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Making a claim for flood damage

Disclaimer: Use this fact sheet for information only. Get free legal advice about your own situation from the Insurance Law Service on 1300 663 464 (and press 1 for natural disaster).

If you’re affected by flooding, it might be hard to know how to start a claim on your insurance policy for flood damage to your home, car – or other unexpected costs.  Here are ten simple steps you can take to sort things out.

Step 1 – Consider how your different insurance policies may cover flood damage

Coverage for flood damage is often built into different insurance policies you may already have.  Coverage will differ depending on how you are affected:

  • Coverage under Home and Contents insurance – Some home and contents insurance policies offer coverage for flood damage as a standard inclusion. Other policies don’t offer coverage for flood damage at all, or only offer it as an optional extra if you pay an additional premium for coverage. 
  • Motor Vehicle Insurance – Car insurance policies often cover flood damage under broad “accidental loss or damage” clauses.
  • Accident or Sickness Insurance, Income Protection Insurance, or Consumer Credit Insurance – These policies can also cover you for accidents, injuries, or if you lose your job under general sickness/illness or unemployment clauses.
  • Life Insurance covering injury, disability and/or death – Life Insurance policies offer coverage for injury, disability, and/or death through stand-alone insurance through a life insurer or as part of your super. Even if you lose your job, you may be covered by your life insurance policies linked to your super.

Don’t know if your super includes life insurance?

If your or a family member has died or suffered a severe injury resulting in disability, ring your super fund.  You can find out about any insurance attached to your super and what you are covered for.

Step 2 – Contact your insurer to check your insurance cover and start your insurance claim

Contact your insurers and notify them about your claim.

If you’re affected by a large scale disaster event, ring the dedicated ICA Disaster Insurance Hotline on 1800 734 621.

Don’t worry if your policy documents have been lost or destroyed. Insurance companies keep records electronically and only require the policyholder’s name and address in order to process a claim. Your insurer is obligated to send you a copy and may have them available online.

Not sure if you’re covered?

If you are not sure what you are covered for, you should ask your insurer for:

  • Your Product Disclosure Statement and Policy Schedule, and
  • Your Certificate of Insurance covering the date of the flood.

Insurance policies vary in wording from policy to policy as to the types of risks or insured events they will cover, and what events or losses are excluded. It is very important you read your policy and understand what you are covered for. This will help you in ensuring you get all of the benefits you are entitled to as well as explaining why you may not get all of your losses paid.

Need emergency accommodation?

Ask your insurer if you’re covered for the costs of emergency accommodation. More about this is found below in Step 5 – Check the Additional Benefits under your policy.

Assess the damage to your property

As part of assessing your claim, your insurer will ask an assessor to look at the damage to your property and work out whether you are covered under the policy. This may take time during large scale disasters such as floods. 

In the meantime, you should:

  • Take photos or videos of any damaged items and buildings.  
  • Make a list of all the damage with as much detail as you can.
  • Don’t dispose of any items unless you have to because it is a hazard – but before you do, make sure you document everything and try to get the insurer’s consent to dispose of those items.
  • Take reasonable steps to minimise your loss. For example, put a tarp over your roof if they are exposed or moving your household items under shelter. Try and document this with photos, invoices and evidence of any directives from council or local emergency services. If you do not do this, the insurer may reject any claims arising out of subsequent damage because of this.

Insurance Law Service Tip

If you’re affected by a major disaster event, some insurance companies may not expect you to list all of your losses if your home and everything in it has been totally destroyed. The insurer may agree to just pay the full amount insured, particularly if the amount claimed seems reasonable for the size of the family and the size and value of the home insured.

Check with your insurer before making repairs

Your insurer has rights to inspect your property or work out whether buildings or contents should be repaired or rebuilt or replaced and by whom. 

Check with your insurer before making repairs.  Your insurer may need to give consent to repairs or tradespersons before performing repairs works.

