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Townsville revisited: unhappy customers 'don't tell whole story'

April 11, 2019

The insurance industry is standing by its response to devastating flooding in Townsville despite television reports focusing on residents’ complaints.

The north Queensland city was hit by unprecedented rainfall in February, which led to more than 25,000 insurance claims valued at more than $1 billion.

Channel 9’s A Current Affair last night reported on the victims “battling” insurers for payouts “months after” the event.

The show highlights businessman Mike Adlard who says QBE won’t pay because he didn’t have flood cover, and single mum Donna Lloyd who did not have flood for her home.

Comments suggest customers still don’t understand the difference between storm cover and flood, which has been clearly defined since 2012.

“They said ‘No, well, you don't have flood insurance’, but it still came in, it still flooded,” Ms Lloyd told the programme.

“Rain comes from the sky so it has to fill up somewhere, and unfortunately it was here.”

Lee Lane and Joanne Chambers both own units in the same Townsville complex and say Vero told them their body corporate doesn’t have flood insurance – leaving them with no compensation for damage to their homes.

What do you think? Post a comment at the bottom of this article.

ICA spokesman Campbell Fuller told insuranceNEWS.com.au he does not believe the Channel 9 case studies reflect the true situation.

According to ICA figures, $230 million has already been paid out in repairs, services, emergency accommodation and replacement items, and 25% of critical home building claims have already been fixed.

“We are aware that A Current Affair spent a long time trying to find bad case studies,” he said.

“Out of more than 25,000 claims, 0.3% have been denied.”

Mr Fuller accepts “a large proportion” of Townsville business owners and strata managers went without flood insurance, but says it was their choice not to take out the cover, which was widely available.

Some residents say their homes were damaged by storm water before being inundated for a second time by floodwater after the Ross River Dam was opened.

Mr Fuller says insurers would use hydrologists to determine the cause of damage and some claims could be part-paid.

A Current Affair again featured Queensland claims adviser David Keane, who has been holding meetings in Townsville for unhappy insureds.

But Mr Fuller says “in most cases” claims advisers offer little that policyholders can’t achieve themselves by talking to their insurer.

QBE declined to comment to Channel 9 citing privacy, but Vero says it has approached claims “with fairness and compassion”.

“Commercial customers, including strata management, typically need to ‘opt in’ to flood cover,” its statement says.

“While flood is automatically covered for consumers, the insurance risk is assessed differently for businesses. Flood exposure varies enormously across a postcode and even a street, and therefore needs to be individually underwritten, at the request of the business.

“If the property doesn’t have flood cover, many may be covered for storm water damage. We have offered to pay for hydrology reports for any claim where clarity is required, and many of the businesses and commercial strata properties we insure have taken up this offer.

“Where flooding has been identified in these reports, we have also offered a second hydrology report (again paid for by Vero) to confirm this finding.”

Vero says strata claims “can be complex” due to building cover being taken out by the body corporate, not the resident.

“In relation to strata claims, a significant proportion of claims on broker sourced polices appear to have been caused by flood damage. However, we still expect to accept more than half of claims we have received.”

ICA research shows that Herbert, which includes Townsville, is Australia’s most flood prone federal electorate. 

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