa
    • The surface of a tennis court
    • Water in a swimming pool or spa
What is covered?What isn't covered?
Including loss or damage from:

  • Surface run-off rainwater from surrounding areas that occurs within 24 hours of a storm or heavy rain
  • The escape of rainwater from any drain, gutter or water pipe
  • Loss or damage caused by lightning

Including damage or loss caused by erosion, landslide, mudslide, subsidence or any other earth movement that occurs within 72 hours of a storm.

  • Damage or loss caused by flood
  • Damage or loss caused by hail, rain or wind entering your home due to:
    • A design fault, faulty workmanship or structural defect
    • Alteration work, building additions or renovations
    • An opening that was not created by the storm
    • Lack of maintenance
  • Loss or damage caused by power surge or fluctuation that is not a result of a lightning strike
  • Damage or loss to:
    • Diveways, gardens or garden borders, or paths
    • Fences and gates that are not structurally sound or well maintained
    • Garden retaining walls
    • Jetties, pontoons or wharves.
    • The cover and/or liner of a swimming pool or spa
    • The surface of a tennis court
    • Water in a swimming pool or spa
What is covered?What isn't covered?
  • Loss or damage to your contents caused by a storm
  • Loss or damage to your contents caused by lightning, including power surge caused by lightning

 

  • Damage or loss caused by collapse, erosion, landslide, landslip, mudslide, shrinkage, subsidence, vibration or any other earth movement
  • Damage or loss caused by flood
  • Damage or loss to gates, fences or wall fences that were in a state of disrepair
  • Damage or loss to swimming pools caused by water leaking down the sides, against the sides or getting underneath them
  • Damage or loss to your contents caused by actions or movements of the sea or storm surge
  • The cost of cleaning mud or clearing debris out of tanks, swimming pools or spas
  • The cost of cleaning your contents
  • If there is no record of lightning in your area at the time of the loss or damage
  • Damage or loss caused by power failures or surges by your power provider
  • Damage or loss without written confirmation from a qualified repairer saying lightning was the actual cause of the loss or damage
What is covered?What isn't covered?
  • Damage to your building and/or your contents caused by storm, rain or flood
  • Cover for lightning or thunderbolt is provided under insured event "Lightning or thunderbolt"
  • Damage caused by storm, rain or flood to:
    • Fences and gates
    • Privacy screens or retaining walls
    • PVC blinds, shade-cloth, shade-sails or umbrellas
    • Solar covers, spa or swimming pool covers
  • Damage caused by water entering your building through an opening your roof or wall created for the purposes of additions, alterations, renovations or repairs
  • Damage caused by water entering or penetrating your building because of poor maintenance
  • Defective workmanship, fault or structural defect
  • Water damage to your building caused by rain seepage or storm unless the water is the result of an opening made by the storm
  • If there is no record of lightning in your area at the time of the loss or damage
  • Damage or loss caused by power failures or surges by your power provider
  • Damage or loss without written confirmation from a qualified repairer saying lightning was the actual cause of the loss or damage

Checklist for storms

Before the storm

  • Check your gutters. Make sure that your gutters and downpipes are free of any debris - if they’re blocked, overflowing water could flood your home.
  • Check your roof. Make sure there are no loose or damaged tiles on your roof, or raised edges on corrugated metal - these could be turned into dangerous projectiles by strong wind.
  • Trim trees. Make sure to prune back any tree branches that overhang your home.
  • Secure loose items. From outdoor furniture to kids’ toys, make sure any loose items in your yard are secured and won’t turn into flying projectiles.
  • Put together a storm kit. Make sure to include first-aid supplies, a torch, batteries, water, non-perishable food and blankets. A radio can also come in handy to keep up to date with weather reports and evacuation notices.
  • Move cars inside. Damage caused by hail or falling trees could cause your vehicle to be written off.
  • Secure doors, windows and awnings. This can help protect your home against damage.

During the storm

  • Stay inside. Stay inside out of the danger and make sure to remain well away from windows.
  • Listen for updates. Keep a radio handy to listen for storm updates.
  • Stay safe. Don’t go outside until you’re sure it’s safe to do so.

After the storm

  • Stay clear of fallen power lines. Electrocution is a big risk following a storm.
  • Avoid floodwaters. Don’t try to drive through floodwaters or allow your kids to play in or near them.
  • Avoid storm-affected areas. Don’t travel through storm-affected areas unless absolutely necessary.
  • Check for damage. Thoroughly inspect your house and property for damage, taking photos as you go.
  • Call your insurer. Contact your storm insurance provider with the details of your claim.

