If you’ve been affected by a natural disaster or extreme weather event, and you have insurance, you should be able to get some compensation for financial loss. This section covers:
- what types of insurance there are and what sort of things are covered,
- what to do and not do when making an insurance claim, and
- what help is available if you don’t have insurance cover.
Insurance policies (even of the same type) vary in what they cover. It is important to check the wording of your specific policy.
Different types of insurance
What does home insurance cover?
Home insurance (also called “residential building” insurance) typically covers damage to your home, outbuildings like sheds and garages, as well as fences, decks, driveways, drains and pipes, gas lines, inground pools, aerials and satellite dishes, built-in appliances, and carpets/fixed floor coverings. It is unlikely to cover damage to the contents of the home (see: “What does contents insurance cover?”)
Depending on the wording of your insurance policy, you might have cover for:
- all sudden, unforeseen, and accidental damage from all causes, or
- damage from defined causes such as fire, theft, flood, storm, or earthquake.
Your policy might fully cover the cost of the repairs (called a “full replacement policy”), or cover might be capped at a maximum amount that the insurer will pay (called “sum insured”). You should check your policy to see which type of cover you have.
What does contents insurance cover?
Contents insurance covers the damage and loss of things in your home that aren’t attached or fixed to the building. Typically, contents insurance covers things like household possessions, furniture, curtains/blinds, un-attached appliances, clothes, jewellery, sporting equipment, and portable pools and spa pools.
Most contents insurance policies cover all causes of damage, including burglary, fire, natural disasters (like floods, storms, and earthquakes), and accidental damage. However, some basic policies only cover more limited “defined events”. You should check your policy document to see which cover you have.
What does motor vehicle insurance cover?
There are typically three types of motor vehicle insurance:
- third party liability: this covers the damage you cause to someone else’s vehicle and/or property
- third party, fire and theft: this covers damage you cause to someone else’s vehicle and/or property, and damage caused by fire and theft to your own vehicle
- comprehensive: this covers the damage you cause to other people’s vehicles or property, as well as the accidental loss of or damage to your motor vehicle.
Check your policy for what causes of damage are covered by your insurance. If your car has been damaged by flooding, it’s likely that you can only make a claim if you have “comprehensive” car insurance.
A standard motor vehicle policy is unlikely to cover other vehicles you might own such as boats, motorcycles, caravans, or commercial vehicles. You will need to check whether you have separate insurance for these vehicles.
What does residential land insurance cover?
This type of insurance is only available through EQCover, which is a type of natural disaster insurance that was set up by the government. If you have an insurance policy for your residential building that includes fire insurance (which most policies do) then you automatically have EQCover.
It generally covers damage to the land under or around your home. For more information about what is included, see: “EQC and Insurance”.
What does commercial property insurance cover?
This type of insurance covers damage to a company’s physical assets, for example, buildings, stock, plant and machinery, furniture and computers. Depending on your policy, cover may also be provided for damage to vehicles belonging to the company.
Commercial property insurance is typically tailored to a company’s specific needs, but it can include cover for damage caused by natural disasters, fire, flood, accidental damage, theft and vandalism, breakdowns in service machinery, and may also cover losses caused by interruption to business, for example for the loss of income. You should check your company’s policy for the causes of damage that it covers.
What does plant and equipment insurance cover?
This type of insurance is generally used by industries that operate remotely or rely on mobile plant and equipment to operate their business. It covers damage to things like portable tools, and mobile or fixed machinery. This could include bobcats, bulldozers, dumpers, earthmoving equipment, and forklifts.
Plant and equipment insurance is usually tailored to a company’s specific needs, but it can include cover for damage caused by natural disasters, fire, flood, accidental damage, theft and vandalism, and breakdowns in service machinery. You should check your company’s policy for the causes of damage that it covers.
Making an insurance claim: What to do, and what not to do
If you think you have insurance which covers damage you have suffered, then you should file a claim with your insurer as soon as it is possible to do so safely.
There are a few things that you can do to maximise the chances of your claim being resolved quickly and successfully:
- Follow the advice of the National Emergency Management Agency and your local authority.
- Check that what you’re claiming for is covered under your policy
- Be clear to the insurer what it is you are claiming.
- If you can, get together the following information before you make your claim:
- Your policy number
- The details of what happened and when
- Proof of ownership (for contents and motor vehicle insurance)
- Police reports (where theft or burglary has occurred)
- Photos of the damage, where possible.
- Put yourself or others at risk where there are continuing hazards.
- Wait to contact your insurer – you should contact them as soon as it is possible to do so safely.
- Wait to start making your home safe or removing flood damaged property – where it is safe, you can do this before your claim has been approved.
What if I don’t have insurance?
If you don’t have insurance, there are still ways you can access support. Go to your council website for information about support available locally, and check out our disaster relief guides on financial support, credit and debt, and temporary accommodation.