Ask most people to describe an Aussie summer and you’ll hear things like sun, sand and surf.
You’ll rarely hear anyone immediately talk about bushfires, heatwaves, torrential rain, flooding, gale-force winds, hail and lightning.
It’s just not the image that instantly springs to mind, but the reality is that the summer months are also the height of the natural disaster season (November to April).
For southern Australia, it’s the peak time for bushfires and storms. And in the north, it’s cyclone season.
For communities still reeling from the catastrophic flood events of the past couple of years, news that the Bureau of Meteorology (BOM) is predicting below-average rainfall for most of the country over October to December is welcome news.
Not so welcome is the Australasian Fire Authorities Council’s spring outlook that indicates an increased risk of bushfire for large areas of the Northern Territory, Queensland and New South Wales, as well as regions in Victoria and South Australia.
The BOM also expects temperatures to be above average.
It’s set to be the first dry spring/summer since the 2019/20 Black Summer.
When it comes to storm season, Weather Zone notes thunderstorm activity should be near average over the next few months, although far eastern Australia may see more storms due to the unusually warm sea surface temperatures near the coast.
While the tropical cyclone forecast is yet to be released, on average, 11 cyclones occur each year with an average of four making landfall.
Northern Western Australia and northern Queensland typically bear the brunt of cyclone season.
Collectively, the nation will be bracing for what Mother Nature unleashes over summer.
Whether the properties on your rent roll are in southern or northern Australia, on the east coast or the west, you can help your landlords protect their investment.
One of the ways you can do this is by helping them to prepare the rental for potential wild weather.
As a local area expert, you’re likely to understand the weather risks for the property/suburb – for example, the BAL rating, cyclone risk, flood zone or storm history – and you can make sure your landlords are aware of the risks, especially if they aren’t local.
You can also consult your little black book of trades and make sure you have your landlords’ blessing (and gratitude) to arrange for key maintenance to be carried out before the season begins.
Storms and cyclones:
- Check the roof and repair loose tiles, eaves and screws.
- Clean gutters and downpipes.
- Trim trees and overhanging branches.
- Ensure structures that could take flight in heavy winds, like pergolas, fences, roofing iron and sheds, are soundly anchored.
- Fit windows with shutters or metal screens.
- Repair damaged windows and doors.
- Make sure any exterior structures that may be subject to storm damage are sound, such as patios and pergolas, outdoor steps and handrails, sheds, fences and decks.
- Channel water to drain away from the property.
- Install flood protections, such as flood vents in foundation walls, garages and other enclosed areas.
- Check the roof for leaks and damage.
- Ensure window and door frames are well sealed.
- Seal any cracks in the foundation and exterior walls.
- Make sure gutters, drains and downpipes are free-flowing and in good repair.
- Do the firebreaks.
- Clean out the gutters and roof gullies.
- Mow the grass regularly.
- Prune trees that overhang the property.
- Remove excess ground fuel.
- Seal up any areas where embers could enter the property such as underfloor, roof eaves, roof-mounted external air-conditioners or windows without metal flyscreens.
It may also be worth reminding landlords that a condition in practically all building insurance policies relates to adequately maintaining the premises.
If the rental’s upkeep is sub-par, they could find that the payout on any claim is reduced or even denied.
If disaster does strike, it is crucial that landlords have appropriate insurance.
They will need a policy that covers events such as storm, hail, lightning, flood, cyclone and bushfire.
If the rental is in a cyclone, bushfire or flood-prone zone, it is especially important that the policy actually covers these risks. You might be surprised to find out that a lot of policies don’t.
For example, it can be difficult to secure a policy that includes cyclone and resultant flood cover if the property is in northern Australia (all EBM RentCover policies offer cyclone cover with inclusions for properties in WA and Queensland).
While bushfire is usually covered as standard, it is important that the policyholder understands under what circumstances the protection applies.
There are often exclusions that relate to damage that is not the direct result of flames such as scorching, melting, charring, soot, ash or smoke (at EBM RentCover, we don’t have those restrictions).
And flood cover is often an exclusion or only available as an optional extra (all EBM RentCover landlord policies automatically include flood cover).
In addition to cover for the insured event, landlords would be wise to have a policy that also covers loss of rent in case their rental is damaged (or cannot be accessed) and untenantable while repairs are made (or access is reinstated).
A word about embargoes
Another critical matter when it comes to insurance is making sure that the cover is in place well ahead of a disaster happening.
Insurance companies often impose embargoes when a disaster such as a bushfire, flood or cyclone is likely to impact an area.
An embargo is a restriction on the insurer accepting new policies in certain areas or circumstances.
It stops people from buying insurance when an event is known to be extremely likely or already having an impact.
While some insurers may not impose an embargo, the policy may instead have a restriction on paying any claims within a certain period, for example within 72 hours of the policy being purchased.
The bottom line
To avoid the risk of not being covered when disaster strikes, your landlords should ensure they have taken out an insurance policy that protects against the specific weather-related risks the property faces ahead of disaster season and ensure the policy is kept current (not letting cover lapse).
Being caught up in a natural disaster is traumatic for everyone involved – don’t let your landlord suffer a further blow by not being adequately insured.
Chat to your EBM RentCover Relationship Manager about policy options for landlords.