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Tropical Cyclone Debbie and flooding assistance

19 May 2017, 11:34 AM

Have you been affected by the recent Cyclone and flooding?

If you have been affected by the recent cyclone and floods in Queensland and New South Wales, we encourage you to contact your insurance company.

For help with the claims process, or if you are unable to contact your insurance company, please call the Insurance Council of Australia’s (ICA) disaster hotline on 1800 734 621.

The ICA has formally declared a catastrophe for large parts of Queensland and New South Wales affected by the cyclone and inundation caused by Tropical Cyclone Debbie. Click here for more information.

FOS attended community forums organised in late April and early May in key affected areas in Queensland and NSW to offer support and explain our role.

Useful links for QLD and NSW floods
QLD Government – emergency response
NSW Government – emergency response

Useful Links for general information
Customer Owned Banking Association (COBA)
Australian Bankers’ Association (ABA)
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman (TIO)
Legal Aid QLD
Legal Aid NSW

How we can help you

FOS offers free and accessible dispute resolution services to all Australian residents. If you have raised a complaint with your insurance company, but you have been unable to resolve the matter, you can then come to us for assistance.  Please note, we are only able to assess your dispute once you have raised the matter with your insurer.

Things to do to help the recovery process

The ICA offers the following general advice to policyholders affected by flooding:

  • Return to your property but only when emergency services declare it safe to do so

  • Only enter your property when you are satisfied you are not at risk

  • Contact your insurance company as soon as possible to check what your policy includes or excludes, and seek guidance on the claims process

  • Start cleaning up

  • Take pictures of damage to the property and possessions as evidence for your claim

  • Remove and discard any water or mud-damaged goods that pose a health risk, such as saturated carpets and soft furnishings

  • If possible, keep samples of materials and fabrics to show the assessor

  • Make a list of each item and include a detailed description, such as brand, model and serial number

  • Store damaged or destroyed items somewhere safe

  • Speak to your insurer before authorising repairs. Emergency repairs should be undertaken only in the first instance to make the property safe

Things to be aware of in the recovery process

The ICA offers the following general advice to policyholders affected by flooding :

  • Do not do anything that puts your safety at risk

  • Do not undertake major repairs or employ tradespeople without checking with your insurer you may not be covered for unauthorised repairs

  • Do not drive your vehicle if it is not roadworthy due to water damage

  • Do not throw away goods that could be salvaged or repaired

  • Do not be concerned if you can't find your insurance papers. Insurers have electronic records and need only your name and address

FOS natural disaster hotline

To support the victims of natural disasters, the Financial Ombudsman Service has a dedicated hotline to provide help and information on financial hardship, insurance claims and other financial issues experienced as a result of extreme weather events. Please call 1800 337 444 and your call will be put directly through to our disaster helpline team. Alternatively, you can email the team at

Financial hardship

Victims of natural disasters can experience both short-term and long-term financial difficulties, ranging from lost credit cards and problems accessing cash through to being unable to make loan repayments. Banks and other financial services providers generally provide assistance to customers in cases of genuine hardship. 
If you encounter difficulties relating to a financial hardship application, you can register your dispute with us, either via our online dispute form or call us on 1800 337 444.

More information on natural disasters and financial hardship can be found in this fact sheet. Please make sure you notify us that you are a flood-affected customer when you register your dispute. On receiving your dispute your bank or other financial services provider will be notified of your dispute that same day.

Insurance claims

If you need to make an insurance claim, your first contact should be with your insurer, to check on your coverage and provide details of your claim. The insurance industry has developed an efficient disaster response procedure and should respond in line with the urgency of the situation.

If you encounter difficulties relating to your insurance claims which you are unable to resolve directly with your insurer, you can register your dispute with us via our online dispute form or by calling 1800 337 444. More information about our dispute resolution process is available here.

Insurance claims – cooling off period

General Insurance Code of Practice, section 4.5: Cooling off period for claims arising from a natural catastrophe or disaster.  If your insurer (financial services provider or FSP) is a member of the General Insurance Code of Practice (the Code) and it finalised your claim within one month of a natural catastrophe or disaster, you have a six-month cooling off period to check whether your claim included everything that was lost or damaged. The cooling off period is available to you even though you may have signed a release when your claim was finalised.

If you think the assessment of your loss was not complete or accurate, contact your FSP and ask it to review your claim.

Some FSPs also have guidelines which allow a review of your claim arising from a natural disaster at any time after finalisation.

To find out if your FSP is a member of the Code, please click here.