The difference between storm damage and flood damage in strata and how they impact strata insurance

When severe weather events occur, it’s important to understand the difference between storm and flood damage and how they affect strata insurance claims

Though storm damage and flood damage can lead to similar types of water damage to a strata property, the distinction between the two can have a bearing on strata insurance claims.

When the recent heavy rain triggered storm damage and floods on the east coast, PICA Group’s Community After Hours helpline received more than 100 calls for New South Wales alone across just two days. The most common issues that came about were major roof leaks, block guttering, flooded basements, major ceiling leaks, power outages, electrical and lighting problems and fallen trees.

When it comes to strata insurance, it can be hard to know the line between what constitutes storm damage, flood damage and a catastrophic event. With the wet weather patterns the east coast of Australia has been experiencing over the last few years, it’s wise to understand this as soon as possible – you never know when you’ll need to make an insurance claim. If you are not prepared, you may need to spend hours trawling through documents and details, which could ultimately delay your claim.

This is why we have broken down the difference between storm, flood and catastrophic damage in strata, to help you differentiate between them if you need to make a related strata insurance claim.Storm damage and flood damage may lead to similar types of water damage to strata properties, but their differences do make a big impact on strata insurance claims. Before making a strata insurance claim for water damage, you should first understand:

  1. The importance of the fine print and definitions
  2. The role expert reports play
  3. What your state’s laws say
  4. How to protect your property from future storm or flood damage

The importance of the fine print and definitions

Determining the cause of the storm or flood and the nature of the resulting damage can be tricky and can leave owners locked in long, tedious strata insurance battles. It is, of course, important to check the definitions of your specific policy. In general, most insurance policies decipher between floodwater, stormwater and catastrophic as:

  • Stormwater: water escaping from places such as drains and channels because it has nowhere else to go
  • Floodwater: water that has escaped from overflowing rivers, damns, creeks, lakes and watercourses
  • A catastrophic weather event: a weather event classified as catastrophic by the Insurance Council of Australia.

The role expert reports play

Committees and insurance companies can arrange to have their own hydrologists or technical experts to determine the cause of water damage. This may be required for a strata insurance claim relating to storm damage or water damage to be approved.

It is not uncommon for various water experts’ reports to disagree with each other, which can complicate the insurance approval process. The most common kind of expert that is engaged within the storm or flood process is a hydrologist; this can sometimes be a lengthy report as details about leaks and issues must be verified.

What your state’s laws say

State legislation can be complicated, and different rules may apply to different property types. When in doubt, always seek expert counsel.

You can learn more about your state’s laws relating to strata living below:

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NSW’s state laws

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Queensland’s state laws

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Victoria’s state lawsThe onus lies on the strata committee and owners to know which legislation, acts or mandatory strata insurance requirements apply to their property. Therefore, it is their responsibility to insure the property to the value necessary and do what it takes to remain compliant.

How to protect your property from future storm or flood damage

Beyond taking out the right strata insurance cover for both your community living environment and your contents, regular repairs and maintenance is key to reducing the impact of flood damage and storm damage across your strata property.

With one in seven homes leaking, even if you never see a flood or a catastrophic event, chances are you’ll have to deal with a leak. Why wait until it happens? Try and prevent damage from the outset.

Simple steps such as being proactive and engaging people to clear pipes and drains may minimise risk. Looking for greener or unusual patches of grass across gardens, looking for drips or dank areas, and maintaining sealants will all help fight against water damage.

What’s more, if some sealants (like waterproofing membranes) aren’t maintained, this can impact whether or not you’ll be insured. When in doubt, always contact your strata insurance provider.

Water damage caused by storms and flooding can wreak havoc on strata properties and their owners and residents. However, gaining a good understanding of how the two types of damage differ, as well as how to navigate strata insurance, will help you get the help you need to fix any water damage that has occurred.

We offer a quality insurance provider in the market. Protect your common property with this comprehensive cover. Available exclusively via select brokers (BCB, BAC, Honan, and Whitbread) to properties managed by PICA Group and backed by QBE and CHU, one of Australia’s largest strata insurers. For a consultation to review your common property insurance or to find out more about our related services, click here. You can also click here to download our FREE Community Living guide series on defects.  If you would like to learn more about the services we offer, click here for a free assessment.