Dealing with Natural Disasters in your Body Corporate

The severe storms that battered Bundaberg and other parts of central Queensland this week are a timely reminder that storm season is upon us.

Damage to your unit can be difficult to navigate - is the damage a body corporate or owners responsibility? Can you claim it on insurance? Is it covered by body corporate insurance or your own policy?

Body corporate maintenance and insurance is not a "one size fits all". Each complex has different maintenance and insurance requirements, so you will need to check with your body corporate manager.

However, you also need to keep in mind that your body corporate manager is not a property manager. They are not paid to inspect the property to determine if any damage has occurred.

Further, if you have active committee members who are looking in to any damage, remember that they are volunteers. They are not paid to check the property, obtain quotes or manage contractors. Be thankful for their work and time.

Some tips to keep in mind in the event of extreme weather:

1. Ensure that the property is safe. If the roof has had sheets blown off, call the SES. If power lines have fallen down, call Ergon. If a window has smashed, get someone to secure the property, and get a glazier to replace the window. If a piece of gutter is hanging precariously and looks like it may fall, get someone out to secure it or remove it. You can sort out who has to pay for these emergency repairs later. Waiting for your body corporate manager or committee to organise these repairs when they probably have long lists of emergencies to attend to is unrealistic.

2. Notify your body corporate manager or committee of any damage as quickly as possible. Sometimes repairs to several parts of the property can be coordinated at the same time. If possible, check over the entire property. We are often notified of say a damaged fence to unit 1, but the pool fence is also damaged and we are not notified until 2 weeks later. It is much faster and cheaper to get contractors to quote or attend a property once, rather than 2 or 3 times. Also, insurance claims are much smoother if all damage is claimed at the beginning. Commencement of repairs will be delayed if further damage is reported down the track.

Your body corporate manager should then be able to provide some advice as to whether the damage is able to be claimed on the body corporate's insurance policy, whether the damage is the responsibility of the owner or the body corporate, and if claimable on insurance who pays the excess.

3. Be specific about the damage. Insurance claims cannot be considered, or repairs requested, if the actual damage is not known. If a fence is damaged, which fence? If gutters are torn off, which sides of which units?

For example, "water getting in to a unit" is not damage. Sometimes, the water came in under the back door, the tiles were mopped up but there was no actual damage to be repaired. If the only items damaged were carpets, then it isn't able to be claimed on the body corporate insurance anyway, and the owner will need to claim this on their contents insurance.

4. Where possible, offer to assist with obtaining quotes. It is much easier on everyone if contractors or insurance assessors can be met on site to discuss the damage. It is difficult for contractors to be able to see all damage, particularly if there are lots of little things throughout the complex, or if it is inside units. Further, if the damage is inside your unit, depending on the damage it may end up being your responsibility. So it is best if you can be there to point out all issues and to see whether you would be happy with that contractor.

Also, you may have a relationship with a contractor who is able to come out quicker than those the body corporate manager or committee usually use, which can expedite matters further.

5. Keep in mind that quotes and repairs take time. Especially if there has been a weather event where many properties are damaged, it can take time to obtain quotes or for owners/property managers/tenants to check over their property for damage, for contractors to provide quotes, or for insurance assessors to attend and investigate. These matters are often outside the control of the committee or the body corporate manager.

Now is a good time to review both your body corporate insurance and your personal insurance. If you have any questions, you should contact your body corporate manager or insurance broker to discuss.

Hopefully mother nature will be kind to us all this summer.

Note: The information in this article is very general in nature and should not be relied upon. For further information, please contact Lucinda Doughty of Precision Body Corporate Management at or phone 1300 31 88 66.

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