Renters flood insurance: What to do if your rental property is affected by flood or storm water damage

A man and woman sit on the couch and gaze nervously around their flooded rental home

Tenants and landlords both have rights and responsibilities in the aftermath of disaster. Since floods don’t discriminate, everyone should have a plan in place to protect their valuables – especially the one in five Australians at risk from elevated La Niña rainfall.

If your rental property has been affected by storm or flood water damage, here are the basics you need to know.

Immediate aftermath of flood damage

If your rental home has been affected by flood or storm damage, or if you’ve had to evacuate, contact your property manager as soon as it’s safe to do so. From there, they will inspect the property and determine how to deal with the damage – or the property is even habitable. 

Always have a copy of your lease accessible (such as in your email or cloud storage) so that you know your rights and obligations.

A man and woman stand on a wet floor in gum boots while calling their landlord on a mobile phone

Rental home declared uninhabitable

If the property manager declares your rental home uninhabitable, you have two options: terminate your lease, or continue your lease. 

If you choose to terminate the lease by mutual agreement with your landlord, they will do so immediately and refund you any overpaid rent, sometimes from the day you evacuated. This ceases any obligations between either party. If you can’t reach a mutual agreement with your landlord, you can serve them a written notice on the basis that the property is uninhabitable.

However, if you choose to continue your tenancy, you and the landlord can negotiate to waive rent until it’s safe for you to move back in. (Just be sure to put this all in writing.)

Rental home damaged but still habitable

If the damage is relatively minor and there is no safety risk, you can choose to stay in the property until repairs are finished. Negotiate in good faith with the landlord for a rent reduction to compensate for inaccessible parts of the property. (Again, get this in writing).

If the damage is severe enough, then you may have to seek temporary alternative accommodation. Your landlord should waive your rent for the duration of repairs. Depending on the terms of your lease, you may be entitled to reimbursement for temporary accommodation – but if your lease doesn’t say this, then they’re not under any obligation to help you.

Make sure your Home Emergency Plan includes temporary accommodation measures, so you know where to go ahead of time.

A rental home living room under brown floodwater

Refunding your bond and covering damaged belongings

In a nutshell: your landlord isn’t responsible for your belongings. This means that you aren’t entitled to reimbursement for any valuables damaged by flooding. 

Even worse: you could be on the hook for removal costs if the landlord has to clean out your stuff. If this happens, they’ll likely take the fees out of your bond.

As a financial safety cushion, consider taking out contents insurance for your belongings.

“​​Contents insurance is designed to help cover the cost of loss or damage to the contents of your home,” explains Allianz Australia’s Mark O’Connor. This applies to everything that is not permanently attached to the rental home or address, including:

  • Furniture and furnishings
  • Clothes and shoes
  • Electronic devices
  • Unfixed white goods and appliances
  • Pot plants
  • Medical equipment and aids.

Policies won’t automatically cover everything, and some exclusions may apply depending on your specific product disclosure statement (PDS). Add all your most valuable possessions to your policy specifically so that you’re adequately covered.

Household clean up after a flood or storm

If it is safe to do so, separate your belongings into the following rubbish categories:

  • Food waste
  • Hard bulk waste
  • Green waste
  • Scrap metal, including white goods and e-waste
  • Hazardous materials or chemicals.

This makes rubbish collection easier. Most councils will waive collection fees or put out special satellite bins to flood affected areas, so be sure to follow any specific directions given to you by the authorities. 

While working, protect yourself from exposure, insect bites, and contact with floodwater by wearing protective clothing and sunscreen. Be careful of electrical damage and never enter structurally compromised properties. For further reading on safety guidelines, check out the NSW Government’s flood clean up advice.

If you’re not in a position to clean up the property yourself, there are specialist removalist services you can hire to do it for you. While it can be annoying to pay for something out of pocket (if it’s not covered by your insurance), it’s better to do it yourself than rely on your landlord. That way, you can keep your bond intact – and prevent any bad marks from appearing on your rental history.

