What to do if you are affected by floods in Queensland

ASIC has outlined practical steps to take for communities affected by flooding in Far North Queensland following ex-Tropical Cyclone Jasper.

On 18 December 2023, the Insurance Council of Australia declared a significant event for regions of Far North Queensland impacted by severe weather and flooding over the past week.

ASIC Commissioner Alan Kirkland said there was support available for people affected by the natural disaster.

‘This is a difficult time for many Australians across Far North Queensland who are facing devastation, uncertainty, and heartbreak only days before Christmas. The road to recovery for an event such as this will be long, and as people begin to return home and the clean-up commences, it’s important to know the first steps to take.’

During a natural disaster, safety should always be your priority
Individuals affected by flooding should follow the instructions of local authorities and emergency services and only return to your property when it’s safe to do so.

When it is safe to return to your property, assess the damage. Take photos or videos of any damage to provide to your insurer and prioritise removing spoiled food, water or mud-damaged goods from your property that might pose a health risk.

You should discuss any repairs with your insurer before taking action. Keep receipts if you replace essential items (for example whitegoods or bedding). 

If water has entered the property, do not turn on your electricity until it has been inspected by an electrician. If there is a risk of structural damage, do not enter the building until a qualified person has assessed the building’s structural soundness. If you need help arranging these services, contact your insurer. 

Contact your insurer or broker to make your claim
‘Ask your insurer or broker to explain how to make a claim and lodge it as soon as possible. You may be able to save time by lodging your claim by phone or online,’ Mr Kirkland said.

Your insurer may take time to send someone to assess your claim because of difficulty accessing the area and because of the volume of claims. Keep communicating with your insurer throughout the claims process and ask questions if you don’t understand something.

If you can’t remember who you are insured with, check your bank statements (including online) for your premium payments, or call the Insurance Council of Australia’s disaster insurance hotline on 1800 734 621. 

Financial help is available
‘Speak to your insurer early and often following an event like this. They may be able to provide you with emergency accommodation, financial support and other information and services,’ Mr Kirkland said.

If you think you will be unable to meet your financial obligations, contact your lender as soon as possible to discuss assistance that might be available to you. Find out if you are eligible for financial support by visiting the Services Australia website.

Watch out for scams
Be on the lookout for unscrupulous operators in the aftermath of natural disasters. They may claim to help identify damage to your property with a free inspection.

‘Be wary of anyone who asks for payment up-front or who asks you to sign a contract immediately. Do not agree to sign anything that prevents you from dealing directly with your insurer or broker. If in doubt, contact your insurer directly using the phone number on your policy documents or on their main website,’ Mr Kirkland said.

You should also make sure any tradesperson you are dealing with is properly licensed. For Queensland, these checks can be conducted through the Queensland Building and Construction Commission’s online portal.

Finalise your insurance claim
Insurers may offer to provide a cash settlement, or alternatively may offer to manage the repairs.

Mr Kirkland said, ‘If you’re given a choice, take time to consider which option is more appropriate for you, including whether a cash settlement will be sufficient to make the repairs. Your insurer might be in a better position to find and organise tradespeople, especially following a natural disaster.’

Visit Moneysmart
Visit ASIC’s Moneysmart website for further information on what to do after a natural disaster and to find contact details for free legal services, financial counsellors and crisis support services.

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