As northern NSW communities mark the one-year anniversary after historic flooding hit the region, local brokers say many residents continue to face a difficult path to rebuild their lives.
Avid Insurance Brokers MD Dave Katschke, based in Alstonville, tells insuranceNEWS.com.au that despite most flood-related claims having been resolved, the process “has not been an easy task,” noting issues with insurers’ handling.
“Overall, the service standard expected from the insurers has not been acceptable to the insureds or brokers,” Mr Katschke said.
“It is not uncommon for our office to contact an insurer on multiple occasions and not receive a response for weeks.”
Mr Katschke says insurers’ actions have placed unnecessary stress on his clientele during a difficult period by complicating claims handling.
“We commonly see multiple claims handlers on a single claim which delays the claim process due to the new claims handler being unfamiliar with previous correspondence/discussions,” Mr Katschke said.
About 10% of Mr Katschke’s clients’ claims remain unresolved due to delays caused by specialists or ongoing Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) complaints.
He says while insurers have provided some clients with temporary accommodation, issues remain due to the “distinct lack of available accommodation within the region”.
“We’ve had insurers agree to hire caravans in place of homes just so that clients have a place to call ‘home’ while repairs are underway,” he said.
As the 12-months offered for most insurers’ temporary accommodation benefits comes to a close, policyholders are now at risk of losing their provided living arrangements.
“For those who have not already done so, we are seeing insureds move back into their partially repaired properties or back with family/friends,” Mr Katschke said.
“For the most part, properties are ‘liveable’ but not restored back to the condition that they were in 12 months ago.”
Beyond issues with claims, locals are facing an ongoing crisis of insurance affordability, with premiums exponentially rising, leaving many lacking the required amount of protection for future events.
“What we’re finding right across Northern NSW is the region has been blanketed as a high-risk zone, not only due to flooding but storms damage as well,” Mr Katschke said.
“A lot of the insurers who used to provide coverage for Home, Landlord & Farm products are declining outright to offer a quote which has severely limited the coverage options for insureds.”
But Mr Katschke spoke highly of the local community’s resilience during the recovery process, saying it has remained united in the face of the devastation.
“Our community is very close with one another and in the face of tragedy, we’ve seen heroes be born,” he said.
“It has been and continues to be a huge battle to rebuild lives and properties all across the region but we are resilient and there is great comfort in knowing that we have one another to lean on in our time of need.”
Claims Manager at Ballina Insurance Brokers Kerry Humphries says many of those with flood cover were provided with temporary accommodation, but needed to stay at their properties to prevent theft.
“Theft is still rife,” she said. “Those with no flood cover had to fend for themselves. Many had to sleep on the floors in their damaged homes.”
She says flood cover is unaffordable, or unavailable.
“As a result, the community will be forced to take cover excluding flood, which will leave them exposed to uninsurance should this type of event occur again.
“Many people are suffering and some will not recover from this event. Mentally and physically many have been pushed to the limit.
“There are many shops closed still in Lismore. This will take years to recover from. If another event of this magnitude occurs in the next one to three years, you could kiss Lismore goodbye.”
insuranceNEWS.com.au – 23/02/2023