Does home insurance cover natural disasters?

Does home insurance cover natural disasters?

Australia has been known to be prone to natural calamities, such as flash floods and severe bushfires, and the resulting damage can be catastrophic. The thing about natural disasters is that no amount of preparedness can seem adequate, and despite all your best intentions and precautions, if you live in a part of Australia where bushfires are prone, some amount of damage is likely to be inevitable.

For these reasons, it is critical to check whether your home insurance policy will cover any and all natural disasters.

Does your home insurance cover natural disasters?

The last decade has seen Australia affected by heatwaves, droughts, and floods, and that has caused extensive damage to personal property. If you live in a disaster-prone area, you should be well aware of the need to protect your home against these events, and how to recover from them.

You might have insurance, but does your home insurance cover the natural disasters that could destroy your home and property? Not all do, and you might be surprised to learn that not everyone  has adequate insurance cover on their home and contents.

Does my home insurance cover water damage?

Most home insurance policies cover accidental or sudden water damage caused due to storms or floods. However, many insurers will check to ascertain if the damage was sudden or gradual, and in the case of the latter, it could be put down to poor maintenance on your part and may not be covered under insurance.

At the time of purchasing your home insurance policy, read the water damage clause in the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) carefully. Each lender will have different guidelines about coverage and the terminology could differ, too.

Be sure to clarify all your concerns regarding possible kinds of water damage with the insurer before signing on the dotted line. Remember, at the time of making the claim, the onus is on you to prove beyond doubt that the water damage was sudden and from the natural disaster, and didn't incur over time. You will also need to negotiate with the insurer before carrying out any serious repair work.

 Is fire damage covered by home insurance?

 Luckily, many policies offered by Australian insurers include protection against fire damage. But it’s important to check if the policy also covers damage from smoke and ash from the fire, as they can cause serious damage, as well. If your policy doesn’t cover these, you might want to consider additional cover for these scenarios. 

Fire damage isn’t usually limited to just the exterior of your home, but can also spread to things inside. You'll want to ensure you have adequate fire protection for your possessions, too. Of course, you have the option of buying separate policies for your home and belongings, but it could work out better if you pick up a home and contents insurance policy, hitting two birds with the one stone.

Compare the cost of the two policies, and even check the cost of separate fire and smoke damage insurance before you make a final decision. If you live in a bushfire-prone area, you might have to pay a higher premium for your home insurance policy.

How can you file an insurance claim for damage due to bushfires?

If your home has been damaged because of a bushfire, you should file your fire damage insurance claim at your earliest convenience for faster processing, and focus on rebuilding or renovating your home after that.

Consult with your insurer before undertaking any repairs, and take as many photographs as possible of the damage, keeping all repair receipts handy to be submitted as proof at the time of making your claim.

I already have a home insurance policy. What do I do?

If you’ve already purchased a home and contents policy, go through the policy’s PDS with a fine-tooth comb to verify what kind of coverage it currently offers for you and your home. If you believe that you’re not adequately insured, you can look for another home insurer who will fulfil all your requirements, possibly at a lower cost, too.

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this article?

Fact Checked -

This article was reviewed by Head of Content Leigh Stark before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

Advertisement

RateCity
ratecity-newsletter

Money Health Newsletter

Subscribe for news, tips and expert opinions to help you make smarter financial decisions

By signing up, you agree to the RateCity Privacy Policy, Terms of Use and Disclaimer.

Advertisement

Learn more about home insurance

Is my home insurance covered for weather damage?

It is important to understand what is covered and what isn't covered in your home insurance policy before purchasing it. One crucial point to consider at the time of evaluating home insurance policies is whether it includes home insurance weather damage cover, and what it actually means if it does.

Typically, the protection afforded by home insurance actually depends on how the home was damaged or affected by conditions. The whole idea behind home insurance is to protect you from loss or damage against an unexpected, sudden event, like a fire or storm. If your home was in the way of a storm and your roof was damaged, which also caused internal water destruction, you may be covered for the damage to the roof and the property. The same holds true for walls or a fence that got damaged in a storm or flood.

However, you may not be covered if the damage occurred because your property was not well maintained and your home suffered a leak. A poorly maintained fence is less likely to be covered by home insurance.

Is hail damage covered by home insurance?

If storms are among the incidents covered by your home insurance policy, hail damage protection is more than likely assured. While all policies differ based on your needs and what a home insurance provider will offer, some things are close to a certainty. 

Extreme weather events tend to be unpredictable in their severity, but dangerous all the same. You'll never be able to fully prepare for any damage caused, be it lightning, strong winds, rain leading to flooding, or hailstorms, but home insurance can at least provide you with a way to deal with life's unpredictable nature. 

If your home suffers from hail damage, you can file a claim with your insurer. In the event that this happens, remember to take pictures of any hail damage as an insurance adjuster will need to evaluate the impact on your home. Any additional wind damage to your roof will also need to be documented similarly.