Step 3 – Understand how your insurance policy defines flood, storm or rainwater damage

Your policy’s Certificate of Insurance and Product Disclosure Statement should clearly state whether you are covered for flood and what limits may apply.

Some insurers offer flood cover as a standard inclusion for home and contents policies.  But some insurers exclude flood cover altogether.  And other insurers treat flood cover as an optional extra if you pay an additional premium for coverage. 

Even if your policy excludes flood damage, you may still have cover for storm or rainwater damage.

Understand the definition of flood used in your policy

Since 2014, most home and contents insurance policies use a standard definition to define “flood” as:

The covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of any of the following:

  • A lake (whether or not it has been altered or modified);
  • A river (whether or not it has been altered or modified);
  • A creek (whether or not it has been altered or modified);
  • Another natural watercourse (whether or not it has been altered or modified);
  • A reservoir;
  • A canal;
  • A dam.

If your policy uses the standard definition, you are covered for flood damage caused by overflowing lakes, rivers, creeks, reservoirs, canals or damages.

But even if your policy covers flood damage, policies may exclude coverage for:

  1. Actions of the sea, storm surge or tsunami;
  2. Soil movement, such as erosion, landslide, shrinkage or subsidence (some policies will cover it if it happens within 72 hours of the flood).

If you choose not to get flood cover, your policy may also exclude cover for:

  1. Rainwater run-off ;
  2. Rainwater run-off combined with flood waters (even if this is not stated in the policy itself);
  3. Storm surge.

But if you arranged your policy through an insurance broker, and the broker gave you financial advice, your policy might not use the standard definition.

To check how your policy defines “flood”, ask your insurer, and read your policy’s Product Disclosure Statement.

Understand the definition of “storm”, “rainwater” or “run-off” used in your policy

Most home and contents policies will cover you for “storm”, “rainwater” and sometimes “run-off”.  There is no standard definition so the exact definition of each of these words will depend on the wording used in your policy.

Definitions commonly cover damage resulting from rain and sometimes rainwater run-off resulting from storms, but not from flood if the policy does not cover for flood damage. 

Examples of definitions include:

Example 1: Storm

If loss or damage is caused by storm. (For example, hail damages your roof.)

Covered

  • violent wind, cyclone or tornado
  • rain, thunderstorm, hail or snow
  • sudden, excessive run-off of water as a direct result of a storm in your local area….

Not covered

  • … loss or damage caused by flood…

Example 2: Storm, rainwater or run-off


We will pay for loss or damage caused by storm, rainwater or run-off …

  • “Storm” means violent wind (including cyclones and tornadoes), thunderstorms and hail which may be accompanied by rain or snow;
  • “Rainwater” means rain falling naturally from the sky onto the buildings and/or ground;
  • “Run-off” means rainwater that has collected on or has flowed across normally dry ground or has overflowed from swimming pools or spas.

We will not pay for loss or damage caused by:

  • Flood; or
  • Flood water combined with run-off and/or rainwater.

Insurance Law Service Tip

Confused about what your policy covers? Get legal advice about coverage for your own situation for free from the Insurance Law Service on 1300 663 464, or talk to your private solicitor.

If your insurer didn’t clearly tell you that your policy excluded flood damage, get legal advice

In some cases, you might be able to challenge whether your insurer clearly informed you that you are not covered for flood damage.  Consider if any of the following apply to you:

  1. Did your insurer tell you that you were covered for flood? Many insurers keep voice recordings of your conversations which you can request.
  2. Did your insurer send you the policy documents within the 14 day cooling off period? Many insurers keep records about when these policy documents were sent and you can request this information.
  3. Is there any confusion or ambiguity in the wording of the policy?

If any of the above apply to you, you should get legal advice as you may be able to argue you should still be covered.

What to do if you don’t have flood cover

Even if you don’t have flood cover, you may still be covered if you can prove damage was caused by an event that is covered by your policy, such as storm or rainwater.

