Water leaks can be a homeowner’s nightmare. They can cause significant damage to your property and lead to costly repairs. In Australia, common causes of water leaks include burst pipes, leaking taps, faulty appliances, and roof leaks. These leaks can occur due to age, wear and tear, extreme weather, or poor maintenance.

A polling study of 1,011 Australians aged 18-65 by QBE Insurance Australia, found that 77 per cent of people who experienced water damage were at home at the time of the incident, unravelling misconceptions that flooding mostly occurs while out of the home.

Acting quickly and taking the right steps is essential to minimise damage and ensure a successful insurance claim. This guide will walk you through the key steps involved in making a water leak insurance claim in Australia. We will cover how to document the damage, contact your insurer, and navigate the claim process.

Step 1: Immediately Contact Your Insurer

Prompt action is critical when dealing with a water leak. Contacting your insurer as soon as possible is essential for several reasons:

  • Preventing Further Damage: Your insurer can provide guidance on how to minimise damage and prevent further water intrusion. They may recommend immediate steps, such as shutting off the water supply or contacting a plumber for emergency repairs.
  • Documenting the Incident: Your insurer will need detailed information about the leak to process your claim. The sooner you report it, the more accurate and detailed your initial report will be.
  • Starting the Claim Process: Contacting your insurer initiates the claim process. This allows them to start investigating the incident and gathering information.

How to Contact Your Insurer

Your policy documents will contain contact information for your insurer, including their phone number, website address, and claims department details. Here are the ‘Make a claim’ phone numbers for major Australian Home Insurance Providers:

Insurer Phone Number
Suncorp 13 11 55
QBE 13 37 23
Allianz 13 10 13
GIO 13 10 10
AAMI 13 22 44
Coles 133 265 374

What to Include in Your Initial Report

  • Policy Details: Provide your policy number and contact information.
  • Description of the Leak: Clearly describe the location of the leak, the nature of the damage (e.g., burst pipe, leaking tap, roof leak), and the time of discovery.
  • Impact of the Leak: Explain the extent of the damage. For example, describe any visible water damage, affected areas, and potential health risks.

Here is an example of a detailed description that could be used as part of your insurance claim.

I am reporting a water leak in the bathroom of my home located at [your address]. The leak appears to be coming from the shower tap, which is dripping continuously. I discovered the leak at [time of discovery] and have since turned off the water supply to the bathroom. I have observed water damage on the bathroom floor and surrounding walls. There is also a potential risk of mould growth due to the prolonged exposure to moisture.

Step 2: Document the Damage

Comprehensive documentation is crucial for a successful water leak insurance claim. It provides your insurer with a clear picture of the incident and its impact, strengthening your case and expediting the claim process.

Essential Documentation

  • Photographs and Videos: Visual evidence is vital. Capture clear, detailed images and videos of:
  • Leak Source: Take photos of the source of the leak, showing the damaged pipe, fixture, or appliance.
  • Water Damage: Document the extent of water damage throughout the affected areas. Include photos of:
    • Water-soaked floors, walls, and ceilings.
    • Swollen or warped floorboards, furniture, or other belongings.
    • Mould or mildew growth.
    • Any structural damage to the property.
  • Repair and Mitigation Efforts: Photograph the work by professionals hired to repair the leak and mitigate water damage.
  • Receipts for Repairs and Mitigation Efforts: Keep all receipts and invoices related to:
    • Plumbers hired to repair the leak.
    • Water damage restoration specialists hired to dry and clean the affected areas.
    • Any materials purchased to repair or mitigate the damage (e.g., pumps, dehumidifiers, cleaning supplies).
  • Witness Statements: Collect their statements if you have witnesses to the leak or the extent of the damage. Include their full names, contact information, and a brief description of what they observed.
  • Maintenance Records: Record any recent maintenance or inspections performed on the affected plumbing or appliances. This demonstrates that you have taken reasonable steps to prevent the leak.

Documentation Tips

  • Timeliness: Document the damage as soon as possible after discovering the leak. This ensures that the evidence is fresh and accurately reflects the initial state of the damage.
  • Clarity: Use clear, well-lit photos and videos that capture the extent of the damage. Take photos from multiple angles and close-ups to showcase details.
  • Detail: Capture a wide range of evidence, including the leak source, visible damage, and any potential health hazards.
  • Organisation: Label and organise your documentation with clear, descriptive file names. This will make it easy for you and your insurer to access the information when needed.
  • Storage: Store your documentation in a safe and accessible location. Consider using a cloud storage service or external hard drive to create backups in case of physical damage.

