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Sydney hailstorm: two sides of the recovery story

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The huge number of claims being handled after the December 20 Sydney hailstorm has stretched panelbeaters, builders and other tradespeople to breaking point, with insurers coming under increasing pressure to move faster.

Almost half of the claims have already been resolved, and while the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) today noted the “rapid progress” being made, local politicians are accusing the industry of failing its customers.

More than 136,000 insurance claims have now been received, totaling $1.27 billion.

Berowra MP Julian Leeser says he has heard “numerous cases of inadequate service” from insurers and builders, and visited ICA’s offices to hand over a dossier of complaints.

“Berowra is still covered in tarps and people are living with leaking roofs, inadequate repairs and no certainty about the future,” he said.

He says people have “buckets on the floor and mushrooms in the roof, and damage only getting worse because no repairs have been made”.

Many families “are living in hotels, with no idea when they can return to their home”, and getting information requires “sitting on the phone for hours but still receiving no real answers”.

“It is time we held insurance companies to account,” Mr Leeser said. “It is, after all, their entire role to provide security for our communities in times of need. Instead they are exacerbating anxiety and breeding feelings of helplessness among people in our community.”

But ICA GM Communications and Media Relations Campbell Fuller says insurers “have made rapid progress over the past 17 weeks to get families back into their homes and motorists back on the roads, despite the enormous pressure on builders, tradespeople and smash repairers”.

He says Sydney had already been hit by severe early summer storms, which put repair supply chains under pressure before the December 20 hailstorm struck.

“Insurers are focused on working with property owners to agree on scopes of works, particularly for repairable roofs, in line with their policies,” he said.

“The industry has been harnessing available repairers, tradespeople and builders who are qualified, reputable and competitive, to undertake and complete outstanding work.”

Mr Fuller praised Mr Leeser and Hornsby MP Matt Kean for bringing outstanding claims to ICA’s attention. “These are being addressed by insurers.”