Prove that your damage was caused by a storm or rainwater

First you must prove that you suffered damage from a storm.

Your insurer can only reject your claim if it proves that damage was caused by flood, which is not covered by your policy.

To work out if your damage was caused by a storm, consider the following:

  • Where did the water come from? What path did the water take?
  • When and how did the water enter your house?
  • Did stormwater pool in a lake or river before reaching your property?
  • Was it raining when the water first entered the property? How heavily and how long did this continue?
  • Did the inundation occur during the heaviest rainfall?
  • How far away is the river/lake/watercourse from the insured property?
  • What time did floodwaters reach the property?
  • Are there any stormwater drains close by? If so, were these overflowing prior to the inundation?
  • Could rainwater alone have risen to a sufficient height to cause the damage?
  • Could flood water alone have risen to a sufficient height to cause the damage?
  • Whether the water level rose in one go, increased in stages, or increased at a constant and even rate?

Insurance Law Service Tip

Proving what event caused damage can be a very technical area. Opinions from experts like hydrologists may be needed.

Support your claim with evidence

Possible sources of information you may use to prove your damage was caused by a storm are:

  • Insurer hydrologist reports – if your insurer has provided a hydrologist report, read it carefully. The report may be based on incorrect assumptions or be inconsistent with other reliable evidence like eyewitness reports.
  • Independent hydrologist report – you could pay for an independent hydrology report.  But understand that hydrology reports are expensive. There is also a risk that the report may not support your case.
  • Local council information – such as flood histories of your local area, evidence of soil drainage in your area, water flow paths, maps showing the location of watercourses and stormwater drains in your area, council commissioned hydrology reports, contour maps etc. Some local councils include this information on their websites;
  • Your property survey plan – including height of property, location of stormwater drains etc.
  • Eyewitness statements – but only when it’s safe to do so.
  • Photos, videos or other reliable records – including homemade or media based records of rainwater inundating your area and/or your house.
  • Bureau of Meteorology – such as rainfall data and river gauges. Information can be freely accessed from the Bureau of Meteorology’s website.
  • Local community – Has anyone in your area obtained their own independent hydrologist’s report?

Understand when your insurer may or may not be liable to pay your claim

If you prove that the damage was caused by rainwater, then the insurer has to pay the claim, but if it was caused by flood water, the insurer does not have to pay.

If the damage was caused by rainwater and flood water, then you and the insurer have to work out which was the primary cause (sometimes called the dominant cause).

ScenarioPrinciples
Rainwater was the entire cause of the damageYour insurer has to pay your claim under storm or rainwater cover.
Floodwater was the entire cause of the damageYour insurer does not have to pay your claim if flood cover is excluded from your policy.
Rainwater was the primary cause of the damage and flood water caused a minimal or insignificant part of the damageYour insurer has to pay your claim under storm or rainwater cover for the whole loss.
Flood water was the primary cause of the damage and rainwater caused a minimal or insignificant part of the damageYour insurer does not have to pay your claim if flood cover is excluded from your policy.

But if rainwater entered your house first and caused damage, you may be able to argue that you should be covered for the initial damage caused only by the rainwater.
Rainwater and flood water were both primary causes of the damage.Your insurer does not have to pay your claim since one of the dominant causes is excluded.

If flood and rainwater mixed together before causing the damage, your insurer may not have to pay your claim.

But if some of the damage can be specifically attributed to stormwater/rainwater (e.g. roof damage, damage to walls or parts of the house from leaking rainwater), your insurer may have to pay that part of your claim.

Insurance Law Service Tip

The above examples are a guide only. Whether or not your insurer is liable will depend on the specific coverage under the policy, what happened when the policy was taken out and the evidence about what caused the damage.

If your insurer rejects your claim, get legal advice

If your claim is rejected, ask the insurer to provide you a written rejection letter with reasons.  Also ask for copies of any information relied on to reject your claim. 