How to lodge a claim after storm damage

  1. Assess the damage. Once you’re sure the storm has passed and it’s safe to go outside, inspect your home, contents and property for any damage. Make sure to take any reasonable steps to prevent any further loss or damage to your property, but be aware that your insurer will not allow you to make any repairs until they have assessed the damage. If emergency repairs are required, contact your insurer for advice on what you can do.
  2. Gather evidence. Supporting documentation will be crucial to the success of your claim, so start gathering proof of the damage incurred and the loss you have suffered. Make a list of everything that has been damaged or destroyed, and gather any information you can about make, model and date of purchase. Take photographs of damage to your home and contents, and keep receipts if you need to buy essential items like food or bedding.
  3. Lodge a claim. The next step is to lodge a claim with your insurer. You will usually have to fill out a claim form with full details of the storm and the damage it caused. Forms are available through the insurer’s website or by phoning the insurer, and you’ll need to include any supporting documentation requested by the insurer with your claim form.
  4. Claim assessment. The insurance company will send out an assessor to inspect the damage and assess your claim. Make sure that you co-operate fully with the assessor, but also remember that it’s their job to make sure your claim amount is kept to a minimum. In some cases, the assessor may arrange for a hydrologist to determine the cause of the storm or flood damage.
  5. Claim payment. If your claim is accepted, your insurer will pay out a benefit to cover your loss or damage. If you’re unhappy with the result of your claim, you can raise the matter with your insurer’s internal complaints resolution department. If that doesn’t resolve the issue to your satisfaction, the next step is to contact the Financial Ombudsman Service.

When is rain not a storm?

If your property suffers damage following a sustained period of heavy rain, be warned that you may not be covered by your home and contents insurance policy. It’s important to check how your insurer defines a storm - there is no uniform definition across Australian insurers – so what’s covered by one policy may not be covered by the next.

For example, in order to pay out a claim for storm damage, an insurer may require the damage to be caused by more than just rain - there must be evidence of an atmospheric disturbance as well. If you’re unable to prove that a storm, as defined by the insurer in your product disclosure statement (PDS) occurred, you will not be covered.

It’s also worth pointing out that there are other factors that can affect the payment of a claim. For example, one common exclusion on home and contents policies is that no claims will be paid if you hadn’t maintained your property in a reasonable state of repair prior to the insured event. So if your home is damaged by a storm because you failed to ensure the roof was in good condition, chances are that your claim won’t be paid.

Are floods covered?

Many home and contents insurance policies do not include any flood cover. Some policies include it as standard, while others will give you the choice to opt in or out of flood cover. Check the product disclosure statement for your home and contents policy to find out what sort of flood cover is available to you.

Australian insurers must use the following definition of flood to apply to their policies:

“The covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of:

  • Any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified; or
  • Any reservoir, canal or dam.”

As this definition suggests, the source of the water that causes the flood damage will be crucial to determining whether or not you will be covered in any given situation. If you make a claim, the insurer may arrange for a hydrologist to visit your property and determine the cause of any flooding that damaged your home.

Compare storm insurance policies

Helpful links and contacts

Picture: Markus Gebauer / Shutterstock.com

Richard Laycock

Richard is the senior insurance writer at finder.com.au and is on a mission to make insurance easier to understand.

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4 Responses to Storm insurance: What does your policy cover?

  1. Default Gravatar
    James | July 24, 2015

    We are with Budget Direct – Home and Contents insurance. We had a roof leak and damaged TV and were compensated. At the front of the block we have a large tree that was struck by lightning. The fire was extinguished by the SESD/. A branch has already fallen and an arborist said the tree has white ants and is dying. It needs to be removed.Is this claimable on home insurance as it is a result of storm damage?

    • Staff
      William | July 24, 2015

      Hi James,

      Thank you for your enquiry. According to the Budget Direct PDS, no payment will be made for “loss or damage caused by power surge or fluctuation that is not a result of a lightning strike.” You should be covered for damage that has occurred from lightning but it is not clear if you are able to claim for expenses incurred if no damage has yet occurred. It would be best to get in touch with Budget Direct to discuss further.

      Thank you for your enquiry and all the best,

      Will

  2. Default Gravatar
    Devo | July 5, 2015

    After the weather event of 2013 in Qld we had a motorbike ,quad bike and tools in our shed what is covered under the insurance can we claim the motor bike and the quad bike as Suncorp is going to pay for tools and the shed as I understand

    • Staff
      Richard | July 6, 2015

      Hi Devo,

      Thanks for your question. It will depend on your policy and its conditions. Your best bet would be to contact your insurer directly as they will be able to tell you the specifics of your cover.

      I hope this was helpful,
      Richard

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