Flooded Rochester residents say they are still battling with insurers

Representative body issues reminders for insureds

Flooded Rochester residents say they are still battling with insurers

Catastrophe & Flood

By Roxanne Libatique

Several residents in Rochester, Victoria, affected by the October floods have said that they continue to battle their insurers for claims while waiting for their homes to be rebuilt.

Stephen Harris is among the Rochester residents living in a caravan while waiting for their homes to be rebuilt. In an interview with ABC, he said the claims process was taking a toll on him and his family.

“Nothing’s going anywhere, and there’s nothing we can do about it,” Harris told ABC. “We’re just being left in this dead hole, in the middle of summer – which is a fantastic time to be without a house – living in a caravan and just waiting … forever waiting.”

Looking back to the October flood’s impact on his home, Harris claimed that the floodwater went through his home and damaged everything in it. However, his insurer “tried to avoid saying it was a direct result of the flood by saying it was soil mitigation and tree proximity to the house, that it wasn’t the result of a singular event of the flood coming through.”

Harris further claimed that his insurer agreed that everything from the flooring up needed to go, but he and the insurer debated over the stumps of the house, with the insurer claiming that “the fact that the house has dropped 66 millimetres in one room is not a result of the flood.”

“I have video footage that shows the pressure of the floodwater digging a one-metre-deep hole under the back fence, being funnelled down the side of the house that has dropped the most,” he said.

Insurance Council of Australia responds to Rochester residents’ claims

The Insurance Council of Australia (ICA), which has been holding in-person customer meetings, said it could not comment on individual claims.

However, an ICA spokesperson reminded flood-affected customers to “use the internal and external complaints processes available to all insurance customers.”

The ICA spokesperson further stated that each insurer had underwriting criteria that it would use to determine the risk of individual policies, for new policies and renewals, and across policy categories.

“Given the intense flooding that many parts of Australia have been experiencing over the past two years, some insurers are reassessing flood risk across their portfolio,” the ICA spokesperson said.

Calls for improving the cyclone reinsurance pool

As Australia remains vulnerable to extreme weather events, insurers have called on the federal government to improve its cyclone reinsurance pool (CRP).

Allianz, the global insurer that became the first insurance company to officially join the CRP, argued that the scheme must cover floods across Australia.

“If the floods of 2022 have proven anything, it’s that affordability of flood cover is a national problem and not confined to northern Australia or flooding related to cyclones,” said Nicholas Scofield, chief corporate affairs officer for Allianz Australia. “Allianz is of the view that the government should provide subsidised reinsurance through the ARPC for flooding everywhere in Australia.”

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