Get legal advice from the Insurance Law Service for free on 1300 663 464 (and press 1 for natural disaster), or from your private solicitor.

Step 4 – Be aware of common issues in flood damage claims

Some issues commonly arise in flood damage claims.  Understand the issues and get legal advice if you are not sure what to do.

Understand what your insurer will pay you if you have indemnity cover or replacement cover

If you have indemnity cover, your policy should cover you for actual losses up to the sum (or sums) you are insured for.  Your Certificate of Insurance will state what amounts you are insured for, for instance “up to $400,000 for building, $20,000 for contents”.  The indemnity cover may have limitations. For example, if you choose not rebuild but sell the land, your policy could say that your insurer may only pay the difference in the value of the property.

If you have a replacement cover, your policy should cover you for the amount it would cost to replace or repair damaged building/contents to the condition it was in just prior to the floods.

If you have indemnity or replacement cover, you may also be entitled to other additional benefits: see Step 5 – Utilise the Additional Benefits under your policy below.

Understand the consequences of underinsurance or over-insurance

Underinsurance is where the amount you are insured for is not enough to cover your loss or damage. This problem may arise after natural disasters such as floods or bushfires, when the cost to rebuild can easily rise due to the increased demand for builders and building materials.

To avoid being underinsured, check if your insurer offers a safety net, in return for you paying additional premiums. For example, insurers may offer “safety net home protection – 25% extra of the home sum insured”.

Also check your claim cap – the total amount you can claim or the maximum amount for repairs.  Insurers are only obligated to cover you up to the amount you are insured for.  But your insurer has a duty to clearly inform you in writing that it will only pay up to claim cap before you enter into the insurance contract.

Over-insurance is the reverse of underinsurance – where you are insured for more than the amount required to cover your loss or damage.  Over-insurance can be one way of creating a buffer to make sure you are fully covered.  But you will not be entitled to an automatic payment of the higher sum.  The insurer can reduce your payout to the amount of your actual loss.  You will not be entitled to any refund of the higher premiums you paid because you were over-insured.

Is it the insurer’s fault that I am underinsured or over-insured?

Generally no.  The insurer’s role is to provide insurance.  The insurer is not a home rebuilding valuation provider.  

When you first take out a policy and at every renewal, you are obliged to review the amount of cover the insurer is offering to ensure that it meets your needs and expectations.  Look for something like this in your renewal statement:

Each renewal, we increase your sum insured to help keep pace with inflation and consequently your premium will increase. As always, you are free to choose a sum insured level which best suits your needs and we recommend you review the amount of your cover periodically, particularly if you have made changes to your assets.

If you are not satisfied with the amount of cover you are offered, you can negotiate with your insurer or shop around other insurers.

If you feel your insurer misled you into getting too little or too much insurance, or you relied on a tool the insurer provided to work out the sum insured get legal advice.

Understand how claims are settled – repair, replace, cash settlement

Insurers are often entitled to decide whether to replace, repair or settle a claim, but negotiation may be possible

Often insurers are entitled to decide whether to repair, replace or cash settle a claim. Look for something like this in your policy:

We will decide how we settle your claim if your contents or valuable items suffer loss or damage, we will decide whether to

  • Repair an item
  • Replace an item, or
  • Pay you the cost to repair or replace the item.

But sometimes insurers will ask how you would prefer to settle, or you can ask for what you want and negotiation may be possible.

Consider the consequences of cash settlement vs waiting for the insurer to repair or replace

Although early cash settlements may sound attractive rather than waiting for your insurer to repair or replace the damage, carefully consider whether it is appropriate for your situation.  There are advantages and disadvantages to either option.

When the insurer decides to repair or replace

If your insurer decides to repair or replace the damage, the insurer is responsible for the repair/replacement works.  Under the General Insurance Code of Practice, when the insurer selects and directly authorises a repairer, the insurer will:

  • Accept responsibility for the quality of workmanship and materials; and
  • handle any complaint about the quality and timeliness of the work or conduct of the repairer.

