People confronting the devastating loss of property amidst the NSW floods can access free, confidential legal help from specialised insurance, credit and debt lawyers and financial counsellors.
Financial Rights Legal Centre Chief Executive Officer Karen Cox said many people were facing the additional stress of discovering they are under-insured or uninsured following the devastation of losing their homes, businesses or other property amidst the NSW Floods.
“Going on previous experience, it is likely hundreds of individuals and families have found themselves under-insured or uninsured leaving them unable to replace their homes or other property including vehicles, outbuildings, livestock and fencing,” Ms Cox said.
Financial Rights Legal Centre is a community legal centre that can provide free legal advice and financial counselling to help for people who have lost property.
The Financial Rights Insurance Law Service is a key repository of insurance law expertise with extensive resources and experience in dealing with insurance issues.
Ms Cox said Financial Rights had specialised lawyers and financial counsellors who understood problems people face when their properties are damaged or destroyed by natural disasters including floods, storms and hail.
“If you’re affected by flooding, it can be hard to know how to start an insurance claim for damage to your home, car or other property,” Ms Cox said.
“Start with checking how your policy covers flood damage and contacting your insurer to check your cover and start a claim. If you need emergency accommodation, ask your insurer if they cover those costs.
“Be rigorous in taking photos and videos of damaged buildings and items. Try to gather evidence from authorities and eyewitness accounts of the time water entered your property. If you’re able gather reports from independent assessors about damage as this can assist in challenging decisions by insurers.”
Ms Cox said insurance policies cover damage as a result of “storms”, “rainwater” and “run-off” in different ways depending on the exact definition of these term in a policy. Even if you don’t have flood cover, you may be covered for some damage from one of these other causes.
“Insurers can try to reject your claim outright on the basis your home was damaged by both rainwater and floodwater. It’s important to get legal advice if this happens as soon as possible.”
Another common problem people face is liability for fallen trees.
“A fallen tree might have caused damage to your property or a tree on your property might have caused damage to a neighbour’s home or property.” Ms Cox said.
“Insurance policies are riddled with exclusions. Whether your insurance covers fallen trees can depend whether it causes damage to the home or contents.”
Key tips for property and items
- 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 it’s a hazard – but 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, by putting a tarp over your roof or moving your household items under shelter. Document this with photos, invoices and evidence of any directives from council or local emergency services. Insurers can reject claims arising because of subsequent damage.