The severe weather of the weekend has left many Kiwis with a lengthy clean up, especially those in Westport and the Buller District. As people start to return home the Insurance Council of New Zealand – Te Kāhui Inihui o Aotearoa – has some useful tips and advice.

“Those in the affected areas will be turning their attention to clearing the damage and getting things back to normal,” says Tim Grafton, Chief Executive ICNZ. “As communities start assessing the scale of the event and the needs of those affected, such as short-term and medium-term accommodation for those whose homes are uninhabitable, insurers are here to help.”

ICNZ says insurers have been supporting their customers since the red weather warning was issued by Metservice last week. “Importantly, for those who don’t have certainty on when they will be able to return home, be assured that your insurer will be there for you when you’re ready and able to get in touch to lodge your claim.”

Mr Grafton says that due to limited or no access to some areas the recovery process may take some time. “It won’t be until the areas are fully accessible over the course of the week before insurers assessors will be able to get to the affected places to review the damage and what’s needed for the recovery. Clearing silt, drying out houses, getting resources and tradespeople into the region to undertake repairs will all take time and insurers will do everything they can to help their customers as quickly as possible.”

The following list provides some steps to help with the response and to support a smooth claim process.

  • If your property is damaged, contact your insurance provider as soon as possible.
  • If you rent your property, contact your landlord and your contents insurance provider as soon as possible.
  • Take photos and videos of any damage and note down the details of valuable items.
  • If it’s safe, don’t dispose of anything until you’ve spoken to your insurer as it will help speed up the assessment of your claim.
  • Throw away food and drinking water that has come into contact with floodwater, including canned goods.  Be sure to take photos of perishable or unsanitary items before you dispose of them.
  • Always wear protective gear, including gloves and masks, in case you’re exposed to hazardous material.  Most flood waters are sewage polluted.
  • If you can, clean and dry your house and everything in it, this is because when things get wet for more than two days, they usually get mouldy.
  • If you need to, make your home safe, sanitary and weather-tight but if possible don’t do non-essential repairs. Get essential services repaired and keep copies of invoices.
  • Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk or causes more damage to your property.
  • Get gas and electrics checked before using any appliances.
  • Be wary of wet machinery or electrical items. This means that if your car has been submerged in water don’t turn it on or attempt to drive it. Similarly, don’t use any appliances or machinery, like chainsaws, that may have been water damaged.
  • Help others if you can, especially people who may require special assistance.

ICNZ notes that for those with homes that are uninhabitable they may be eligible for a temporary accommodation benefit included in most home and contents policies, and to ask their insurer what support they can offer.

Customers will have a single point of contact for their claim with private insurers now managing EQCover claims on behalf of the Earthquake Commission (EQC). “This includes some damage to residential land within 8m of the house caused by flooding or landslips, or damage to residential properties caused by landslips, so be sure to let your insurer know if you have any damage so they can help and get the get the right people out to assess your residential property and / or land,” says Mr Grafton.

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