You may want to check if your home insurance also covers hail damage to the cars parked on your property, and then file the claim for the total damage caused by the hailstorm. Once your claim is approved, your insurer should offer you either a cash settlement or refer you to a network vendor for the necessary repairs.

Does home insurance cover tree root damage?

While trees can add much beauty to your property, they can be an indirect cause of damage to your home. For instance, a storm could knock branches off trees on to your roof or windows. A really strong storm may even cause the tree to topple entirely. 

Home insurance may not directly cover tree damage to your house. However, the policy will likely cover the incident, such as a storm, which resulted in branches or uprooted trees falling on your home. You can check your home insurance policy’s coverage for various incidents by reading the insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS).

You should remember that trees can require regular maintenance, just like the plumbing in our homes. Insurers may check whether the tree, its roots or its branches were rotting due to a lack of care, in which case the damage caused by the tree falling on your home may not be considered accidental damage. Again, if a branch falls on your house while you’re trimming it, you may not be able to claim compensation from your insurer for the damage. If any trees are growing too close to the walls of your home, consider checking that none of the branches or roots is causing any stress to your home, which can result in structural damage.

Can an insurer deny a lightning damage insurance claim?

Most Aussie insurance providers include lightning strikes among the incidents covered in their home and contents insurance policies. However, they’ll probably confirm whether you could have prevented the damage caused by the lightning strike before approving your lightning damage insurance claim.

For instance, lightning strikes may cause damage to appliances in your home and affect the working of your fridge or other appliances with a motor or compressor. If you have not purchased fusion damage cover, your lightning damage claim could be denied.

Also, if you live in an area where lightning storms are more likely to occur, but you did not take any steps to protect your home and appliances against potential lightning damage, your insurer may not accept your lightning damage insurance claim. This can include installing equipment to guard against electrical surges or maintaining the trees on your property to prevent damage to buildings from trees or branches felled by lightning. You should check with the insurance provider on the measures you can take to prevent lightning damage, before buying the policy.

Does home insurance cover lightning damage?

Lightning strikes are usually among the events included in the home insurance policies offered by various Australian insurers. For instance, if your home gets hit by lightning and there’s a power surge which knocks out your television or other electronic items, your home insurance provider should compensate you after confirming that the damage was caused by the lightning strike, which you could not have prevented. Likewise, if a lightning strike causes a tree branch to break off and harm any of the permanent fixtures on your property, you may be eligible to file a lightning damage insurance claim.

You should check if your insurer requires you to buy additional coverage or take measures to protect against lightning damage. For instance, your claim for lightning damage to a fridge or another appliance with a motor or compressor may be denied if you have not purchased fusion damage cover.

Does home insurance cover accidental damage?

Home insurance offers cover for any damage to your house and most policies cover the main building, garage, permanent attachments, and other external buildings that can be locked. 

Every insurance policy lists the defined events that will be covered, such as fires, floods, lightning strikes, theft, or falling trees. A few may also offer the option of accidental damage home insurance cover for other possible mishaps and unintentional damage around the home, such as when the dog knocks over the TV, or when red wine is spilled on the carpet.

The home insurance accidental damage cover is available only for the address provided at the time of buying the policy. 

Does home insurance cover tenant damage?

If you have a property that you rent out to tenants, you may ask, does home insurance cover tenant damage? Generally, as a landlord, you’ll require a different type of insurance policy than a regular home and contents insurance that offers coverage for the unique situations faced by landlords.

Landlord insurance

As a landlord, you must insure against additional risks to protect your investment. A landlord home and contents insurance policy covers loss due to natural disasters, storm, and fire. Generally, it also covers fixtures like stovetops, light fittings, window coverings, carpets, and ovens.

Additionally, you may protect yourself against any loss arising due to damage to your property caused by your tenants or their guests. Some landlord insurance policies may also protect you against financial loss due to unpaid rent.

Does homeowners insurance cover tenant damage? In most cases, regular homeowners’ insurance policy will not cover such damage. It’s always best to refer to the product disclosure statement (PDS) to clearly understand what is included and excluded from your home insurance policy.

What is a home insurance premium?

Your home insurance premium is what you pay your insurance provider for covering your home under their home insurance policy. It is calculated based on the type of coverage you choose for your home as well as any additional coverage you buy for either your possessions or specific incidents. Your premium can either be paid annually or in smaller instalments. 

Your home insurance policy may cover the total replacement cost, which is the actual expense of rebuilding your home from scratch. Alternatively, it can cover an insured sum, which is a predetermined estimate of what it might cost to rebuild your home. You’re more likely to pay a higher premium for total replacement cover than for insured sum coverage.

