Recent bushfire crisis: My home insurer refused to renew my policy. What do I do?

Recent bushfire crisis: My home insurer refused to renew my policy. What do I do?

The recent bushfires across the country have had devastating effects on the lives of so many Australians. Many have lost homes, treasured possessions and most terribly, a family member or friend.

Recently, we have had clients call us to seek advice on their rights in respect of their home insurance. Some overlooked paying their insurance premium. When they were told to evacuate their homes, they rang their insurer to check that their policy was current and were told that they had not paid the premium and therefore the policy had expired. They asked to pay the premium immediately to renew the policy. However, their insurer refused to renew the policy due to the high risk of bush fires in the area.

Notice Provided by Your Insurer

The Insurance Contracts Act provides that an insurer must notify an insured customer in writing no later than 14 days before the expiration of their policy stating that their policy will expire if not renewed or negotiated in that time.

It is important to note that if the insurer did not provide this notice, even though you did not renew your policy, the policy is taken to continue as if you had renewed for the period of the original policy. So it is important to check first whether you have received this notice.

In August of 2019, a similar event occurred where Coles Insurance declined to continue coverage for properties classified in high-risk flood zones in NSW. Coles Home Insurance informed customers with properties in Waterside Estate that it would terminate policies in the area at their time of renewal due to the outlined flood risks in the region. The customers could elect to have the decision reviewed.

Special Circumstances

However, you might be able to show that there were special circumstances that made it impossible for you to renew your policy. These may include that you were overseas, or severely ill and in hospital.

Seeking Legal Advice

It is important to be fully aware of your insurance renewal date and ensure your insurer is keeping you accurately informed about the status of your policy.

If you would like further information regarding building insurance or general litigation or insurance advice, please do not hesitate to contact one of our experienced litigation solicitors on 9963 9800 or via email at [email protected].

The team at Etheringtons would also like to extend our heartfelt sympathies to all those affected by the recent bushfires and commend the hard work and sacrifice by the fire fighters.