Need to make a flood insurance claim? Here’s what you need to know

Whether you’ve started cleaning or are preparing for a flood, here’s what you need to know if you need to make an insurance claim.

What should I do first?

Document everything. As you clean, you should take photos or videos of the damaged items.

It will serve as proof in your claim. If you can, also keep a sample of materials or fabrics (like carpet) to show the insurance appraiser.

You should also:

  • make a list of damaged or destroyed items and any information on the date of purchase, model and brand
  • photograph and/or list flooring or other furniture that will need to be discarded
  • collect receipts, guarantees and/or credit card/bank statements showing your purchases

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) says that if anything can be salvaged, set it aside in a dry place until the insurance assessor arrives.

Spoiled food, furniture and damaged furniture should be discarded.

Once your property is secure, take plenty of photos of the damage.(ABC News: Tara Cassidy)

After that ?

File your complaint. Many insurance companies encourage people to save time by filing their claims online.

While you wait for appraisers to arrive, beware of people offering immediate repairs or inspections.

The RACQ says it has received reports of people attacking those affected by the flooding.

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] website and they posted a notice saying how long it takes to get back to you, that’s enough,” said CHOICE’s Jodi Bird.

What if I am a tenant?

The Residential Tenancies Authority (RTA) says communication between tenants and property managers is key.

RTA’s Sam Galer says tenants have an obligation to contact their real estate agent as soon as possible.

It says that if tenants feel their tenancy is unliveable, they have the option of ending their tenancy.

“It is important to know that the tenancy does not end automatically, notice must be given,” Mr. Galer said.

“If the tenant has to leave the accommodation, the rent remains due until the notice of termination.

Anyone wanting further advice can contact the RTA on 1300 366 311.

What should I do if I am uninsured or unsure if I am covered against flooding?

The ICA says that after the Brisbane floods in 2011, insurance policies now have a standard definition of flood.

“If a policyholder has opted for flooding [coverage]they’re probably still covered for storm damage, and if they’re not sure, they should speak with their insurer,” CEO Andrew Hall said.

Bald man with beard wearing blue suit and tie sitting in office room in front of wooden table
Andrew Hall urges people to speak to their insurers if they are unsure of their coverage.(ABC News: David Maguire)

If you don’t have insurance, you can apply for government assistance.

In Queensland, several grants, including the Essential Household Contents Grant and the Structural Assistance Grant, are available, but are income tested.

To apply, visit the Community Recovery Portal or call 1800 173 349.

What happens in the event of a dispute with my insurer?

Mr. Bird of CHOICE says that if you are unhappy with a decision, you can raise an internal dispute with your insurer.

“If they don’t give you a satisfactory solution, you can raise an external dispute with the Australian Financial Complaints Authority,” he says.

He says he hopes insurers choose to waive any exclusions at a time when the community needs their help.

“Insurers are much more savvy about how they are perceived within the community than perhaps they were during the 2011 Brisbane flood.”

Jodi Bird stands in front of a large window.
Jodi Bird says it’s worth challenging a decision if you’re in dispute with your insurer.(ABC News: Billy Cooper)

My claim has been approved, what next?

When your application has been approved, one problem you may encounter is that you are underinsured.

COVID-19 has already increased the costs of sourcing and hiring builders, with recent flooding likely to worsen the situation.

“All of this contributes to making your face amount higher than you might otherwise expect under normal circumstances,” Bird said.

He recommends people work with their insurers.

“If you can sort that out with the insurer to cover as much of the reconstruction as possible, that might be the best course of action.”

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