Apart from selecting your coverage, you’ll have to figure out your excess, which is the amount you pay out of your own pocket for each insurance claim. If you are okay with paying a higher excess, your insurance premium may be lower. Conversely, if you choose a lower excess, you may pay a higher premium. 

Your insurance premium can also be higher if you live in an area prone to incidents like floods, bushfires, or theft, as insurers are more likely to receive a higher number of claims in such neighbourhoods. 

If you also want to buy insurance for your belongings, a combined home and contents insurance policy may have a lower premium than paying premiums on separate policies for your home and your belongings. 

Do I need legal cover on home insurance?

Besides protecting your home and your possessions from damage and theft, many home insurance policies also cover unfortunate accidents that sometimes result in legal action. This is called home insurance legal cover.

What does it cover?

This type of insurance cover protects you and your family members from liability if someone gets injured on your property. You can also get coverage for scenarios such as you or a family member accidentally injuring someone else outside your home or accidentally damaging someone else’s property. 

Typical liability claims include slips and falls in your home and the ensuing medical expenses, or falling trees or branches that cause  damage to your neighbour’s home or parked car.

Dog bites are another claim often covered. If your dog bites someone and you’re found liable, you’ll be covered for the vet and medical bills. Similarly, if your dog damages someone else’s property, home insurance legal cover will often take care of your liability.

Every member of your family is usually automatically included in home insurance legal cover provided they live with you.

Does home insurance cover termite damage?

It is unlikely that the average home insurance policy will cover damage caused by termites, mice, or other vermin, which are typically the result of negligence. For instance, water may have seeped from a heater or washing machine and dampened the woodwork in your home, attracting termites. Since termites usually build colonies, you’ll need to deal with the existing infestation and also take preventative steps to prevent future termite damage.

Treating your home for termite damage can be quite expensive, and you’ll likely have to make significant repairs depending on the size of the infestation. You may want to check if your neighbours have also had termite damage issues, and consider taking more long-term measures to keep termites away.  For example, you could install a chemically-treated soil barrier or baiting station, both of which may be effective for a few years. 

Consider inspecting your home  for any leakage or seepage from time to time, especially in the flooring or the outer edges of your home, as a precaution against damage by vermin. You may also want to consider hiring a pest control professional who can inspect and treat your home to protect against termites.

What does home insurance cover?

What home insurance specifically covers and the extent of the coverage depends on the insurance provider and the individual policy. However, home insurance typically covers the property and other permanent structures found on or in the property, such as fences, in-ground swimming pools, garages, and dishwashers, to name a few.

There are usually two types of homeowner's insurance you can choose from, with "total replacement cover" or "sum-insured cover". 

If you’re not sure which option to take, it may be worthwhile to speak to a professional valuer to understand how much it might cost to rebuild your home and replace what's inside.

Do I need home insurance for a home loan?

While home insurance isn’t necessarily a requirement for a home purchase per se, it’s likely that if you’re purchasing a home with the help of a home loan, you’ll need to take out home insurance on the property. Home insurance can be one of the factors required in the pre-settlement documentation for a home purchase, and you may be advised by either the bank or a broker (or both) ahead of settlement.  

How do you compare home insurance rates?

When you compare the home insurance quotes offered by various Australian insurers, consider looking at the type of coverage they offer as well as coverage limits and exclusions. You can choose an insurance policy which covers either the total replacement cost, which is the actual cost of rebuilding your home from scratch, or a fixed insured sum, which is an estimate of the cost to rebuild. The home insurance policy is likely to cost you more if you go for the total replacement cost coverage.

Your insurance policy’s exclusions and coverage limits usually depend on how exposed your home is to adverse events like floods and bushfires. It also tells you the maximum compensation that your insurer is likely to pay for damage caused to your home. If you live in an area with a greater incidence of crime or disasters, your insurance policy will likely cost you more.

The amount you actually pay for home insurance can be adjusted by agreeing to a higher excess, which is what you will pay over and above the insured amount from your own pocket. You should consider using the online calculators provided by various insurers to check how different coverage limits affect your insurance premium.

How to file a Youi home insurance claim

Dealing with a disaster is never a pleasant experience, but it can be worse if your home is extensively damaged. At some point, you’ll have to estimate the damage to your home and file the necessary insurance claim. 

If you’ve bought a Youi home insurance policy, you can contact them regarding an insurance claim either by calling 13 9684 or through the Youi website. If you don’t remember your policy number, you can identify yourself and provide your address when speaking to a Youi member to grant yourself access to your policy details, handy if you’ve had to leave home in a rush and may not have had the time to collect any of your belongings, let alone insurance policy documents. 

You may not need to fill out any claim forms right away, but you’ll need to describe the incident and the damage caused to your home. Once you’ve contacted Youi, an inspector will visit your home and verify the damage before your claim is accepted and processed. Insurers usually expect you to contact them at your earliest possible convenience after a damaging incident, or within 30 days at the latest, as is the case with Youi