Bill's Media Releases

Floods and storms: your safety and your rights

The Minister for Financial Services Bill Shorten today called for people to put safety issues first during the latest series of floods and storms affecting New South Wales. After personal safety considerations are met, people should be mindful of important matters concerning the protection of their property and their rights.

“Our thoughts are with the people of around 40 communities isolated by flooding, and the 20 000 or so people who are subject to evacuation warnings and orders throughout North East New South Wales,” Mr Shorten said.

“Many people have also experienced damage from storms in and around Sydney this weekend.”

The NSW SES has received more than 10 000 calls and some 4000 requests for assistance. The SES has undertaken 70 flood rescues during these events. The majority of these have been from people who have deliberately entered floodwater.

“I urge people to follow the advice of the NSW SES to not drive, ride or walk through floodwater,” Mr Shorten said.

“Residents who evacuate should only return to their property when emergency services declare it safe to do so," Mr Shorten said.

Again, it is important for rapid recovery from events such as these that the insurance industry exercises diligence and compassion.  “As in the case of all the natural disasters we’ve seen over the last couple of years, I will work closely with the insurance industry in an effort to achieve the best outcome for people affected,” Mr Shorten said.

“Since the 2011 floods, the Government has legislated for a common definition of flood and made insurance policies easier to understand with a requirement for a Key Facts Sheet.  Government funds have also been spent on improving access to flood risk information through a National Flood Risk Information Portal.”

The Insurance Council of Australia has some advice for consumers when processing their claim:

  • Only enter your property when you are satisfied you are not at risk

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to check what your policy includes or excludes, and seek guidance on the claims process

  • Take pictures of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim

  • Remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings

  • Keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor

  • Make a list of each item and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number

  • Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe

  • Speak to your insurer before authorising repairs. Emergency repairs should be undertaken only in the first instance to make the property safe

Things to be aware of in the recovery process:

  • Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk

  • Do not undertake major repairs or employ tradespeople without checking with your insurer – you may not be covered for unauthorised repairs

  • Do not drive your vehicle if it is not roadworthy due to water damage

  • Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired

  • Do not be concerned if you can’t find your insurance papers. Insurers have electronic records and need only your name and address

If you're not sure about which insurer you're with, or have general inquiries about the claims process, call the Insurance Council’s Catastrophe hotline on 1800 734 621

“If you are unhappy with the service your insurer provides, there is a process for addressing your concerns and protecting your rights," Mr Shorten said.

The first step in resolving any dispute is usually seeking a review by the insurer concerned (an internal dispute resolution (IDR)).  The following agencies may be able to assist you in the event of a dispute with your insurer:

Insurance Law Service: 1300 663 464 NSW Legal Aid: 1300 888 529

If you cannot achieve a satisfactory outcome by IDR – you may appeal the insurer's decision through the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).  The FOS can provide you with accessible, independent external dispute resolution that is binding on your insurer.  You can contact the FOS on 1300 78 08 08.


Minister Shorten’s Media Contact: Jessica Lindell 0408 642 804