Storm damage or flood damage? The difference may impact your body corporate insurance

While the finer nuances around storm damage and flood damage are being debated between insurance providers and the body corporate community, property owners are being drowned in repair costs as they battle for insurance claims.

strata Storm damage or flood damage
When it comes to insurance, the fine-print and wriggle-room can frustrate anybody on a regular day. However, when your body corporate property has been devastated by water damage and you’re looking at losses worth hundreds of thousands of dollars, finding out if it’s being caused by storm damage or flood damage and such technicalities would probably be the last thing on your mind.

To insurance companies however, the source of the water causing the damage can decide whether you’re entitled to getting your insurance claims paid or not. In Queensland, body corporate properties are being hard hit in the recent spate of bad weather, and possibly exposing some grey areas regarding body corporate insurance cover for weather damage.

What’s causing the frustration?

  • The fine-print and definitions

Certain body corporate insurances may not cover flood damage from storms and rainwater runoff, which may put the property owners on the back foot when this kind of damage occurs. Determining the cause of the flood and the nature of resulting damage can at times be tricky, and therefore owners could get locked in long, tedious insurance battles. Pay special attention to some of the nuances such as the definition of “flood” within the policy which ideally means overflowing groundwater from lakes, rivers, dams, etc.

  • Varied expert reports

At times the issue is complicated further as various water experts reports don’t agree with each other. Body corporates and insurance companies arrange their own hydrologists and technical experts to determine the cause of damage, while insurers deep dive into the implications.

Often there is a delay in verifying the details within the hydrologist’s reports.

What does Queensland’s law say?

The legislation can be complex and different rules may apply in different property types. Although insurance is part of the rules set out in the regulation modules, the onus lies on body corporate to know which regulation module applies to their property and seek insurance protection accordingly.

What can you do to protect your property?

When buying into a body corporate, you should take care to:

  • Understand the insurance related rules set out in the regulation modules specific to your property type.
  • Compare the different insurers and policies as they can contain different levels of cover, general definitions, general conditions and general exclusions.
  • Check with your body corporate about the insurance history of the property and request any records from the archives to help you make the right insurance choice.
  • Get in touch with your body corporate manager and seek additional independent advice from a body corporate insurance specialist to get clarity regarding the content of your preferred insurance policy.
  • Contact your insurer or broker to check the extent of cover provided and discuss the process for lodging a claim in case damage happens in the future.
  • In case your property has suffered weather damage, document the details and retain evidence in the form of photos, videos, emails and other conversation records damage before you begin cleaning up after the storm for referencing during claims.
  • Keep track of any insurance claim-related legal cases that have set precedent in your state to stay aware of your rights as a property owner.

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