Storms, floods & fires
Natural disasters and your home
Having your home damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster is
devastating. Here is how you can find out if your home is in a
natural disaster prone area and work out if you have adequate
insurance cover for all types of natural disasters.
Get adequate insurance for natural
There have been many serious floods, fires, cyclones and storms
in Australia over the last few years and many people have found out
too late that they did not have enough insurance cover on their
home. This can be extremely costly and stressful, if you lose your
Wherever you live, your home insurance cover needs to be enough
to cover the cost of rebuilding your home.
It is estimated that 13% of homes that required reconstruction
or significant repair after the 2009 Victorian bushfires were not
insured. See the Royal Commission's report on the Victorian
bushfires and ASIC's reports on getting home insurance right - a report into
underinsurance and making home insurance better.
Increasing your insurance cover may not cost very much, and if
you shop around you may even be able to get more cover for a lower
price. See more on the risk of underinsurance.
Find out if you live in a
disaster prone area
To find out if you are in a natural disaster prone area you
Ask them about flood mapping and the Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
of your home to get a better understanding of your risk of flood
You can also ask your council whether your house has been built
to natural disaster standards (e.g. cyclone standard).
Check if you are
covered for disasters
If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, home and contents
insurance is essential.
Your insurance policy will state what disasters you are covered
for. While insurers generally cover storm damage, the level of
cover varies. Some people have found out after a natural disaster
that they were not covered for that event by their policy and have
had to pay the repair costs themselves.
Flood cover is not included in all home and contents insurance
policies, and where it is offered, it is defined as:
'The covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or
been released from the normal confines of:
- Any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse,
whether or not altered or modified; or
- Any reservoir, canal or dam.
Check any exclusions for storms, cyclones, floods, bushfires
and flash floods
If you have home and contents insurance, check whether you are
covered for natural disasters such as storms, cyclones, floods,
bushfires and flash floods. Make sure you understand the definition
of each term, and any exclusions and conditions that apply, by
asking your insurer questions.
If you are not happy with your current level of cover, talk to
your insurer about what they can offer and get quotes from other
insurers to find a policy that's better suited to your needs.
Always ask potential insurers lots of questions.
Check if you have
enough cover to rebuild
If you don't have the right amount of cover to rebuild your home
after an event you are underinsured.
Consider a total replacement policy
If you choose a total replacement policy you are less likely to
be under-insured. With this type of policy, the insurer agrees to
repair or rebuild the home to the same size and standard as the
Consider a sum-insured extended policy
Some sum insured policies provide extended cover which is a
safety net of around 30% on top of the amount you are insured
for. If you suffer a total loss and the amount you are insured for
is not enough then you will be paid this extra amount. Make sure
you read the conditions that apply to this type of policy.
You should use at least three calculators to compare sum-insured
policies because the results can differ.
Help for North Queensland
The Australian Government has a website to help North Queensland
residents compare home insurance policies. The North Queensland home
insurance website lists policy features and indicative premiums
based on your suburb or postcode.
What to do after a disaster
In the event of a natural disaster, if you have the right cover,
your insurer will help pay for repairs and other expenses, making
it easier for you to get back on your feet.
If your home has been damaged in a bushfire, storm, flood or
cyclone, here are some things you should do:
- Contact your insurer - Lodge a claim with your
insurer before you start any major repairs. Ask them to explain
their claims process and talk to them about emergency or
alternative accommodation. Don't worry if your insurance documents
have been lost or damaged as insurance companies keep records
- Take photos and make lists - Before
cleaning up take photos and make a list of everything that has been
damaged to assist your claim, including the serial numbers of
- Start cleaning up - Consider removing
damaged possessions like carpet and soft furnishings.
- Check with your insurer before authorising
repairs - You may not be covered for unauthorised
repairs or engaging tradesmen.
- Be careful with damaged equipment - Do
not use equipment or vehicles that may be damaged (e.g. an
For more information, the Understand Insurance
website provides useful tips on preparing for natural disasters
including checklists and emergency contacts.
If you're having problems with your insurance claim see how to complain.
Financial hardship after a
If you are experiencing financial hardship after a natural
disaster there are options available to you.
Help from your insurer
If you have trouble paying your excess, contact your insurer.
They may agree for you to pay the excess in instalments or deduct
it from any payout you receive.
If you are in urgent financial need, your insurer may be able to
fast track your claim or give you an advance payment within 5
business days. Any advance payment will be deducted from the total
Help from a financial counsellor
There are also free financial counselling services
you can contact for help.
Australia is a great place to live but it is
also a harsh environment. Taking some time to do your insurance
homework will help ensure maximum protection for your home.
Last updated: 14 Jan 2016