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Preparing for hailstorms

Preparing for hailstorms

05 Mar 2024 11 mins read

Hailstorms can cause extensive damage to rental properties when they hit hard. Here’s what you need to know to help protect an investment property. 

Did you know that the costliest natural disaster in Australia’s history was a hailstorm? The insured losses of $1.7 billion after it struck Sydney in 1999, would, in today’s money, equate to $8.85 billion (for comparison, the 2022 east coast floods incurred insured losses of $6.12 billion). 

Other notable hailstorms over the years include: 

  • New Year’s Day 1947 in Sydney – with hailstones as big as softballs (8cm). 

  • January 1985 in Brisbane – where 30 minutes of destruction caused $300 million of damage (in 1985 dollars). 

  • March 1990 in Sydney – more than 2,000 houses sustained window and roof damage. 

  • April 1999 in Sydney – an estimated 500,000 tonnes of hailstones up to the size of cricket balls (7cm) and grapefruit (11cm) fell, causing damage to 24,000 properties. 

  • December 2007 in Sydney – with hailstones the size of golf balls (4cm). 

  • March 2010 in Melbourne – around 40,000 insurance claims were lodged with a value of over $500 million. 

  • March 2010 in Perth – lasted only a few minutes but hailstones up to the size of pool balls caused damage to houses, hospitals, schools and the airport. 

  • November 2014 in Brisbane – caused $1.1 billion in damage. 

  • January 2020 in Melbourne, Canberra and Sydney – caused $1.682 billion in insured losses.  

  • November 2020 in Brisbane – with hailstones the size of a shot put (14cm).   

  • October 2021 in the Barossa Valley (SA) – caused $1.060 billion in insured losses. 

The most recent hail-related declared insurance catastrophe occurred in Newcastle (NSW) on 29 May 2023. Golf ball-sized hailstones battered the Hunter and Central Coast regions, with the spectacular snow-like scene leaving a lot of damage in its wake. More than 26,200 claims were lodged with a value of $326 million – making the average claim $12,430. 

Frequency and severity increasing 

Hailstorms are not uncommon in Australia, especially along the east coast. Currently the area inland from the south-east Queensland coast down to the north-east of NSW has had the most damaging hail events, although hail has been reported over most parts of Australia, with the exception of tropical regions where is it unlikely to occur.  

Hailstorms typically occur most frequently between October and February (spring and summer). Insurance claims data shows that, in 2022, nearly half of hailstorm-related claims were made in January and October through December. Insurers note that hailstorms cause the most natural catastrophe damage claims – more than flood, bushfire and storm combined. 

A look at historical catastrophe data from the Insurance Council of Australia reveals that a total of 32 severe hailstorms occurred between 1967 and July 2021. There were 12 in the first half of this period (1967 to the end of 1993), which equates to roughly one severe hailstorm every 2.3 years. There were 20 in the second half of the period (from 1994 to July 2021), which is approximately one severe hailstorm every 1.4 years – suggesting that severe hailstorms have been occurring more frequently in recent decades.  

According to research from the University of NSW, Australia is expected to experience more hailstorms, which could also be more severe, over the coming years – particularly in the southeast of the country. UNSW found the annual number of hail-prone days in Sydney and Perth has increased by up to approximately 40 per cent.  

As a result of climate change, the risk of severe hailstorms is expected to grow in Brisbane, Sydney, Canberra, Adelaide, Perth and Melbourne, according to the Severe Weather in a Changing Climate research report.  

What causes hail? 

Hail forms during a thunderstorm when raindrops are carried upward into cold areas of the atmosphere. As the raindrops move higher, the temperature drops below zero degrees and causes them to freeze and become hailstones (balls of ice). When the hailstones become too heavy for the updraught to support them, they begin to fall. The hailstones can travel up to 200 kilometres per hour, range in size from a pea to a cricket ball, and can cause serious damage. 

What damage can hail cause? 

Hail can cause significant damage to homes, buildings and cars. The size of the hailstones (diameter) is often related to common objects such as sports balls. Giant hail is 5cm or bigger (tennis ball size and up), large hail is 2cm to 4.9cm (golf ball size) and small hail is less than 2cm (pea size). 

When it comes to homes, damage to roofs and windows is most common. While metal roofs can be dented, those made of terracotta tile, slate and other non-metal materials can be susceptible to cracking. Hailstones that break through a roof, ceiling or window, can let water enter the building and cause major internal damage such as flooding, mould, and ongoing electrical issues.  

Windows and glass doors are also vulnerable and can be cracked or smashed by hail. 

Some hail may cause no harm, while other hail can penetrate roofs, insulation, ceilings and even damage floor tiles. 

These balls of ice can also damage wall cladding, crack or shatter skylights, and shatter solar panels. Outdoor structures such as pergolas, sheds, greenhouses and conservatories can also sustain severe damage.  

Tips to prevent damage from hailstorms 

If your rental is located in a hail-prone area consider: 

  • Having the roof periodically checked by a professional roofer (check that there aren’t any cracks, leaks or porous tiles). 

  • Repairing any roof damage. 

  • Installing roof sarking (protective layer under roof tiles). 

  • Reinforcing the roof with hail-resistant materials (e.g. metal roofing and specially designed underlayment). 

  • Evaluating the age and condition of skylights and other roof fixtures and undertaking repairs where necessary (these items can become brittle as they age, increasing the risk of hail or water damage during a severe storm).  

  • Installing skylight protectors (safety screens). 

  • Installing protective coverings like hail guards or screens over windows, skylights, and other vulnerable areas. 

  • Protecting windows and glass doors with secure/storm shutters. 

  • Checking and repairing the window seals. 

  • Installing toughened glass windows.  

  • Keeping gutters and drainpipes free of debris. 

  • Installing larger, hail-designed gutters. 

  • Trimming overhanging trees. 

  • Enclosing carports. 

  • If it’s safe to do so, placing hail blankets over solar panels when a hail warning is announced. 

  • Securing outdoor structures and placing outdoor furniture under cover when a storm is forecast. 

Role of insurance 

A hailstorm is considered an insured event by most insurance providers, including EBM RentCover. All of our landlord insurance policies have cover for damage caused by natural disasters such as hail. 

Insurance policies will generally respond when damage has been caused by hail. What is covered will depend on the policy taken out. For example, if the policy has both building and contents cover included, then claims for a damaged roof and for subsequent water damage to the contents of the property may be covered. If it is a contents-only policy, then only damage to some fixtures and fittings and landlord-owned contents may be covered (not any damage to the building structure).  

It is important to note that a condition of practically all building policies is that the premises must be adequately maintained. This includes the condition of roofs. If the rental’s upkeep is lacking (say, for example, there are cracked and missing roof tiles), then any claim could be jeopardised – the payout could be limited, or the claim even denied. 

Another thing to keep in mind is the policyholder’s obligation to act to prevent further loss. When it comes to hail damage, this could mean arranging for a tarp to be put up over the damaged section of the roof/skylight or boarding up broken windows.  

Be sure to understand the natural disaster provisions in your policy, including the limits of cover and any exclusions. If you have questions about cover for hailstorms in any EBM RentCover landlord insurance policy, please chat to a member of our Expert Care team – 1800 661 662.

*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. 

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