Insurance Council declares NSW a 'catastrophe' following 5,000 claims already

author-avatar By on March 22, 2021
Insurance Council declares NSW a 'catastrophe' following 5,000 claims already

A Catastrophe Declaration has been made in NSW by Australia's leading insurance body, as more than 5,000 claims have been lodged already.

The New South Wales flood disaster continues to worsen, with 18,000 people being evacuated from their homes already and countless properties underwater in parts of the state. 

Now, the Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has declared the region a catastrophe, with ICA CEO Andrew Hall saying more than 5,000 claims have already been lodged from affected customers. 

"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," Mr Hall said. 

"As many areas are currently inaccessible due to floodwater, insurers are expecting further claims in coming days as emergency services allow residents to return to their properties to examine the extent of their damage and losses."

The ICA is also monitoring South-East Queensland floods as well to see if such a declaration is required there. 

Buying a home or looking to refinance? The table below features home loans with some of the lowest interest rates on the market for owner occupiers.

Base criteria of: a $400,000 loan amount, variable, principal and interest (P&I) owner-occupied home loans with an LVR (loan-to-value) ratio of at least 80%. If products listed have an LVR <80%, they will be clearly identified in the product name along with the specific LVR. Monthly repayments were calculated based on the selected products’ advertised rates, applied to a $400,000 loan with a 30-year loan term.

Insurance help available for flood victims

A Catastrophe Declaration by the Insurance Council means help for affected customers is given 'urgent priority' over others, with the worst-affected getting the most urgent attention. 

The ICA has activated its disaster hotline on 1800 734 621 to assist policyholders with questions about their claims.

Insurers will mobilise disaster response specialists to assist affected customers as soon as it is safe to do so. 

See also: What is flood insurance and what is contents insurance? 

Banking support available for NSW customers too

Australian Banking Association (ABA) CEO Anna Bligh said Australian Banks will also offer specialised help for those in the region. 

“Once the cleanup begins, it’s important for people to know that they can talk to their bank to seek assistance”, Ms Bligh said. 

“The message from banks is clear: don’t tough it out on your own, your bank is ready to help”. 

The help on offer includes the extension of home loan deferrals, which was set to expire in just one week for COVID-19 impacted customers. 

Other help on offer includes the following, although the extent of the help will differ from bank to bank: 

Banks with insurance arms are also offering help for home & contents insurance customers.

Commonwealth Bank for example is offering emergency accommodation for CommInsure customers and expediting claims, as are the other big banks. 

"The record-breaking rain in New South Wales has had a devastating impact on households, businesses and communities, and we want our customers in flood-affected areas to know we are here to help them at this time," Westpac Chief Executive Consumer & Business Banking Chris de Bruin said.

"Our customer assistance teams are ready to talk to customers who need to access this support, and we have added extra claims consultants and mobilised local builders to help our insurance customers."

Assistance

Emergency assistance numbers for key banks. Source: ABA.

What to do if you have flood and storm damage

If your house has been damaged by the floods, now or in the future, the ICA provides the following tips for both safety and to ensure you make a claim correctly. 

  1. Safety is the priority - don’t do anything that puts anyone at risk
  2. Only return to your property when emergency services give the go ahead
  3. If water has entered the property, don't turn on your electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician
  4. Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to lodge a claim and seek guidance on the claims process
  5. You can start cleaning up but first take pictures or videos of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim
  6. Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show your insurance assessor
  7. Remove water or mud-damaged goods from your property that might pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings
  8. Make a list of each item damaged and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number if possible
  9. Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe
  10. Speak to your insurer before you attempt or authorise any building work, including emergency repairs, and ask for the insurer’s permission in writing. 
  11. Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired

Photo by Phillip Flores on Unsplash   

Disclaimers

The entire market was not considered in selecting the above products. Rather, a cut-down portion of the market has been considered which includes retail products from at least the big four banks, the top 10 customer-owned institutions and Australia’s larger non-banks:

  • The big four banks are: ANZ, CBA, NAB and Westpac
  • The top 10 customer-owned Institutions are the ten largest mutual banks, credit unions and building societies in Australia, ranked by assets under management in November 2020. They are (in descending order): Credit Union Australia, Newcastle Permanent, Heritage Bank, Peoples’ Choice Credit Union, Teachers Mutual Bank, Greater Bank, IMB Bank, Beyond Bank, Bank Australia and P&N Bank.
  • The larger non-bank lenders are those who (in 2020) has more than $9 billion in Australian funded loans and advances. These groups are: Resimac, Pepper, Liberty and Firstmac.
  • If you click on a product link and you are referred to a Product or Service Provider’s web page, it is highly likely that a commercial relationship exists between that Product or Service Provider and Savings.com.au

Some providers' products may not be available in all states. To be considered, the product and rate must be clearly published on the product provider's web site.

In the interests of full disclosure, Savings.com.au, Performance Drive and Loans.com.au are part of the Firstmac Group. To read about how Savings.com.au manages potential conflicts of interest, along with how we get paid, please click through onto the web site links.

*The Comparison rate is based on a $150,000 loan over 25 years. Warning: this comparison rate is true only for this example and may not include all fees and charges. Different terms, fees or other loan amounts might result in a different comparison rate.

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William Jolly joined Savings.com.au as a Financial Journalist in 2018, after spending two years at financial research firm Canstar. In William's articles, you're likely to find complex financial topics and products broken down into everyday language. He is deeply passionate about improving the financial literacy of Australians and providing them with resources on how to save money in their everyday lives.

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