Some insurers even offer a “Lifetime Guarantee of Repairs” in their policies. 

Your policy will usually set out the standard of cover for repairs or replacement.  Standard of cover deals with, for example, whether the insurer is required to match the same materials as you had before or provide “new for old”.  “New for old” might mean your old car is replaced with a brand new one, but usually each policy has its own definition.  Carefully read your policy to see what standard of cover you have.

When you accept a cash settlement

A cash settlement is where the insurer agrees to pay you the value of your claim in cash, rather than to repair or replace the damage.

Before you agree to a cash settlement, carefully consider the following:

  • If you engage your own repairer using the proceeds of the cash settlement, any issues arising from the quality of repair will be an issue for you to sort out with your own repairer;
  • Before you agree to a final amount, get your own advice and quotes and consider if the insurer’s settlement offer will be enough to cover costs. Sometimes insurers tender jobs in a competitive environment after a disaster. If you elect to take a cash settlement the insurer may only offer you a cash settlement based on the lowest tender they received;
  • Be clear on what you are settling.  Check if the insurer’s settlement offer covers the whole claim or just part of it (for example, contents).  You may want to preserve parts of your claim – for example, your entitlement to ‘Additional Benefits’.

When you accept store credit (for contents claims)

Sometimes, in contents claims, your insurer may elect to pay your claim in store credit, not cash.

If you are not happy with store credit, check your policy wording. Look for an express right to settle using store credit in the policy.

If your policy doesn’t say anything about store credit, you may ask for cash as an alternative. But the insurer may offer you a lower value cash settlement than the store credit value. This may be because the insurer has an arrangement with one retailer (such as a volume discount) which enables them to pay less for the credit than the dollar amount you are able to spend. Many insurance policies also allow insurers to only pay you the amount the insurer would have to pay to replace the item, which may be lower than the retail value.

Policies vary, so if you are not happy with the insurer’s offer, get legal advice.

Understand when you should accept a settlement

Think carefully before accepting a settlement agreement. Consider the following:

  1. Read the policy and understand what you are entitled to.
  2. Get your own quotes – to make sure the amount being offered is fair and realistic. Quotes that the insurance company obtains may not be the actual cost to you to repair/rebuild/replace.
  3. Get advice from your own experts – experts can give you advice about what works are required and how work should be performed. Your insurer may present you with a “scope of works” outlining what repairs or rebuilding they will do for you, or what they are paying you for.  You should consider having your own builder or engineer review this for you to make sure it is appropriate and comprehensive.
  4. Be very clear about what you are settling – is it the whole claim including all additional benefits, or just a component of the claim?
  5. Get legal advice. Once the claim is settled, you may be prevented from asking anything further from the insurer. This will vary on a case by case basis and on the wording of the settlement.

Understand what happens if you have a mortgage over your home that has been affected by flood damage

If you have a mortgage over your home that has been damaged or destroyed, the insurer may pay the amount of your claim directly to your home lender.

In this case you will need to negotiate with your lender about the release of the funds for rebuilding or repair. If there is a problem with this process, get legal advice about your options.

Step 5 – Know your entitlement to Additional Benefits under your policy

There may be Additional Benefits under your insurance policy that covers you for:

  • Emergency or alternative accommodation;
  • Removal of debris and demolition;
  • Professional fees such as architects, surveyor and legal fees; or
  • The costs of complying with new regulations.

Additional Benefits can be on top of your insured amount. Before agreeing to any settlement of your claim, check to see if you are also entitled to additional benefits cover.

If you need emergency or alternative accommodation

If you can’t live in your house, you may be entitled to emergency or alternative accommodation. Ask your insurer and  look for something like this in your policy:

We [the insurer] will pay the reasonable costs incurred by you for comparable accommodation for up to 12 months while your building is being rebuilt or repaired.

