Sharon Fox-Slater: What to do before and after a flood

Floods are the most frequent type of natural disaster world-wide and, for the east coast of Australia, it’s been an horrendous summer season. With autumn’s arrival, the threat of more devastating floods looms. To help you support your landlords, EBM RentCover Managing Director Sharon Fox-Slater offers some tips to prepare rentals for flood season and also what to do if you need to make a claim after a flood.

Severe flooding has devastated parts of south east Queensland and northern New South Wales. In its wake, communities have faced heart-breaking loss of life, livestock, pets and property – and the massive clean-up continues.

According to the Insurance Council of Australia, two weeks after the floods first hit, more than 140,000 insurance claims worth more than $2 billion had been lodged. The extent of insured losses is expected to top $3 billion.

While these floods have made global headlines as waters reached record levels, flooding is common right across Australia, but particularly so along the east coast.

Flooding is a major risk during the disaster season (November – April) and during the southern wet seasons (autumn and winter). 

Mother Nature doesn’t discriminate, and rental properties are not immune. This is what you need to know about protecting properties… 

Before a flood

Steady rain, saturated land and heavy downpours are all flood contributors.

As the wet weather approaches, your landlord clients may have properties at-risk.

Share these tips to help them prepare the rental in case of flooding:

  • Check the property has a landlord insurance policy in place that covers flood. Tip: Not all policies do. Unlike EBM RentCover policies, many insurers only offer flood cover as an optional extra – it’s automatically included in all EBM RentCover landlord products. Check your policy for cover limits and terms and conditions. 
  • Know the flood risks in the area and, if possible, find out how high flood waters could rise inside and outside the property.
  • Consider moving electricals such as power outlets and other services like heaters, above the expected high-water mark.   
  • Channel water to drain away from the property.
  • Install flood protections, such as flood vents in foundation walls, garages and other enclosed areas, or an exterior flood wall to protect utilities, window wells or stairs against low-level flooding.
  • Make sure the property is water-tight. Check the roof for leaks and damage. Ensure window and door frames are well sealed. Seal any cracks in the foundation and exterior walls. 
  • Make sure gutters, drains and down pipes are free-flowing and in good repair. If stormwater drains outside the property boundary are blocked, notify the council.
  • Check that any chemicals or poisons in sheds etc. are stored well above ground level.
  • Have a supply of sandbags at the property.
  • Consider alternatives to carpet floor coverings.
  • Make sure the property is adequately maintained – neglecting maintenance can void an insurance policy. 

After a flood

If a property on your rent roll is damaged during a flood, you may need to assist your landlords in making an insurance claim. To help streamline the claims process, we suggest the following steps:

1. Contact the insurer

You should immediately contact the landlord’s insurer and seek guidance on the claims process.

2. Inspect the property

Once the authorities have given the all clear, you can inspect the property (being mindful of the legislated requirements for inspection/entering the premises). Always consider health and safety as the top priority, and do not put yourself at risk.  

3. Prevent further damage

It’s an obligation under insurance cover to ‘act to prevent further loss’.

This means you may need to take reasonable steps to protect the property from more damage such as putting a tarp over a damaged roof, boarding up a broken window or moving undamaged possessions to safety.

Failure to take steps to minimise losses, as soon as it’s safe to do so, could void cover or result in all or some of the claim being denied. 

4. Arrange emergency repairs

Urgent and emergency repairs must be carried out within legislated timeframes. Check with the landlord’s insurer to see if they need to authorise repairs. 

Tip: EBM RentCover policyholders don’t need our permission to organise emergency repairs.

5. Document damage

Grab a notebook and camera. As the policyholder needs to prove that a loss has occurred, take photos/video of all the damage as evidence for the claim. Make a list of damaged and destroyed items with detailed descriptions.

6. Seek quotes for repairs

Check with the insurer about how many quotes you need. 

Tip: At EBM RentCover, you just need one during natural disasters in the first instance (we will let you know if we need more). 

7. Arrange repairs and get a causation report

Ask the repairer to provide a causation report and be sure to keep all receipts.

8. Submit the claim

Gather all the required documentation and submit the claim.

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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Sharon Fox-Slater

Sharon Fox-Slater is the Managing Director of EBM RentCover, which protects more than 165,000 rental properties across Australia. For more info, visit RentCover.com.au.