Unnecessary throw outs affecting flood recovery: restorers
The disposal of home building materials and contents that could have been kept after floods has led to people living in temporary accommodation unnecessarily and has driven up claims costs, the Restoration Industry Association (RIA) of Australasia says.
“We believe in 2022 there were many cases where unsustainable pressure was placed on insurers, loss assessors and restorers to replace everything as new and undertake more significant work than was required,” RIA says in a submission to a federal parliamentary inquiry into last year’s catastrophes.
“Often customers were unnecessarily displaced and required to go into temporary accommodation, which during 2022’s multiple high-volume events, extended to several months due to the shortage of skills, labour and materials.”
The submission calls for industry expedited work authorisations, to an agreed value and scope, for make-safe restoration and damage mitigation, and an education program, supported by guidelines to help “mud army” volunteers better determine which items should be removed or placed into landfill.
“The first 72 hours following water inundation is the most critical in terms of the ability to make safe, mitigate further damage and ultimately reduce the need for customer displacement,” it says.
“After this time the impact to the customer through more invasive works, loss of contents, and displacement length increases significantly.”
The floods inquiry has so far published 32 submissions, including from industry groups, insurers and consumer organisations. Hearings are set to begin next year.
RIA says different practices among insurers have caused confusion in communities, and it also wasn’t uncommon after last year’s floods for individual insurers to change their remediation or repair approach during the process, affecting suppliers and customers.
The group recommends an agreed consistent industry claims approach and messaging following the immediate high level claims lodgement and community support communications.
“This approach might not be a standing agreement but rather agreed specific to each event via an insurer claims response roundtable and supported or endorsed by Government authorities,” it says.
Other recommendations include that insureds should receive a document outlining the parties they may hear from and their roles, easing stresses from receiving calls from multiple trades, restorers, loss adjusters and others.
RIA says many customers have reported being given incorrect advice on mould and damage, amid inconsistencies on the issues, and insurers should only contract companies adhering to standards currently undergoing harmonisation and adoption in conjunction with Standards Australia.
The group suggests a targeted government assistance program to ensure people on low-incomes and vulnerable communities, who may not have insurance, can receive basic restoration to ensure properties are habitable in line with air quality, moisture, and mould standards.
“This will ensure a higher proportion of impacted residents can continue to remain and live in their homes while undertaking self-funded repair work,” it says.
Submissions are available here.