Brand EditorialEPMEPM: Best Practice & Legislation

A step-by-step guide to natural disaster claims

This summer has seen devastating bushfires ravage the east and west, heatwaves, hailstorms and cyclones. As a result, many property investors will need to make claims on their landlord insurance and some will turn to their agent to manage the process. EBM RentCover Managing Director Sharon Fox-Slater shares her 5-step guide to streamline disaster insurance claims.

It is hard to imagine the tragedy hundreds of Australians are facing as they slowly return to homes, businesses and communities ravaged by Mother Nature. For many, there will be nothing left but the heartbreaking task of cleaning up and starting over or moving on altogether.

In these difficult circumstances, landlords and tenants will often look to their property manager for support.

Clearly, understanding your rights and responsibilities as a PM means you are better equipped to provide good advice including working through the insurance claims that will help your clients get back on their feet.

To protect your clients’ interests, and your own professional liability, it is essential to contact the insurance provider as quickly as possible if the rental has suffered a loss. They will get things under way and guide you through the claims process.

If the cost of the damage is expected to be high, or there’s an avalanche of claims like straight after a natural disaster, the insurer will typically appoint a loss adjuster/assessor to identify the value of the loss and help them through the workload. The sooner this happens, the quicker your claim can progress.

Here’s a step-by-step guide on what to do to submit a successful insurance claim after a major weather event:

Arrange emergency repairs
Take care how you go about organising repairs to make sure you don’t blow the insurance cover.

First things first, most policies require you to take immediate action to make the property safe and stop further damage to the property or its contents (be sure to wait until emergency services advise it is safe to attend the premises).

While this does not include permission to undertake full repairs, you need to move swiftly on emergency patch-up works such as boarding up windows and doors or covering damaged roofs with tarps.

Essential repairs may also include fixing services such as gas, electricity, water, and sewerage and wastewater treatment.

If the property is let, tenants are expected to contact you immediately to arrange for repairs.

If they try but can’t reach you – within 24 hours for essential repairs and 48 hours for other repairs – they are legally permitted to organise for minimum repairs to be carried out by a qualified tradesperson.

Once the repairs are done, the tenant is entitled to be reimbursed for the cost of the repairs – usually up to a maximum value of around $1,000 or two weeks’ rent. The regulations differ from state to state so check what applies in your area.

Be sure to get the tax invoices and receipts from the tenants if they have been reimbursed for organising emergency repairs by professionals to include in the landlord’s claim.

It should be noted that most insurance providers will not cover the cost of repairs made by tenants themselves.

For most claims, it is important to contact your insurer straight away and follow their advice before authorising any repairs or clean-up. Unlike EBM RentCover, some insurance providers need to authorise any emergency repairs before they are undertaken.

Gather the evidence
The next step is to collect evidence of the loss and damage in case it is swept away in the clean-up.

The most efficient way is to take photos or videos of the damage so there is a clear understanding of the loss that has occurred. If there are items that need to be quickly removed for health or safety reasons, such as wet carpets that are likely to mould, it is best to keep samples.

Otherwise, don’t dispose of damaged/destroyed items – store them somewhere safe to show the insurance assessor.

Making an inventory of the damaged items including details like brand, model and serial number, will help the claims process.

Get quotes and reports
Before you submit the claim, organise written quotes for the repairs and ask the repairer to include a description of the cause and extent of the damage.

After a natural disaster, it may be almost impossible to find enough tradies to give you two quotes, so one might be enough – check with the insurance provider.

Keep the receipts
Depending on their policy, the landlord may be able to claim for damage repairs and loss of rent.

Keep all the tax invoices and receipts for services and materials to support a damage claim.

In addition to tax invoices from repairers/tradies etc., keep receipts for any work you or the landlord does or materials purchased as they may be able to claim those expenses.

Submit the claim
Every insurer has a different process and requires different information but, at EBM RentCover, we are here to help from cover to claim.

Once you have all the information, our online portal allows you to easily tell us what happened, provide necessary quotes and invoices, upload documentation and submit a claim. 

EBM RentCover’s Expert Care team is on standby during natural disasters. If you have a landlord with an EBM RentCover policy and need to make a claim, or want more information, call us on 1800 661 662.

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