How to make a claim on contents insurance after a flood

Speak to your insurance provider before undertaking any unauthorised work. Otherwise, you may not be covered for anything retrieved or repaired, including salvageable items.

Once they give you the go ahead, though, your provider can walk you through their claims process. 

Suncorp’s Kelly Green recommends you take photos, videos, or detailed write-ups of anything you’re throwing out. This way, you have a record of what’s been lost and supporting evidence for when you lodge a contents insurance claim. 

Be sure to keep records of anything that can be saved, too, so you can claim repair costs. Store any salvaged items in a safe place where they won’t pose a health risk.

Comprehensive car insurance may even have flood cover for your vehicle, too, so document evidence of any damage and speak to your insurance provider.

Note: most insurance providers won’t pay out on policies less than three days old, or on policies taken out after the damage happened, so be sure to have a policy in place well in advance.

Landlord insurance

Landlord insurance is absolutely a thing. According to Suncorp’s Kelly Green, “In most cases it is the landlord’s responsibility to insure the building you live in, whether that’s a house, townhouse or apartment.”

So the good news is that there should already be a plan in place for handling flood damage. Your landlord may even have contents insurance for specific things that came with the property, like curtains or carpet. However, your things are still your ultimate responsibility, so take a page from their books and have a gameplan for what belongs to you.

For more information, the Tenants’ Union has a full walk-through on disaster damage to assist affected renters.

You can also check out our emergency guide to flood relief, including all the support available for people recently affected by the NSW/Queensland floods.

Compare and save on contents insurance - rates updated daily

Search promoted home insurance below. Advertiser disclosure. Important information on terms, conditions and sub-limits.
  • Contents Insurance

    Main events covered
    • fire
      Fire
    • theft
      Theft
    • storm
      Storm
    • flood
      Flood
      Optional Extra
    Monthly payments
    cost extra
    Calendar icon
    Yes
    Underinsurance protection
    Underinsurance protection icon
    No
    New for old
    replacement
    Replacement icon
    Yes
    Go to site
    Details
  • Everyday Comprehensive Home and Contents Insurance

    Main events covered
    • fire
      Fire
    • theft
      Theft
    • storm
      Storm
    • flood
      Flood
    Monthly payments
    cost extra
    Calendar icon
    Yes
    Underinsurance protection
    Underinsurance protection icon
    No
    New for old
    replacement
    Replacement icon
    Yes
    Go to site
    Details
  • Contents Insurance

    Main events covered
    • fire
      Fire
    • theft
      Theft
    • storm
      Storm
    • flood
      Flood
    Monthly payments
    cost extra
    Calendar icon
    No
    Underinsurance protection
    Underinsurance protection icon
    No
    New for old
    replacement
    Replacement icon
    Yes
    Go to site
    Details
  • Contents Insurance

    Main events covered
    • fire
      Fire
    • theft
      Theft
    • storm
      Storm
    • flood
      Flood
      Optional Extra
    Monthly payments
    cost extra
    Calendar icon
    Yes
    Underinsurance protection
    Underinsurance protection icon
    No
    New for old
    replacement
    Replacement icon
    Yes
    Go to site
    Details
  • Contents Insurance

    Main events covered
    • fire
      Fire
    • theft
      Theft
    • storm
      Storm
    • flood
      Flood
    Monthly payments
    cost extra
    Calendar icon
    Yes
    Underinsurance protection
    Underinsurance protection icon
    No
    New for old
    replacement
    Replacement icon
    Yes
    Go to site
    Details

* Terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and sub-limits may apply to any of the insurance products shown on the Mozo website. These terms, conditions, exclusions, limits and sub-limits could affect the level of benefits and cover available under any of the insurance products shown on the Mozo website. Please refer to the relevant Product Disclosure Statement and the Target Market Determination on the provider's website for further information before making any decisions about an insurance product.

^See information about the Mozo Experts Choice Home Insurance Awards