We know making decisions in the middle of something as catastrophic as a natural disaster can be difficult. And, unfortunately, investment properties are not immune from impact when Mother Nature strikes.
Knowing how to respond in times of disaster makes the claims process easier and helps to minimise stress. We are here to help – if your property, or one you manage, is damaged due to a natural disaster, the below FAQs may help you to navigate this time...
How do natural disasters impact cover?
During and following a natural disaster, policyholders who had cover in place prior to the event are covered according to the terms and conditions in their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and cover summary. Unless an exclusion or specific condition applies, natural disasters do not alter any of the existing terms and conditions in an active landlord insurance policy.
What should landlords do if they are impacted by a natural disaster?
In a nutshell, landlords (or their property manager) should:
- Do a safety walkthrough (if access to the property has been granted by the emergency services and it is safe to enter) and take steps to prevent further loss or damage.
- Contact the insurer – as soon as the insurer knows there is an issue, the sooner they can help.
- Take photos and capture evidence of the damage and loss.
- Seek quotes for repairs.
- Get a report from the repairer (causation report).
- Submit a claim.
For a more detailed step-by-step guide for submitting claims during natural disasters, click here.
When should a landlord notify their insurer that their property has been impacted by a natural disaster?
It is recommended that landlords contact their insurer as soon as possible to let them know if their property has been impacted by a natural disaster. Even if the full extent of the damage is not known, insurers can advise on the claims process and may have resources to support landlords during what is a challenging time.
After a natural disaster, when can a landlord return to their property?
Landlords should never enter a home that is impacted by a natural disaster until emergency services gives the go-ahead and deems the property safe to enter.
If water has entered the property (in the event of a storm or flood), electricity should be left off until it has been inspected by an electrician. Landlords should also never step into a flooded basement or room if water may be in contact with electrical outlets, appliances, or cords.
What about tenants - when can they return to a property?
Like landlords, they should only return to a property if an emergency service says it is safe to do so. If the property is deemed uninhabitable and the tenant has to move out, the insurer should be notified.
Relocation costs are not covered in EBM RentCover policies. However, loss of rent and rent default may be covered during the time the property is uninhabitable. Every situation is different, so chat to the EBM RentCover team to determine what is covered.
What documentation is needed to submit a claim?
To submit a landlord insurance claim, the following documentation is typically required:
- A completed claim form.
- Photos and evidence of the damage and loss.
- Quotes for repairs. At EBM RentCover, generally we require two quotes to be provided for repairs, but we understand this may be difficult during catastrophic events. So, we require just one in the first instance.
- A report from the repairer (causation report).
- Receipts for any work or materials purchased.
Note: The above is a general list, and the insurer may require further information to substantiate a claim.
I can’t access any repairers during this time, and I need quotes to support my claim. What should I do?
During times of natural disasters, it is understandable that builders and repairers are swamped with work and requests. So, it may be difficult to secure someone to provide the necessary quotes. Simply talk to the insurer if you are having trouble seeking quotes. The insurer can take this into account when reviewing a claim and may be able to arrange for a loss adjuster to obtain quotes on the landlord’s behalf (however this may not be as quick as the landlord seeking quotes).
What happens after a landlord has submitted a claim?
The insurer will work through the claim to determine the loss and how the policy will respond. During times of natural disasters, it may take the insurer a little longer than usual to respond to enquiries and claims. This is what landlords need to know if they are a client of EBM RentCover:
- EBM RentCover aims to respond to new claims within three working days. If it takes longer than three days, this means the EBM RentCover team is seeing an influx of claims, however the team will be in touch as soon as possible.
- During natural disasters, it may not be possible to assign a claim to a dedicated Claims Specialist. Rest assured, the whole EBM RentCover team is equipped to help.
- If something changes after a client has submitted a claim (e.g. the situation gets worse), or if a client is suffering financial hardship, they should contact the EBM RentCover team for support. More information about financial hardship support can be found here.
- If the damage has not worsened and there is no threat to life or property, EBM RentCover clients should wait for the EBM RentCover team to contact them. It may take a little while for a response, however, the whole EBM RentCover team is working hard for many clients.
What are claim turnaround times?
