‘Tis the season for disasters

Lightning StormAs Australia enters the disaster season, landlords and PMs should make sure they are ready should Mother Nature unleash her wrath.

The image of an Aussie summer might be beaches and barbies, sunsets and seagulls stealing chips, but the reality is that as the weather warms up, so does the chance of natural disasters striking.
The risk of cyclones, storms, floods and bushfires soars between November and April – often leaving devastating damage bills in their wake. It is estimated that natural catastrophes cost the Australian economy $9 billion each year and this is expected to more than treble by 2050 to $33 billion per year, according to the Australian Business Roundtable for Disaster Resilience and Safer Communities.
The ICA notes that Cyclone Debbie alone resulted in almost 66,000 insurance claims being lodged at a value in excess of $1.4 billion. At RentCover we received around 150 claims, with an estimated value of $750,000.
The Bushfire & Natural Hazards CRC predicts that the fire season in southern Australia will start early this year (due to a combination of above-average temperatures and below-average rainfall over winter) and large parts of the country will face above-normal bushfire activity.
While the southern parts of the country prepare for bushfire, northern Australia will brace for cyclone season. Although a typical number of cyclones are expected (on average there are 11-13 each season with four making landfall), there is a 56 per cent chance of an above-average number of tropical cyclones this season, according to the Bureau of Meteorology’s Australian Tropical Cyclone Outlook for 2017-18.
Heed the sage words of Scouts across the globe and “be prepared”. Advice on how to prepare a property for natural disasters (bushfire, flood, storms and cyclones) and what to do in the event of a disaster can be found on your state/territory fire emergency service website.
From an insurance perspective, once a disaster has struck it is too late to arrange appropriate cover, making early risk mitigation a must:
  • Ensure the policy is up-to-date and the level of cover (including sum insured) is sufficient
  • Check that the risks will be covered under the policy (for example, flood cover is often excluded, but is provided for in all RentCover policies)
  • Understand the policy – the inclusions and any exclusions, limitations and excesses applicable
  • Understand the policyholder’s obligations under cover, such as the loss mitigation clauses
  • Keep on top of property maintenance as failure to maintain the premises can void the policy
  • Prepare a property inventory (keep copies of proof of ownership off-site)
  • Remind tenants that they need their own contents insurance, like TenantCover, as the landlord’s insurance will not generally cover their possessions
If you need to make a claim on a RentCover policy:
  • Contact us as soon as you are able to make a claim
  • As soon as it is safe to do so, take immediate steps to minimise losses including arranging emergency repairs (this is a requirement of the policy), e.g. arrange for a licensed tradesperson to make safe services such as gas, water, sewerage and electricity, put a tarp over a damaged roof or move undamaged possessions to safety
  • Any building work/repairs need to be authorised, so check with us before any work is carried out
  • You can start cleaning up, but first take photos or video of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for the claim
  • Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the insurance assessor
  • Do not throw out any damaged items unless they pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets (document the damage with photographs or video or retain a sample) – we will determine if they can be repaired or if they need to be replaced
  • Make a list of damaged and destroyed items with detailed descriptions (e.g. brand, make, model and serial number)
  • Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe
  • Know your obligations to the tenants and the property itself (check out our story)
  • Don’t panic if you cannot find the insurance paperwork, we have all the details on file (we just need the policyholder’s name and the address of the property)
  • Claims can be submitted over the phone, online or in hard copy – contact our claims team for assistance
Property owners should take action now to prevent being hit by the fallout from extreme weather conditions – including making sure their risks have been fully assessed, understanding what contingencies they are covered for, and whether any changes are needed to their insurance. Talk to us about making sure the right landlord cover is in place.