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How do you file a home insurance claim for flooding?

How do you file a home insurance claim for flooding?

Natural disasters are a fact of life in Australia, though they still take many of us by surprise. If you’ve been affected by storms and flooding, you’ll want to quickly find out what’s covered by your insurance so you can make a claim.

Home insurance, contents insurance, or both?

If you have home insurance, you may be covered for flood damage to the structure of your home itself – foundations, walls, and so on. If you have contents insurance, you may be covered for damage to the possessions inside your home, such as your furniture, appliances and electronics.

If you have home and contents insurance, your combined policy may cover both your home itself and the possessions inside it.

Is flooding covered? 

Depending on your insurer, and the policies you’ve taken out, you may be covered differently for floods than for other disasters. Flooding may be covered by default in your policy, or it may be specifically excluded, or it may be an optional extra to be selected.

Water damage to your home or contents may be covered differently depending on if it was caused by flooding, storms, rainwater, run-off, or some combination of the above. Some insurers may define each of these in slightly different ways, which could affect what you may or may not be able to claim. For example, water damage caused over time by a leaking bathroom pipe may not be covered, but a flooded garage from stormwater overflowing from a nearby dam might.

Check your product disclosure statement (PDS) to confirm what your home and contents insurance policy does and doesn’t cover, and whether you’re covered in your situation. If you’re not sure, contact your insurer.

Where do you live?

Some areas are more prone to flooding than others. If you live in an area that’s particularly prone to natural disasters that lead to floods (such as tropical cyclones), you may find that insurers won’t provide you with flood insurance by default – at least not without paying some very expensive premiums.

What does your policy cover?

Depending on your policy, you may be able to receive different benefits when you make a flood claim.

Repairs

If your home and/or contents are damaged but still usable following a flood, your insurer may be able to help pay for repairs to get them back into full working order.

Replacement

If your home’s contents are damaged beyond repair after a flood your insurer may be able to help cover the cost of replacing them. Depending on your policy, these may be new for old replacements, or you may be paid out a predetermined dollar amount to cover the cost of replacements.

Rebuilding

If your home has been rendered uninhabitable after a flood, your policy may be able to cover the cost of rebuilding the property.

Temporary accommodation

If you’ve been forced to move out after a flood while the damage is repaired, your insurer may be able to help cover the cost of this accommodation, whether it’s a short hotel stay or a longer-term rental property.

Making a claim

  1. Stay safe! – Avoid entering a completely flooded home until the relevant authorities have declared it safe to do so.
  2. Document everything – Take photos, make lists, collect paperwork, and keep the information safe. The more details and evidence you can provide your insurer, the more accurately they can assess your claim.
  3. Contact your insurer – Find out what they will and won’t cover, and if there are any special terms and conditions you may have to fulfil.
  4. Wait for  assessment – Depending on your situation, the insurer may send out someone to look at your property and quote for the repair costs. You can also obtain your own independent estimates for comparison, though your insurer may need to give consent before any work starts.
  5. Start organising repairs and/or replacements – Your insurer may be able to help you find the products and/or services you need.

Don’t forget to contact the bank

As well as contacting your insurer after a flood or similar natural disaster, you may want to reach out to your bank to find out if you qualify for hardship assistance. For example, you may be able to temporarily put your mortgage payments on hold, access term deposit balances ahead of schedule, or have fees waived on other financial products and services.

Even if your bank hasn’t organised a big public relief fund after a major natural disaster, or if you’ve only experienced a local flood, you can still contact your bank to apply for hardship if you’re in a tough situation. This may not be the first thing you think of while you’re putting your life back together after a flood, but some extra relief can be a big help.

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This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Georgia Brown before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

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