What to do if you’ve been impacted by the east coast storms

Posted: 10 February 2020 4:20 pm

Here's how your home insurance could help with flood damage, fallen trees and even spoiled food.

Storms have battered the east coast in recent days, with torrential rain causing widespread flooding and power outages across the region.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), more than 10,000 storm-related claims were lodged between 5 February and 10 February - worth an estimated $45 million.

The extent of the damage has prompted the ICA to declare the event a catastrophe, which means insurers will now give priority to any claims associated with the east coast storms.

The ICA has also activated its disaster hotline - 1800 734 621 - which gives insurance-related advice to anyone affected by the wild weather.

If you're one of the thousands of people affected, your home and contents insurance could help. Here's what you need to know.

What if the weather damaged my property?

If you've got home and contents insurance, you should be able to make a claim on your policy for any damage that was directly caused as a result of the wild weather.

This means if your roof leaked and rainwater ruined your carpet, or the storm brought a tree down on your property, you should be able to claim some of the costs back for fixing things.

What if my house has been water-damaged?

If rainwater has leaked into your house and caused damage, you should be able to claim some money back from your insurance company.

This type of damage falls under the category of 'water damage' which is usually included as standard in Australian home insurance policies.

What if my house has been flooded?

Insurance companies treat flood damage very differently to storm damage. Generally, storm damage is covered as standard by home insurance. However, flood insurance is usually an optional extra which you have to pay more for when you first buy your policy.

If your home has been damaged by a flood, you'll only be covered if you've bought flood insurance. However, if your home is damaged by rainwater, you should be covered for repairs.

What's the difference between flood water and storm damage?

Figuring out the difference between flood water and storm damage can be a little tricky but the basic definitions are:

  • Flood water - Waters escaping from rivers, creeks, dams, lakes and other watercourses
  • Storm water - Rain water which has nowhere else to go

Flood damage and storm damage aren't mutually exclusive, your house can be damaged by both. If that happens, your insurance company will usually ask an expert - called a hydrologist - to come in and decide how much damage was caused by each water type.

What if a tree has fallen on my property?

Most home insurance policies will cover the cost of damages if a tree, or branch, has fallen onto your property. This means if the rain uprooted a giant jacaranda, and it fell on your roof, your insurance company should help with the cost of repairs.

Some home insurance policies will also pay for removal costs if a tree or other debris has fallen onto your property - but this varies between insurers, so be sure to check your policy.

What if my foundations have been damaged?

As long as you're covered for the event that caused the foundation damage, then your insurance policy should pay for the repairs.

This means if the foundation damage was caused by flooding, you'll only be covered if you have flood insurance. However, if the foundation damage was caused directly by the storm, it's likely any repairs will be covered by your home insurance.

What if I was evacuated?

Thousands of residents were evacuated from their homes over the weekend - if you were one of them, you might be able to claim some money back for the cost of temporary accommodation.

Usually, insurance companies will pay a percentage of your sum amount insured, for a set period, if you have to vacate your home.

What if my appliances have motor burnout?

Motor burnout is when the motor in a household appliance, such as a fridge or washing machine, dies - often as the result of a power surge or excessive current.

Motor burnout insurance is usually an optional extra - although some insurers do offer the benefit as standard - so it's worth checking your PDS to see exactly how you're covered. Some insurers also apply an age-limit, so they won't replace or repair appliances which are over a certain age.

Some insurance policies will also include a food spoilage clause, so if your fridge freezer was without power and you lost hundreds of dollars worth of food, you might be able to reclaim the lost costs.

Picture: GettyImages

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