If you have been relocated to emergency “community” accommodation, it is also worth contacting your insurer to determine whether you are eligible for emergency “private” accommodation. If you live in a remote area, there may be no private accommodation available. Contact your insurer to find out what will happen.

What you are covered for if you need emergency or alternative accommodation will vary between policies

Check your policy for limits on cover, such as:

  • Specifically stating a percentage (e.g. 10%) of the value of the policy for which your insurer will cover you for in relation to temporary/emergency accommodation;
  • Providing for a specific time period or a “reasonable time” within which you will be able to claim in relation to such emergency accommodation;
  • Providing that your insurer will pay for “reasonable costs”.

If you need assistance with demolition or removal of debris

It can be expensive to remove debris from your property or clear your land.  But often, your policy may not cover you for assistance to remove debris from trees, shrubs or plants.

Check your policy for the types of “debris” covered.  Look for a clause such as the following:

When the buildings and/or contents have been destroyed or damaged by any of the insured events covered by your policy, we will pay the reasonable cost of:

  • Demolition and Removing buildings and contents debris from your risk address.

Now check the definition of “buildings” and “contents”. Often your policy will exclude “trees, shrubs and plants” from the definition of “buildings” or “contents”.  Look for a clause like the following:

What are not buildings: or The following items are not buildings:

  • Landscaping, trees, shrubs and plants;

What are not contents: or The following items are not covered by this policy:

  • Trees, shrubs, plants growing outdoors in the ground.

The above policy only covers the removal of “buildings” or “contents” debris.  Because trees, shrubs and plants aren’t covered by the definition, the policy does not cover removal of debris from trees, shrubs or plants.

If you need assistance with architects, surveyors or legal fees

Most home building insurance policies provide additional cover for the costs of the services of architects, surveyors and legal fees in rebuilding and/or repairing damage to buildings.

Check your policy for a clause like the following:

We will pay the reasonable costs of architects, surveyors and legal fees when damage or loss occurs. We will pay up to 10% of your buildings sum insured.

If you need assistance with the costs of complying with new regulations

After significant events like floods, local councils might impose new regulations and safety standards for ‘at risk’ areas. New regulations may also have been introduced since your home was initially built, for example, slab heights.

Check your policy for a clause like the following:

We will also pay any additional costs required for your buildings to comply with government or local authority by-laws.

You will likely be covered for the costs of complying with new regulations if your policy will replace your property “as new” or if you have “total replacement cover”.

Insurance Law Service Tip

Reading a policy can be difficult. Get legal advice about coverage for your own situation for free from the Insurance Law Service on 1300 663 464, or talk to your private solicitor.

Step 6 – Understand what happens after you make an insurance claim

Assessing your claim

After you lodge the claim, your insurer will send out an assessor and possibly builders or engineers to inspect your property and help determine whether your claim is covered.

How long the claims process takes

The General Insurance Code of Practice sets out timeframes for how long claim processes should take.

Depending on the circumstances, your insurer will let you know their decision within four months.

If exceptional circumstances apply – such as when the Board of the Insurance Council of Australia declares an extraordinary catastrophe or disaster – your insurer will let you know their decision within 12 months.

If you need urgent financial help

If you need urgent financial help, you will need to provide your insurer with documents that support your case.

If you have enough evidence to prove that you are in urgent financial need, your insurer:

  • Is obliged to fast-track your claim if you are in urgent financial need; and;
  • Can make an advance payment within 5 business days.  But any advance payment may deducted from your total claim payout.

The claims process for damage caused by a catastrophe or disaster

The General Insurance Code of Practice requires your insurer to respond to catastrophes and disasters in a fast, professional and practical way and in a compassionate manner.

If your insurer finalises your property claim within one month of the catastrophe or disaster, you are entitled to have your claim reviewed even if you signed document releasing the insurer from further claims.  You can ask for a review within 12 months of the finalisation of your claim. 

