Storms, floods & fires
Natural disasters and your home
Having your home damaged or destroyed in a natural disaster is
devastating. Here are some tips that may help you find out if your
home is in a natural disaster prone area, and work out if you have
adequate insurance cover for many types of natural disasters.
Get adequate insurance for natural
There have been many serious floods, fires, cyclones and storms
in Australia over the last decade and many people have found out
too late that they did not have enough insurance cover on their
home and contents. This can be extremely costly and stressful, if
you lose your home.
Wherever you live, your home and contents insurance cover should
be enough to cover the cost of rebuilding your home and replacing
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 on
home building 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
To find out if you are in a natural disaster-prone area, you can
You can ask them about flood mapping and the Bushfire Attack
Level (BAL) of your home to get a better understanding of your risk
of flood and bushfires.
You can also ask your council whether your house has been built
to natural disaster standards (e.g. cyclone standard).
Check if your
insurance covers you for natural disasters
If you live in an area prone to natural disasters, adequate home and contents
insurance is essential.
Your insurance policy will state what disasters you are covered
for. Review your policy carefully. Some people have found out after
a natural disaster that the event was not covered by their policy
and they have had to pay repair or replacement costs
Flood cover is not included in all home and contents insurance
policies, so if you require flood cover, check whether your policy
provides it and confirm exactly how much cover is offered. Even
where flood cover is offered, loss or damage to some parts of your
property may not be covered (for example, retaining walls, gravel
driveways, pontoons, jetties or bridges) so check your policy
Check exclusions for storms, cyclones, floods and
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 what is
covered, and any exclusions and conditions that apply. You can ask
your insurer questions if you are unsure.
If you are not happy with your current level of cover, talk to
your insurer about what they can offer. You can also speak to other
insurers to see if you can find a policy that's better suited to
your needs. Always ask potential insurers lots of questions.
Check if you have
enough insurance 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 underinsured. With this type of policy, the insurer can agree to
repair or rebuild the home to the same size and standard as the
Consider a sum-insured policy with a 'safety net'
Some sum-insured policies provide a 'safety net' on top of the
amount you are insured for. This means if the costs to repair,
rebuild or replace your home and contents are more than the
sum-insured amount, you may be entitled to extra cover up to the
limit of the safety net.
Make sure you read the terms and conditions that apply to this
type of policy carefully as cover can differ.
Some insurers have calculators on their websites that may help
you work out the sum-insured amount for your home and contents. We
suggest you use at least three calculators from different insurers
to compare sum-insured policies because the results can differ.
Case study: Johnny has a sum-insured policy with a 'safety
Johnny's home was insured for $500,000 when it
was destroyed by a storm. Because of high building costs, it will
cost Johnny $600,000 to rebuild, which is more than the sum-insured
on his policy.
Johnny's policy provides a safety net of up to 25% of the
sum-insured, so rebuild costs of up to $625,000 will be covered.
Johnny is relieved that the building costs will be covered by his
Home insurance advice for
North Queensland residents
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 natural disaster
If your home has been damaged in a bushfire, storm, flood or
cyclone, here are some things you can 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 if required. Don't worry if your
insurance documents have been lost or damaged, as insurance
companies keep electronic records. If possible, check with your
insurer before starting any clean up.
- Do not do anything unless it is safe to do so
- There may be dangers on your property created by the loss or
damage to your home or contents (e.g. asbestos on your property,
unsafe electrical wiring etc.)
- Start cleaning up - Once it's safe to go into
your property, consider removing damaged possessions like carpet
and soft furnishings. Before cleaning up, take photos and make a
list of everything that has been damaged to assist your claim,
including the serial numbers of electronics.
- Check with your insurer before authorising
repairs - You may not be covered for unauthorised repairs
or if you hire tradesmen without checking with your insurer
- Be careful with damaged equipment - Do not use
items that may be damaged, like electronic equipment.
For more information, the Understand Insurance
website provides some useful tips on preparing for natural
disasters, including checklists and emergency contacts.
Legal Aid NSW has also published guidance on What to
do after a natural disaster to help you deal with an insurance
company after your property has been damaged.
If you're having problems with your insurance claim, see how to
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 let you 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 free financial counselling services
you can contact for help if you are struggling with money following
a disaster. We also have information on what to do if you need urgent money
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: 11 Dec 2017