Storm Damage Vs Flood Damage – Why The Difference Matters

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Reading the fine print on insurance is a task that no one enjoys. However, it is crucial to pay attention to the details of your insurance, especially when it comes to strata properties, so you know the difference between storm and flood damage, and what you are covered for and what is excluded under your Policy.

What is the difference between storm and flood damage?

Insurance providers see a distinct difference between storm and flood damage. Ever since the Queensland floods of 2011, the Insurance Code of Practice has been updated to include a standard definition for flooding.

According to the code, a flood is defined as “the covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of any lake, river, creek or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified, or any reservoir, canal, or dam”.

e.g. If a river breaks it banks resulting in an overflow of water

Storm damage, on the other hand, refers to the influx of water by rainwater, hail, cyclones, tornadoes, and other similar elements.

What to do leading up to a storm?

There are practical steps you can take to stay safe and minimise damage to your property during a storm, including:

  1. Check that guttering and pipes are not blocked and that the roof is well maintained and in good condition
  2. Remove dead/rotting trees and trim branches that overhang your or neighbouring property (check with your OC first as they may already have engaged a professional)
  3. Secure all loose items outside your property, such as garden furniture, umbrellas, sheds, trampolines and cubby houses
  4. If a storm is approaching, close shutters on doors and windows. If there are no shutters close window blinds, drapes and curtains

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What happens if my property is damaged by storm or flood?

After contacting your Strata Manager to lodge the claim with the insurer, the insurance company will usually send an assessor to the property. The assessors undertake investigations into the cause of damage and produce a report on their findings which is then issued to and used by the insurer when deciding whether to accept or reject the claim.

In instances where the assessor cannot figure out the cause of the damage, they will enlist the services of a hydrologist. This is a water specialist who will examine the property and surrounding areas to determine whether the cause of the damage originated from storm water or floodwater. Their report will generally include information such as:

  • The amount of rainfall before the banks were broken
  • Where along the creek/lake/river/dam the water broke
  • The path the water took from where it broke its banks to your property

Why is reviewing my policy important?

Depending on the insurance Policy that has been arranged, you may not be covered for both flood and storm damage and its imperative to understand what you are covered for in the event of a claim. Almost all Strata and Home insurance Policies automatically extend cover for Storm Damage, which is then generally further broken down into the following:

  • Rain – rain that runs off or over the surface of usually dry ground (and can include overflowing water from stormwater drains or gutters).
  • Lightning
  • Storm – a storm, cyclone or severe weather often accompanied by strong winds, rain, lightening, hail, snow or dust
  • Wind/cyclone/ tornado
  • Hail/snow

NB: Under Storm Damage, cover is not provided for:

  • Loss or damage caused by a flood

When it comes to damage caused by flood water, some insurers will exclude this cover entirely, others will offer it as an optional cover (at an additional cost), while others will automatically include it as a standard cover. Generally properties located in flood prone zones will need to pay higher premiums to insure for this cover. Flood mapping varies from insurer to insurer however there are a number that use this tracker.

Whilst generally, the Australian Financial Complaints Authority tends to rule in favour of the consumer when it comes to properties affected by both storm and flood damage (particularly in instances where it is unclear whether the flood damage occurred before or after the storm run-off), it is highly advised to review your insurance policy to make sure there is coverage awarded to all eventualities. For your strata insurance policy, we suggest contacting your strata manager to help clarify what cover has been included and how to best lodge a claim.

Jamesons Strata Management is here to help with everyday strata matters and reliable strata management services. Contact us today if you’d like to make the change.

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