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March 31, 2023

Flood rebuilds hampered by ‘like-for-like’ insurance clause

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Attempts by flood-affected homeowners to retrofit their homes with flood-resilient materials are being cruelled by insurance companies and builders, a local resident says.

And some are getting so fed up with the process that they are electing to sell up and move on.

Mullumbimby resident, Susan Fell, was among many locals whose home went under during last year’s Feburary/March floods.

Since then, she has been engaged in an ongoing battle to have the internal walls and fittings in her home replaced with others made from materials that can withstand flooding.

‘I’ve said from the start that I want to employ the industry standard for using resilient materials in the rebuild,’ Ms Fell said.

‘But, like most insurance companies, mine has a had a ‘like-for-like’ clause in its policies for flood damage.

‘That basically means it will only replace the old plaster and chipboard with more plaster and chipboard. The next time there’s a flood, the same thing will happen, and I’ll be out of my home for a year waiting for it all to be repaired.’

Resilient materials refused by builder

Ms Fell said she had finally convinced the insurance company to come to the table on the issue, only for the contracted builder to refuse to do the work.

‘I received a letter that basically said the builder was refusing to use resilient materials because, in his opinion, I wanted to make ‘too many alterations to the insurance policy’.

‘It seems very unfair. The builders are getting plenty of money out of this, and they can just say “No” to someone like me and move on and fix the houses of other people who have agreed to replace like with like.’

Ms Fell said that these and other problems were being experienced by many in the local community, particularly older women.

‘We’ve started a group with regular weekly meetings in Mullum, and one of the main reasons is that no one is helping elderly women.’

‘People are getting so distressed.

‘Many are just going to sell their homes, as a frame, for a significant loss and move elsewhere.’

Local social worker, Julie Walker, confirmed Ms Fell’s comments, adding that the situation was causing great distress.

‘There’s [also] incredible frustration around the interactions with government organisations,’ Ms Walker says.

‘People are feeling really unsupported’.

‘The only time people felt heard was from the local grassroots organisations.’ 

She also said the upcoming anniversary of the floods was bringing up ‘significant trauma’.

‘The lack of certainty is also very distressing – people can only live in limbo for a certain period of time’.

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  1. This should be a straightforward approach of the homeowner getting paid for a like-for-like repair job, and then topping up the budget to do a better job.

    For those who got insured by a stupid insurance company that is contemptuous of all those it insures outside of floodplains – who they are now slugging to pay for this stupidity

  2. Two pieces of advice regarding flood insurance.
    1. Best of all don’t buy it in the first place. Insurance companies are basically bookmakers who charge exorbitant premiums. You can get better odds at the TAB. Much better to simply put that amount of money aside in a special account and then claim all the disaster benefits that are usually available to homeowners.
    2. If you feel that you must have insurance then take any insurance payout as a lump sum.
    Either way you are then in control and can start repairs very quickly and in the way that you want without the wrangling and delays involved in making an insurance claim.
    Graham Askey
    South Lismore flood survivor.


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