Large parts of NSW have now been declared an insurance catastrophe by The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA).
This means that the insurance industry will respond to affected policyholders as a priority, and a disaster hotline has been set up (1800 734 621).
"It's too early to understand the extent of the damage to property in affected areas and to estimate the insurance damage bill, however, insurers have received over 5,000 claims in the past few days," said Andrew Hall, CEO, Insurance Council of Australia.
"The insurance industry has made this Catastrophe Declaration to activate services and support for affected homeowners and businesses and reassure them that their insurer is there to help."
What to do when you return to your property
According to The ICA, safety is the priority, and they also advise:
- Only return to your property when emergency services give the go ahead
- If water has entered the property, don't turn on your electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician.
- Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to lodge a claim and seek guidance on the claims process
- You can start cleaning up but first take pictures or videos of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim
- Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show your insurance assessor
- Remove water or mud-damaged goods from your property that might pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings.
- Make a list of each item damaged and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number if possible
- Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe
- Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer's permission in writing. Unauthorised work may not be covered by your policy
- Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired
Help for renters
Regulations surrounding tenants' rights vary in each State and Territory in Australia. However, there are tenants' advisory services you can turn to.
You can find information on rent reduction/abatement, overpaid rent, repairs, terminating your tenancy and much more.
For example, in NSW, the Tenants' Union of NSW advises that if the premises are destroyed or are wholly or partly uninhabitable, you or the landlord can give the other an immediate termination notice. The landlord must maintain the premises in a reasonable state of repair. Find a handy fact sheet at www.tenants.org.au.
You can also find information on what to do if your landlord cannot be contacted or is unwilling to do the urgent repairs. There are also details on who to contact for dispute resolution.