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How to prepare for a flood insurance claim

Affected by floods? Here are the steps you should take.

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CHOICE staff
CHOICE staff
Last updated: 01 March 2022
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Checked for accuracy by our qualified fact-checkers and verifiers. Find out more about fact-checking at CHOICE.

With parts of Queensland and NSW already affected by floods and many people still at risk over the coming days, here we outline some simple steps to help Australians who need to prepare for insurance claims.

"Natural disasters can be one of the most complex issues to navigate when it comes to insurance," says CHOICE insurance expert, Jodi Bird.

"We know it's a stressful time for many Australians already impacted or at risk of floods, but there are some simple things you can do right now to make things easier should you need to make a claim."

1. Make sure your insurance documents are on hand

If you have hard copies of your insurance documents, make sure they are packed in your bag ready to take with you if you need to evacuate your home. Having paper copies on hand, as well as easy access to digital versions, will make them easier to refer to if you need to speak to your insurer.

2. Check your cover

If you're not sure exactly what you are covered for, now is the time to find out. Get to know the details of your policy inside and out, including what you may not be covered for. All this detail will be in your PDS – product disclosure statement – given to you when you bought the cover. 

Keep in mind that many insurance policies come with waiting periods for flood, usually 48–72 hours

If you think you want to take out flood cover for the immediate future, keep in mind that many insurance policies come with waiting periods for flood, usually 48–72 hours. You'll have to serve this waiting period if you weren't previously insured, are upgrading your cover, or are increasing your sum insured amount.

3. Take photos of everything

When it comes to insurance claims, your smartphone is your friend. Take photos all across your home now – major features of the property, valuable possessions and anything that can help you demonstrate the before and after.

Also take photos or make hard copies of any receipts for larger items in case you need to prove their value.

Store these photos in the 'cloud', which means you'll be able to access them anytime from any internet-connected device, no matter where you are. If you need to make a claim and it's safe to do so, take extensive photos of the damage. Find out more about cloud storage here.

4. Contact your insurer

Don't worry about making a claim until you and your property are safe and secure. 

Then you should contact your insurer. Bear in mind that many insurers may be experiencing high call volumes, so be patient.You may like to contact your insurer via phone or online, depending on the circumstances and the claims process of your insurer. 

Whichever way you proceed, it's important that you keep a record of all interactions you have with them. If necessary, they'll send someone to do initial make-safe repairs to prevent further damage. Getmore advice on how to make a claim on home and contents insurance.

5. Prepare for next time

If the worst has happened and you do not have adequate protection from floods, take some time to prepare should this happen again.

Jodi Bird says: "While most insurers cover flood as per the standard definition of 'flood' that CHOICE advocated for way back in 2011, they may still exclude 'storm surge', where the sea rises above its normal tidal level during a storm or cyclone, and 'actions of the sea', which is generally tidal and wave damage. 

Check that you are insured for enough to cover the cost of your home and all your belongings – and update your cover if you need to

"This is the kind of detail you need to check for in your product disclosure statement, and it is also listed in the CHOICE home insurance comparison, so you can see at a glance which insurers cover it and which don't."

You should also check that you are insured for enough to cover the cost of your home and all your belongings – and update your cover if you need to or shop around for a better deal.

Rising building costs

Most insurers automatically increase the amount every year, but it pays to do your own assessment. 

Labour and supply shortages attributed to the COVID-19 pandemic have increased building costs, and the costs to rebuild often increase after a natural disaster anyway, as demand for builders and materials surges when a large number of buildings have been damaged. Older houses that have been damaged may also need to be upgraded to meet higher building standards. 

Treat your insurer's calculator with a grain of salt and consider getting an estimate from a builder.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.