Insurers are bound to the following turnaround times. However, EBM RentCover aims to process claims within a much tighter timeframe. If a landlord makes a claim and an insurer needs further information, within 10 business days of receiving a claim the insurer will:
- Tell the landlord if any additional information is needed to make a decision on the outcome of a claim.
- If necessary, appoint a loss adjuster to assess the claim (see below for more information about loss adjusters).
- Provide an estimate of the likely timeframe and process to make a decision on a claim.
In addition, the insurer will tell clients the progress of their claim at least every 20 business days and will respond to enquiries about the progress of a claim within 10 business days.
What is a loss adjuster?
Essentially, they work out what has been damaged and needs to be fixed or replaced under the terms and conditions of an insurance policy. They prepare a recommendation to the insurer that examines the circumstances and legitimacy of a claim. If a loss adjustor is appointed to work through a claim, the insurer will let landlords know at the beginning of the process and keep them regularly updated about their progress. For more information about the role of a loss adjustor, click here.
How do loss adjusters work?
A loss adjuster (or assessor) may contact the landlord (or property manager) directly to arrange a visit to the damaged property. Depending on the damage, the loss adjuster may appoint builders to take steps to repair and replace items or they may take immediate steps to make the property safe and secure. During a catastrophe or large-scale weather event, it is important to note that loss adjusters and builders get extremely busy.
If you have access to a repairer or supplier who can provide you with a quote or repair damage quickly, this is sometimes the best route to take. Just let your insurer or loss adjuster know!
If a landlord is unable to get quotes or access a repairer, or if the damage at a property is significant, the claim will be managed jointly by the loss adjuster (who will be the eyes on the ground) and the insurer. Please note, if a loss adjuster is assigned, the insurer needs an initial estimate or report from them before the claim can be progressed.
Can I request a loss adjuster be appointed to my claim?
If a landlord thinks it is in their best interest to appoint a loss adjuster to their claim, they can ask the insurer to do this. However, it is important to note that the outcome of a claim may take longer. During times of natural disasters, this is often the case; loss adjusters are booked up during major weather events! So, if an insurer is willing to settle a claim on the landlord’s behalf without the use of a loss adjuster, in terms of time-to-settle, this can be a good thing.
Can landlords take out cover in areas impacted by a natural disaster?
If a natural disaster is occurring (or imminent), the chance of it impacting an insured property, resulting in a claim being lodged, is much higher. Therefore, insurers reserve the right to place embargoes on cover. They are ultimately used to manage risk and prevent insurance from being purchased or altered when an event is known to be extremely likely or is already having an impact.
To determine if insurance can be taken out at a particular property at a particular time, contact the insurer. Or, for more information about embargoes, click here.
FLOOD-specific: My property has suffered from rising black water. What should I do?
Typically, black water stems from flooding or sewage backups. As a result, the water is loaded with contamination. No one should mess around with black water! If a landlord recognises black water has entered a property, this is what they should do:
- Arrange for the property to be cleaned as soon as possible.
- To support a claim, take lots and lots of photos before removing and cleaning anything.
- Dispose of carpets to allow the subfloor to dry out quicker (carpets cannot be restored once saturated by blackwater).
- Make sure air is circulating to prevent mould growth.
- Wear protective gear such as rubber boots and gloves when entering a property and cleaning up.
- Get the electrics checked before turning the electricity on.
What other support can landlords seek during a natural disaster?
The below state services can help in times of need:
- New South Wales State Emergency Service – https://www.ses.nsw.gov.au/
- Queensland State Emergency Service - https://www.qfes.qld.gov.au/about-us/frontline-services/state-emergency-service
- Victoria State Emergency Service – https://www.ses.vic.gov.au/
- Tasmania State Emergency Service - https://www.ses.tas.gov.au/
- ACT Emergency Services Agency - https://esa.act.gov.au/state-emergency-service
- Western Australia Department of Fire and Emergency Services - https://www.dfes.wa.gov.au/about-us
- The Northern Territory Emergency Service – https://pfes.nt.gov.au/emergency-service
- South Australian State Emergency Service – https://www.ses.sa.gov.au/home/
*While we have taken care to ensure the information above is true and correct at the time of publication, changes in circumstances and legislation after the displayed date may impact the accuracy of this article. If you need us we are here, contact 1800 661 662 if you have any questions.