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Every year Queenslanders are urged to prepare for the summer storm season, which typically occurs between September and March.

Why home maintenance is so important

An important part of storm season preparation is ensuring any maintenance work around the home is up to date.

This can include, but is certainly not limited to, checking your roof, gutters, downpipes and wet areas for any damage or leaks.

While home maintenance isn’t only an issue in storm season, it can exacerbate any damage caused during extreme weather events.

Getting your home and garden in good shape will not only improve your chances of withstanding severe weather events including a natural disaster, it will reduces the changes of maintenance-related issues which can lead to delays in the insurance claim process.

RACQ has broken down the common insurance questions relating to potential maintenance issues:

What impact does property maintenance have on a claim?

Many home insurance policies will only cover loss or damage resulting from an insured event, such as a storm, hail or flood. However, an insurer can’t commence repairs to storm-related damage until any maintenance related issues are resolved as the property could be at risk for further damage if another rain event was to occur.

A common example is cracked tiles on the roof, which then leads to water damage through the ceiling or walls. While the damage would be repaired under the insurance policy, the cracked tiles wouldn’t be covered as this would be considered a pre-existing maintenance issue.

Why doesn’t my insurance policy cover the maintenance issue?

Most insurance policies cover damage caused by insured events, such as storm or flood, and specifically excludes wear and tear or maintenance.  Insurers, consider it to be the homeowner’s responsibility to keep the property well maintained, which is why we encourage residents to take proactive steps to check their property and fix any issues ahead of storm season.

Where an assessment identifies a maintenance related issue (whether it contributed to the loss or not), you will most likely be informed so that you are aware and can minimise the potential for further damage in the future.

What if I can’t afford to repair the maintenance issue before you can repair the insured damage?

Maintenance is an ongoing obligation for the homeowner. Where a policyowner cannot complete the maintenance, your insurer can discuss options, such as pausing insurance repairs until the maintenance can be completed by the home owner or cash settling the repairs so the home owner can pursue alternative option in terms of rectifying the maintenance issue and getting the damage repaired.

How does an insurer know if the damage is related to maintenance?

A builder, assessor or specialist assesses the property damage and will identify if any of the damage has been caused by pre-existing maintenance issues and the damage wasn’t solely a result of an insured event (ie storm, hail or flood). Reports such as a specialist roof report or leak detection test are also used to determine the cause of damage or if any maintenance issue exists.

Maintenance related issues are typically easy to identify as the damage has usually occurred over a longer period of time, or where repairs works are visibly required to an area of the home that is worn or deteriorated.

We know damage from significant weather can be exacerbated by inadequate maintenance, which is why we encourage homeowners to prepare their properties for the summer storm season.

What are some common areas that may not be covered by my insurance policy?

Depending on your insurance company some of the areas below are typically not covered in a home insurance policy:

• Retaining walls
• Pools
• Unsealed driveways
• Washed away dirt or landscaping

This is just a few, and we recommend homeowners read their Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) and any applicable Supplementary Product Disclosure Statement (SPDS), which outlines all the inclusions and exclusion in your insurance policy.

What are some common home maintenance issues?

• Silicone breakdown around flashings
• Leaf debris in gutters/valleys
• Cracking to ridge cap mortar
• Rotting timber from long term wear and tear
• Breakdown of sealant around windows and doors, and shower screens
• Flaking or delaminating paint due to age
• Cracks to plaster joints due to age and general movement
• Cracks to tiles
• Waterproofing breakdown
• Wear and tear to flooring

What are some tips on how to prepare a home for summer storm season?

• Take safety precautions – if a storm or weather event is imminent tie down or store away any outdoor furniture or equipment, move vehicles undercover, secure boats in a safe anchorage, bring pets inside, unplug all appliances and turn off your electricity, if there is the risk of windows breaking tape windows in an X pattern with strong packing tape, turn off your gas and water in a cyclone and if you are evacuating, lock all doors and windows and make sure you get your emergency kit ready.

• Roof condition – have the condition of your roof checked ahead of summer and repair loose tiles, eaves, rusty screws/sheets and cracked or broken guttering or flashing.

• Gutters and down pipes – clean gutters and downpipes to ensure they are free from leaves or other debris and that water can drain away as quickly as possible.

• House repairs – fix any corrosion, loose fittings, rotting timber

• Overhanging branches – Trim trees and overhanging branches that are close to your home, shed, garage or other buildings on your property.

• Standing water – empty water from any containers and paddling pools that aren’t frequently emptied in the yard to prevent mosquito’s breeding which can spread diseases.

After a weather event hits, and when it’s safe to do so, we encourage all insurance policy holders to lodge their claim as soon as they can. The sooner we have your information, the sooner we can start the assessment process. All claims are considered on an individual basis.

Home maintenance resources:

Things to note: The information in this article has been prepared for general information purposes only and is not intended as legal advice or specific advice to any particular person. Any advice contained in the document is general advice, not intended as legal advice or professional advice and does not take into account any person’s particular circumstances. Before acting on anything based on this advice you should consider its appropriateness to you, having regard to your objectives and needs

Thanks to the RACQ for this good information

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