RACV member warns on bushfires

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An RACV member who had his property at Wye River destroyed by bushfire on Christmas Day 2015 has warned about the dangers of being under insured in bushfire prone areas of Victoria.

RACV member Andrew Dunn co-ordinated with others who lost their homes in the bushfire and found many had difficulty rebuilding because they were underinsured.

“One of the key things I learnt was that many people were significantly underinsured. In Wye River, because of the difficult conditions and tough planning controls and the requirement to meet the Bushfire Attack Level ratings, the rebuilding costs were particularly high,” he says.

“Where you have no waste water service, then the need to meet current environmental requirements for waste water disposal also adds a significant amount of cost. Those factors people don’t often think about when they are considering the cost of rebuilding in bushfire-prone areas.”

Mr Dunn said there were some people who were underinsured by over $100,000, which meant they either couldn’t afford to rebuild or had to rebuild a smaller property.

Mark Geraghty, general manager of RACV Insurance said RACV members with homes in bushfire-prone areas should check their home insurance as soon as possible to avoid underinsurance.

With predictions the December-March Victorian bushfire season will carry a higher-than-normal threat of bushfire in parts of the state*, you need to make sure you have enough insurance to fully rebuild and replace your contents should the worst happen.

“This means checking that your level of home insurance cover is up to date and reflects your actual costs of rebuilding and replacement,” Mr Geraghty says.

“Some things may have changed since you last looked at your home insurance. The Victorian Government’s introduction of Bushfire Attack Level ratings may mean you are obliged to rebuild to a higher standard than before and there may be some additional costs in how you deal with waste water.

“You also need account for the higher costs of rebuilding in some areas and increases in the replacement costs of some things such as kitchens.”

RACV can help, says Mr Geraghty. “A great place to start is by using RACV’s Buildings Calculator and RACV’s Contents Calculator, or simply call us on 13 RACV (13 7228) or drop into your nearest RACV shop – but do it soon.”

Bill Stronach, technical specialist RACV Property Claims, says underinsurance also hinders RACV’s ability to manage the claim for a member.

“It’s very difficult because a lot of what we do is based on the assumption we can do something and we’ve got enough money to do it,” he says.

“We can provide a wonderful service – we can pretty much do it all for you and take a lot of the stress out of the repair or rebuild process. Any unforeseen issues that crop up, we can usually anticipate them and manage them for you because we basically deal with the builder. But if you are underinsured, we haven’t got that ability – we cannot start a repair or we cannot manage a rebuild.”

Mr Stronach says in his experience underinsurance often occurs because homeowners have had their insurance for some time and have not updated the level of cover to reflect today’s rebuilding and replacement costs.

* The Bushfires and Natural Hazards CRC Bushfire Outlook 2016 highlighted west and south Gippsland, parts of Victoria’s Central Highlands, most of south west Victoria, the eastern Otway Range, Brisbane Ranges, Wombat Forest, and areas within the Goldfields region as areas with above normal risk of bushfire danger this upcoming bushfire season. http://www.bnhcrc.com.au/hazardnotes/019

RACV Home Insurance is issued by Insurance Manufacturers of Australia Pty Limited ABN 93 004 208 084 AFS Licence No. 227678.