Will home insurance cover flash flooding and wild weather in NSW?

By Tara McCabe ·

With the so-called “rain bomb” sweeping the east coast of Australia, chances are you’re one of the many Aussies worrying about home insurance right now. Starting last Friday, flash flooding has hit areas of Sydney, the Central Coast of New South Wales and Byron Bay.

The Bureau of Meteorology reported that New South Wales is set to see its heaviest rainfall since 1998, so it’s time to get up to speed with your home insurance flood cover.

If you are one of the many affected by the recent flash floods or you think your area is at risk of flooding, you will want to double check your home insurance policy and see what you’re actually covered for.

While insurers might automatically cover you for storms and rainwater damage, flood cover may come as an optional add-on to your policy.

What is the difference between flood damage and storm damage?

Flood damage and storm damage may seem very similar, but when it comes to insurance, the two terms have very different definitions, which is important to know when taking out a new policy or making a claim.

When insurers refer to ‘flood damage’ they are usually referring to damage caused by an overflowing river, dam or sea water in coastal areas. Storm or ‘storm and rain water’ damage, however, is a much broader term referring to damage caused by high winds or a heavy downpour of rain.

While some insurance policies will automatically cover you for both, others may only cover you for storm or rain water damage with flood damage considered an optional extra.

So if you live in a coastal area or near a river or dam, you’ll want to make sure flood damage is included in your policy, as well as storm damage.

When am I not covered?

Even if you have home insurance, there are a number of instances where your insurer may not cover you for flood, rainwater or storm damage. Here are a few cases in which your insurer may refuse to cover you:

  • If you leave your doors or windows open! If your property sustains water damage due to an open window or door, your insurer may not cover you. So, if your area is experiencing a lot of heavy rainfall, make sure you keep your windows firmly shut while you’re out and about.
  • If your policy is only a few days old. If you have only just taken out a home insurance policy in the last few days, then you may have to wait a little bit for your cover to start (usually around 72 hours, but make sure you double check this). This is definitely something you should check or ask your insurer when signing up for home insurance.
  • If you have ongoing renovation work. If water enters your property due to ongoing renovation or construction work, then your insurer may not cover you for any damage caused. Check your policy for the details of what is not covered and call your insurer for advice, especially if you are thinking about doing any renovations in the near future.
  • If your home is not deemed to have been in good condition. It’s moments like these when you wish you’d sorted out that clogged up gutter, leak or wobbly floorboard sooner. Insurers may choose not to cover you if your home suffers damage and you already had, say a leaky roof, wood rot, a broken window or anything else that may not have helped the situation. Make sure you have repairs seen to as soon as possible and be aware of what is deemed ‘good condition’ in your policy.

As with any type of insurance, it’s always best to make sure you read the full product disclosure statement that comes with your policy and double check with your provider if there’s anything you’re unsure of. 

What about my car? Is that covered for flood damage?

Of course another thing to consider right now is car insurance. You’ve probably seen all the videos of cars being swept away in the floods or at the very least surrounded by water.

Comprehensive car insurance will usually cover your wheels for storm or flood damage, although it is still a good idea to double check this. 

As with most things, there are some instances when your insurer may refuse to cover you. Here are a few examples:

  • If your car is towing a caravan or trailer and you neglect to tell your insurer beforehand. Make sure you tell your provider before you head off on a road trip with your caravan in tow.
  • If you choose to drive through floodwaters. Your insurer may not cover you if you choose to drive through flood affected areas, as this may be deemed ‘reckless’ behaviour or ‘avoidable’ damage. So to avoid not having your car covered for flood water damage, make sure you avoid driving through flood water unless absolutely necessary and try to park on high ground or undercover, if possible.

So if you are tossing up between risking the rain to drive to the shops or bussing it, it may be best to play it safe and leave your wheels at home. 

With a week of rain and possibly more flash flooding ahead, you’ll want to know exactly what you’re covered for, so double-check your insurance policies today. Or, if you don’t yet have insurance then you can take a look at the insurance policies below or head to Mozo’s home insurance comparison page. Just keep in mind that your cover may not kick in for a few days.

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Tara McCabe
Tara McCabe
Money writer

Tara McCabe writes across all areas of personal finance here at Mozo from banking through to insurance. Tara is expert at practical money tips, showing readers ways to live richer and be socially conscious while doing it. She earned a BA (Hons) in English Literature from Canterbury Christ Church University.