Whether you have started the clean-up or are preparing for flooding, here is what you need to know if you have to make an insurance claim.
What do I do first?
Document everything. While you are cleaning up, you should take photos or videos of damaged items.
It will be used as evidence for when you make your claim. If you can, also keep a sample of materials or fabrics (such as carpet) to show the insurance assessor.
You should also:
- make a list of damaged or destroyed items and any information about the date of purchase, model and make
- photograph and/or list floorings or other furnishings which will have to be discarded
- collect receipts, warranties and/or credit card/bank statements showing your purchases
The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says if anything can be salvaged, put it to one side in a dry place until the insurance assessor arrives.
Rotten food, damaged furnishings and furniture should be thrown out.
Lodge your claim. Several insurance companies are encouraging people to save time by lodging claims online.
While you wait for assessors to arrive, be wary of people offering immediate repairs or inspections.
The RACQ says it has received reports of people preying on those who have been affected by the floods.
Consumer advocacy group CHOICE says people need to be patient, with insurers having already received tens of thousands of claims.
“Definitely keep in touch and check in, even if it’s [via] the website and they put up a notice saying how long it takes to get back to you, that’s enough,” CHOICE’s Jodi Bird says.
What if I’m renting?
The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) says communication between tenants and property managers is key.
The RTA’s Sam Galer says tenants have an obligation to contact their real estate agent as soon as possible.
He says if tenants feel their rental is unliveable, they have the option of ending their tenancy.
“It’s important to know that the tenancy doesn’t automatically end, notice has to be given,” Mr Galer says.
“If the tenant has to leave the property, rent is still payable up until the notice to end the agreement.
Anyone seeking further advice can contact the RTA on 1300 366 311.
What do I do if I’m uninsured or not sure if I’m covered for floods?
The ICA says after the 2011 Brisbane floods, insurance policies now have a standard flood definition.
“If a policyholder has opted out of flood [coverage], they are most likely still covered for storm damage, and if they are unsure they should speak with their insurer,” CEO Andrew Hall says.
If you do not have insurance, you can seek assistance from the government.
In Queensland, several grants, including the Essential Household Contents Grant and Structural Assistance Grant are available, but are subject to an income test.
To apply, visit the Community Recovery Portal or call 1800 173 349.
What happens if there’s a dispute with my insurer?
Mr Bird from CHOICE says if you are unhappy with a decision, you can raise an internal dispute with your insurer.
“If they don’t give you a satisfactory resolution there, you can raise an external dispute with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority,” he says.
He says he hopes insurers will choose to waive any exclusions during a time when the community needs their help.
“Insurers are a lot more savvy about how they’re perceived among the community than perhaps they were back in the 2011 flood event in Brisbane.”
My claim has been approved, what next?
When your claim has been approved, one problem you could find is that you are underinsured.
COVID-19 has already increased the costs of getting supplies and hiring builders, with the recent floods likely to exacerbate the situation.
“All of that contributes to making your sum insured higher than what you may otherwise expect in normal circumstances,” Mr Bird says.
He recommends people work with their insurers.
“If you can work that out with the insurer to cover as much of the rebuild as possible, that might be the best way to go.”