Step 3: Secure the Property

Once you have contacted your insurer, it’s crucial to take immediate steps to prevent further damage and ensure the safety of your property.

Preventing Further Damage

  • Shut off the Water Supply: Locate the main water valve for your home and turn it off. This will stop the flow of water and prevent further damage from flooding.
  • Contact a Qualified Plumber: A qualified plumber can assess the leak, determine its cause, and start the repair process. They can also advise on the best way to mitigate water damage and prevent future leaks.
  • Contact a Water Damage Restoration Specialist: Water damage specialists are trained to address the immediate impacts of water leaks. They can dry out affected areas, remove contaminated materials, and prevent mould growth.

Safety Precautions

  • Electricity: If water has come into contact with electrical outlets or appliances, turn off the power supply to the affected areas. Never touch electrical equipment or appliances that are wet.
  • Mould and Bacteria: Water leaks create a breeding ground for mould and bacteria. Take steps to mitigate these risks, such as using fans to ventilate the affected area and removing any wet or damaged materials.
  • Structural Integrity: Inspect the affected area for any signs of structural damage, such as cracks in walls or ceilings. If you observe any concerning issues, contact a building inspector for an evaluation.

Step 4: Claim Lodgement and Proof of Loss

After securing your property and documenting the damage, the next step is formally lodge your water leak insurance claim with your insurer.

Claim Lodgement

To initiate your claim, you will need to provide your insurer with the following information:

  • Policy Details: Include your policy number, your name, and your contact information.
  • Incident Details:
    • Date and Time of Discovery: Provide the exact date and time when you first discovered the water leak.
    • Location of the Leak: Specify the precise location within your property where the leak occurred (e.g., bathroom, kitchen, basement).
  • Damage Description:
    • Cause of the Leak: If you know the cause of the leak, include it in your description (e.g., burst pipe, leaking tap, faulty appliance).
    • Affected Areas: List all areas of your property that have been affected by water damage (e.g., floors, walls, ceilings, furniture).
    • Details of Damage: Provide a detailed description of the damage, including:
      • Extent of Water Damage: Describe the water-soaked areas, including the depth of water intrusion and the presence of visible water stains.
      • Structural Damage: Note any cracks or structural damage to walls, ceilings, or foundations.
      • Contaminated Materials: Identify any materials that have been damaged by water and may require disposal, such as carpets, furniture, or personal belongings.
  • Repair and Mitigation Efforts: Detail any repairs or mitigation efforts you have already undertaken, including:
    • Plumbers: Provide details of the plumbers you hired to detect the leak, including their contact information, dates of service, and the work performed.
    • Water Damage Restoration Specialists: Include information about the water damage restoration specialists you employed, their services, and associated costs.
    • Materials Purchased: List any materials you purchased to repair or mitigate the damage (e.g., pumps, dehumidifiers, cleaning supplies).

Proof of Loss

The Proof of Loss is a crucial document that outlines the details of your claim and the losses you have incurred. Your insurer will likely require you to submit a Proof of Loss document to process your claim.

  • Detailed Description of the Incident: This section should include the same information you provided during claim lodgement, ensuring accuracy and completeness.
  • Loss Assessment: You will need to assess the losses you have incurred, including:
    • Damaged Property: Estimate the cost of repairing or replacing damaged property, such as floors, walls, ceilings, furniture, and appliances.
    • Personal Belongings: List any personal belongings that have been damaged or destroyed by the water leak, providing estimated replacement costs.
    • Additional Expenses: Include any additional expenses incurred due to the leak, such as hotel accommodations if your home is uninhabitable.
  • Supporting Documentation: Provide supporting documentation to validate your claims, such as:
    • Photos and Videos: The images you collected during Step 2 will be essential here.
    • Receipts and Invoices: Include all receipts and invoices for repairs, mitigation efforts, and purchased materials.
    • Witness Statements: If you obtained witness statements, include them in your Proof of Loss.

Submission

Follow your insurer’s instructions carefully regarding the submission of your Proof of Loss. They may provide a specific form or online portal to submit the document.

An insurance inspector checking water damage

Step 5: The Insurance Assessor Visit

After you’ve lodged your claim, your insurer will send an assessor to visit your property. The assessor’s job is to take a closer look at the damage and determine the extent of your losses. They’ll need to understand what caused the leak and how much it will cost to fix or replace the affected areas.

Think of the assessor visit as a crucial step in the claim process. It’s a chance for them to gather the information they need to make a fair assessment of your claim.

