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Call for national flood claim procedure standard

Researchers who polled more than 600 victims of last year’s record floods say insurers need to issue consistent factsheets across Australia on correct claims procedures, and say victims felt frustrated by a lack of choice when arranging repairs through their insurers.  

Insurers had to deal with 240,000 claims from the event, and a shortage of materials and building trades. 

“The east coast floods have been exceptional in so many ways,” the report said. “The insurance industry needs to review its performance during these floods. Plans and contingencies need to be in place to improve surge capacity in future similar (and likely worse) flood situations.  

“These changes need to be communicated to reassure existing policy holders living in higher flood risk areas.” 

The researchers interviewed 192 flood‐impacted residents in August-October, and held an online survey of 430 other flooded residents – two thirds from NSW and a third from Queensland. 

It says more advocacy roles and personal support services to enable community members to navigate the claims process are required. 

“Detailed and explicit” checklists of what customers need to do after a flood event – and what they should not do – should set out how to “make this as clear, simple, and achievable as possible”. 

This harmonised advice would inform helpers, who could give factsheets to residents, including information about how to salvage different items. 

“There was a perception of a lack of consistent information available from insurers. Residents reported that insurers were overwhelmed and difficult to contact. Others only found out how badly they had compromised their claims process when it was too late.” 

Of 384 residents polled, 17% had no home/building cover, 56% had flood cover and 27% had insurance but were not covered for flood. For contents, 53% had flood cover while 23% were not insured at all. 

Comments relating to insurance were made by most residents in interviews, either because they didn’t have flood insurance and/or couldn’t afford it, or they were having problems with various aspects of the assessments and claims process.  

Many residents surveyed mentioned issues with insurers regarding stormwater versus floodwater impacts in flood assessments.  

“Many reported knowing how drainage behaved in heavy rain and fighting for that knowledge to be accepted,” the report said. 

There was some praise too.  

“Luckily the insurance is replacing a lot of the stuff that we can’t do ourselves. All of the mould extended into the dining room – they’re going to repaint that apparently which is lovely,” said one.  

Another received a car payout that was only $2500 less than they had paid for it new five years ago.  

“I was able to buy a new, reliable car,” that resident said. 

Another said their insurer had been “more than generous” and had been granted an ex‐gratia payment of $10,000. 

Click here for the full Natural Hazards Research Australia report.