FloodingDealing with disasters

The image of an Aussie summer may be all sun, surf and sand, but the reality is this time of year is the height of disaster season. And, 2019 has been no exception, with the fury of Mother Nature impacting the lives of many across the country. But, when a natural disaster strikes and you need to make an insurance claim, what exactly should you do?

Disaster season, from November to April, has been devastating so far, with many Australians impacted by catastrophic events around the nation. More than 100,000 insurance claims, worth more than $900 million, have been lodged following the hailstorms that battered Sydney and parts of New South Wales in December. Canberra was also savaged by storms and hail in January. Flooding in Melbourne wreaked havoc in December. Bushfires have ravaged parts of Tasmania. While North Queensland was hit first by Tropical Cyclone Owen in December and then most recently by a ‘once-in-a-century’ flood, which has affected more than 20 suburbs and 20,000 households in the Townsville region.

EBM RentCover has policyholders across the country who have been affected by the spate of natural disasters. Our thoughts are with those who have suffered losses and our claims team are working hard to help restore some sense of normality.

If your property[1], or one you manage, is damaged due to a natural disaster, it’s important to understand what you need to do to make an insurance claim. If you are impacted, you need to:

  • Act to prevent further loss or damage
    Once the emergency services advise it is safe, the landlord or agent should attend the property and take ‘reasonable’ steps to prevent further loss or damage (this may include boarding windows or placing tarps on roofs).  You may need to contact the appropriate emergency services, such as the SES or fire brigade, to secure the property. Other ‘make safe’ work may also need to be undertaken, such as engaging an electrician or plumber, and you should arrange all emergency repairs necessary to minimise loss. Make sure you keep the original tax invoices for emergency repairs for the claim.
  • Contact our claims team
    It’s important to contact us on 1800 661 662 as soon as possible so we can determine your coverage and discuss the process for lodging claims. You will also be advised whether or not a loss adjustor will be assigned to your claim, or if you should seek quotes for the repair of damages.  Don’t worry if you don’t know the policy number, we just need the policyholder’s details to help initiate the claim.
  • Document loss or damage
    It’s the policyholder’s duty, when they submit an insurance claim, to establish a loss has occurred. Take photos or video of the damage and store them in a safe place to be shown to the insurance assessor. If you need to dispose of an item, because it poses a health risk (such as saturated carpet), keep samples of the damaged material. Keep any items that could be repaired as it is up to the insurance company whether damaged items are repaired or replaced. For contents claims, make a list of damaged items with a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number.
  • Keep receipts
    Keep receipts for any work you do yourself or materials you purchase as you may be able to claim those expenses. But please note, our insurance policies do not cover repair work undertaken by tenants.
  • Submit a claim
    You can contact one of our claims specialists, download a claim form from our website or use our online claims portal to submit the claim with supporting documents, including ledger and tenancy agreements. Please note, there is no need to obtain any quotes prior to lodgement.

During a natural disaster it is also normal for loss adjustors to be assigned to a damage event and a claims specialist will advise if this is the case for your properties involved. Loss adjustors are typically on standby and enter affected areas once the authorities say it is safe to do so.

In addition, disasters involving a large number of claims or complex issues and multiple insurers may be declared a catastrophe[2] by the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).  A catastrophe is most commonly declared after an extreme weather event such as a severe cyclone, bushfire, flood or storm.  Both the NSW hailstorms and recent Townsville floods were categorised as catastrophes.[3]

When the ICA declares an event to be catastrophic, it has implications for policyholders and insurers. Once the declaration is made, insurers are authorised to prioritise any claims made in the catastrophic zone and address the claims in a timely manner.

Under the ICA’s declaration:

  • claims from affected policyholders are given priority by insurers
  • claims are triaged to direct urgent assistance to the worst-affected property owners
  • insurers coordinate their response through an industry taskforce
  • insurance companies work closely with all levels of government, government agencies, emergency services and community organisations to identify and resolve issues
  • a disaster hotline is activated – 1800 734 621 – to assist policyholders if they are uncertain about their insurance details or have general enquiries about the claims process (this is not a claims lodgement line)
  • representatives are mobilised to work with local agencies and services and affected policyholders
  • the ICA effectively extends the time period in which affected parties can make or determine an insurance claim

Being caught up in a natural disaster can be frightening and confusing for landlords, agents and tenants. During these times, EBM RentCover works hard to provide peace of mind and financial security to families affected and ultimately aims to simplify the claims process.

If you have been caught up in a natural disaster and need to lodge a claim through EBM RentCover, call 1800 661 662 or use the link https://claims.rentcover.com.au and follow the simple steps.


[1] Agents who have OfficeCover and have been affected by natural disasters should contact their EBM account manager for advice and claims assistance.

[2] As defined by the ICA’s General Insurance Code of Practice.

[3] Since March 2018, the ICA has declared six catastrophes: In March, bushfires in NSW and Victoria resulted in $82.5 million in insured losses. In the same month, Cyclone Marcus caused $62 million in claims, with $16.8 million from floods in Queensland. In May, storm and flood damage around Hobart resulted in $99.6 million in insured losses. In December 2019 the NSW hail storms were declared catastrophic and the Townville flood became the sixth in February.