What to do if your home is affected by the recent bushfires

Nov 15, 2019
Insurers have already received about 450 claims from NSW and Queensland since the fires broke out last week. Source: Getty

This week, we’ve seen devastating bushfires tearing through NSW and Queensland, destroying more than 200 homes, scorching thousands of hectares of land and claiming four lives – but experts warn the worst could be yet to come.

Insurers have already received over 450 claims from NSW and Queensland since the fires broke out last week.

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA) has now declared a catastrophe in the affected areas, giving top priority to insurance claims directly relating to the fires.

“Insurance assessors are starting to visit a limited number of areas that have been declared safe by emergency services, but dangerous bushfires remain active in many regions,” ICA General Manager Communications Campbell Fuller said in a statement.

“Once insurers are aware of a claim they can swiftly provide appropriate help to the customer, which in many cases may include authorising urgent repairs or arranging emergency accommodation.”

Making an insurance claim can be daunting and overwhelming experience for many, at what is an already stressful time. Speaking to Starts At 60, Sophie Walsh, insurance expert at Finder, details what to do if you’ve been affected by the bushfires.

How do you make a claim after bushfire damage?

If you know your property has been affected, contact your insurer immediately, Walsh advises, explaining that, “your insurer can then let you know what to do.”

If you can’t find your insurance documents, or they’ve been destroyed in the fires, your insurer will be able to find your details on file. If you’re unsure about what company you’re with, the ICA has set up a disaster hotline for anyone with questions about their bushfire insurance and can be contacted on 1800 734 621.

Meanwhile, if you’re stranded and unable to return home, Walsh says most home and contents insurance policies will give you emergency accommodation.

“Ask your insurer if you’re concerned and if they can help with arrangements,” she advises.

When it’s safe to return home, take photos of everything on your property that’s been damaged, as this can help speed up the claims process.

“Keep any items that may be repairable, and only remove items from your property if they pose a damage risk,” she advises.

However, you should wait until you have the green light from your insurer before you start making repairs to your home, Walsh says.

“In catastrophic events like bushfires, they usually send a team in to assess and then their own suppliers and contractors to help with the rebuild and repairs,” Walsh explains.

“Your home and contents insurance policy with fire cover included, should cover the cost to rebuild your home and replace things like furniture inside your home.”

So, when is it too late to take out coverage for bushfires? Walsh says most policies will cover you for bushfires as long as you’ve taken out cover 48-72 hours prior.

“If you wait until a bushfire warning is in place for your area before you take [out coverage], you might not be covered,” she warns.

“Bushfires can happen at anytime, and destroy homes in a matter of minutes, so if you live in an area that’s prone to fires, it’s best to take out a policy as early as possible to make sure you’re covered.”

IMPORTANT LEGAL INFO This article is of a general nature and FYI only, because it doesn’t take into account your financial or legal situation, objectives or needs. That means it’s not financial product or legal advice and shouldn’t be relied upon as if it is. Before making a financial or legal decision, you should work out if the info is appropriate for your situation and get independent, licensed financial services or legal advice.

Have you been affected by the bushfires over the past week?

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