Here’s what you can expect:

  • Your insurer will contact you to schedule a time for the assessor to visit your home. Make sure to choose a time that’s convenient for you.
  • The assessor will arrive at your property and will need to inspect the areas that were damaged by the water leak. They’ll likely take photos, measurements, and notes.
  • Be prepared to answer the assessor’s questions about the leak, the damage, and any repairs you’ve already done. The more information you provide, the better they can understand the situation.
  • After the inspection, the assessor will prepare a report outlining their findings. This report will be used by your insurer to determine your coverage and how much they will pay for your claim.

It’s important to cooperate with the assessor during their visit. This means giving them access to all damaged areas, answering their questions honestly, and ensuring that they have a safe environment to work in.

Why is cooperation so important?

  • A thorough inspection means the assessor will have a complete understanding of the damage, which can lead to a more accurate assessment of your claim.
  • Cooperating with the assessor can help speed up the claim process, so you don’t have to wait as long to receive your compensation.
  • Being open and honest with the assessor can help you receive a fair settlement for your claim.

By working with the assessor and providing the necessary information, you can help ensure a smooth and efficient claim process.

Step 6: Claim Settlement

After the assessor has completed their inspection and submitted their report, your insurer will review the information and determine the settlement for your claim.

Settlement Options

  • Payout: Your insurer may choose to provide a financial payout to cover the costs of repairs or replacements. The payout amount will be based on the assessed damage and the terms of your insurance policy.
  • Repairs: Your insurer may opt to organise and manage the repairs themselves. This means they will contract with qualified professionals to repair the damage and handle the payment process.

Claim Processing Timeframes

The time it takes to process a claim can vary depending on the complexity of the claim, the availability of contractors, and the insurer’s processing procedures. However, here are some general guidelines:

  • Initial Assessment: Your insurer may take a few days to a week to review your claim and assign an assessor.
  • Assessor Visit: The assessor visit will typically occur within a few days to a week after your claim is lodged.
  • Report Review: Your insurer will need some time to review the assessor’s report and determine the settlement amount. This process could take a few weeks.
  • Settlement Offer: Once your insurer has reached a settlement decision, they will send you an offer. You will have time to review the offer and accept or negotiate the terms.
  • Payment: If you accept the settlement offer, your insurer will process the payment, which may take a few days to a week.

Dispute Resolution

If you are unhappy with the settlement offer from your insurer, you have options for dispute resolution:

  • Negotiation: You can attempt to negotiate a more favourable settlement with your insurer.
  • Mediation: Mediation involves a neutral third party who helps facilitate a mutually agreeable resolution.
  • Appeals: You may have the right to appeal your insurer’s decision through an internal appeals process.
  • External Dispute Resolution: If you are still unable to reach a resolution, you can seek assistance from external dispute resolution bodies, such as the Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA).

Important Notes

  • Policy Terms: Always refer to the terms and conditions of your insurance policy to understand your coverage and rights.
  • Time Limits: Be aware of any time limits for lodging appeals or seeking external dispute resolution.

5. Essential Information for Australian Claimants

Common Exclusions

It’s important to understand what your insurance policy covers and what it doesn’t. Some common exclusions in water leak insurance policies include:

  • Pre-existing Damage: If the water leak resulted from damage that existed before your policy started, your claim may be denied.
  • Negligence: If the leak occurred due to your negligence or a lack of reasonable care, your insurer may not cover the damage.
  • Lack of Maintenance: If you haven’t maintained your property’s plumbing or appliances properly, your insurer may argue that the leak was preventable and decline your claim.

Insurance Ombudsman

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) is an independent body that helps resolve disputes between consumers and financial firms, including insurance companies.

Contact Information:

Regulatory Bodies

The Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC) is Australia’s competition regulator, protecting consumers and promoting fair trading practices. It investigates and addresses issues related to unfair pricing practices, market dominance, and other anti-competitive behaviour in the insurance industry.

Contact Information:

Relevant Legislation

Key Australian legislation related to insurance claims includes:

Experiencing a water leak can be stressful, but understanding the insurance claim process in Australia can help you navigate the situation with confidence. By taking prompt action, documenting the damage, and communicating effectively with your insurer, you can increase your chances of a successful claim.

Remember to maintain accurate records, proactively address potential issues, and be aware of your rights as a consumer. If you encounter any difficulties or disputes, don’t hesitate to seek help from the Australian Insurance Ombudsman or the Australian Financial Complaints Authority.