Under the Code, when you finalise your claim after a catastrophe or natural disaster, your insurer must inform you of:

  • Your review rights; and
  • The insurer’s complaints handling procedures.

Step 7 – Consider making a complaint if your claim is refused or is taking too long to be resolved

Complain to your insurer about the claims process or decision

If you are unhappy with the progress of your claim or the insurer’s decision, make a complaint directly to your insurer.

Not sure how to contact your insurer’s complaints department? Find your insurer’s contact details using the Find a financial firm or superannuation fund search function on the AFCA website.

Complain to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority at any time

Alternatively, you can make a complaint to the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) at any time by:

AFCA is a free and independent dispute resolution service but it cannot give you legal advice.

What information you need to provide

Gather as much evidence as you can and provide copies to your insurer.  If your insurer is relying on expert evidence, consider obtaining your own independent expert report to support your case.

Commencing proceedings in court

You can also consider commencing court proceedings against your insurer.

But get advice from private solicitor first. Going to court is risky and you may be made responsible for the insurer’s legal costs.

Step 8 – Get legal advice

Get free legal advice from the Insurance Law Service

If you need free legal help with your insurance claim, contact the Insurance Law Service:

Get help from other legal services

Legal Aid Contact Legal Aid in your state:

ACT – 1300 654 314 legalaidact.org.au

NSW – 1300 888 529 legalaid.nsw.gov.au

NT – 1800 019 343 legalaid.nt.gov.au

QLD – 1300 651 188 legalaid.qld.gov.au

SA – 1300 366 424
lsc.sa.gov.au

TAS – 1300 366 611 legalaid.tas.gov.au

VIC – 1300 792 387 legalaid.vic.gov.au
LawAccess (NSW only) 1300 888 529 lawaccess.nsw.gov.au
Private solicitor Contact your state’s Law Society for a referral:

NSW Law Society
02 9926 0300

Law Institute of Victoria
03 9607 9550

Queensland Law Society
1300 367 757

Law Society of Tasmania
03 6234 4133

Law Society of Western Australia
lawaccess@lawaccess.org.au

Law Society of Northern Territory
08 8981 5104

Law Society of the ACT
02 6274 0300

Law Society of South Australia
08 8229 0200
Tenants Union (if you are a tenant affected by the floods either from having your possessions damaged or your rental property damaged or destroyed)  
ICA Disaster Insurance Hotline   1800 734 621

Step 9 – Keep on top of your finances

Keep on top of your finances while you are waiting for your insurer to assess your claim.  Lenders can provide hardship assistance for mortgages, loans or utility bills while you plan for recovery and get back on your feet.

If you have a mortgage or other loans

Ask your lender immediately for hardship assistance, such as reduced or postponed repayments, usually for three to six months at a time.

Ask your lender if more generous disaster recovery assistance is available.

Failure to pay your mortgage or loans pending the outcome of an insurance claim will result in additional interest and enforcement fees being added to your loan. You may also face legal action.

If you have other debts – water, rates, electricity, phone bills?

All utility companies and telecommunications companies have hardship policies, and can provide assistance by reducing or postponing your repayments.

If you are experiencing difficulties negotiating with your provider you can contact the Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman on 1800 062 058 for telecommunications or the Energy & Water Ombudsman in your state.

Get a no-interest loan

Services such as the No-Interest Loans Scheme (NILS) can provide loans to low income earners on an interest free basis to pay for essential household items such as whitegoods.

See a financial counsellor

A financial counsellor can help you by:

  • Suggesting ways to manage and prioritise your debt
  • Talking to your lender about hardship assistance or repayment arrangements
  • Referring you to other services for legal advice or charities that can provide assistance including food or emergency accommodation.

Call the National Debt Helpline on 1800 007 007 for free financial counselling.

Step 10 – Ask for help if you need it

See our Getting Help fact sheet for a list of additional resources.

Other organisations that might be able to help include:

Last updated: November 2020