Toowoomba Floods – What Have We Learnt?
With the 10 year anniversary of the Toowoomba floods, many tenants and owners are asking “what have we learned?”.
From my personal experience of that day- it was scary, unbelievable and something I do not ever want to go through again. But from the whole experience, I learned that it is integral to have plans in place before a disaster occurs.
On the morning of the flood, we had already had several calls for overflowing gutters and drains, as it had been raining fairly consistently for weeks before the event. As the rain got heavier and heavier, we were inundated with more calls and office staff and tradesman were stretched to respond to them all. We had placed a few calls already to the SES and started asking tenants to call them directly. During these phone calls, we also had panicked calls from owners asking about their investment properties and concerned calls from our own families. I remember calling my husband when I was standing at the front of the office. I was describing to him how Margaret and Kitchener streets had turned into a river and cars floating by. I realised I was starting to get hysterical.
It was at this moment, I realised that I was not the only one in Toowoomba that would be panicking. We needed to get some control in an uncontrollable event. I arranged a bulk message to reach all tenants, giving them the number of the SES if they were experiencing any flooding. This same message was sent to all owners to advise that each landlord would be contacted when and if there was an emergency at their property and to bear with us until we knew more. This decision to bulk SMS put us back on track.
For the next few days and weeks, we methodically processed all of the maintenance, liaising with several insurance companies and taking thousands of photos to record the events. Unfortunately, we had 2 properties completely flooded that required full internal replacements. However, no tenants were injured in any of the damages.
From that day, almost every business now has a Disaster Management Plan. The REIQ has specifically designed toolkits for both disasters and floods including checklists, frequently asked questions and fact sheets.
What did owners and tenants learn from this disaster?
For many tenants, this event educated them for the need to have their own personal insurance. Landlord insurance does not cover any tenants’ possessions, even during an event such as a flood or a fire. Tenants are legally responsible for their own belongings and should have these contents covered separately. The owners insurance “contents” are referring to the curtains and carpets within the investment property, not the tenants possessions.
For owners, the key learning point was keeping on top of annual maintenance. Making sure gutters are clean and downpipes are flowing can allow hard and heavy rain to escape quickly and not back up into the eaves and ceiling cavities. Insurance companies are investigating the causes of flooding claims. The lack of general maintenance can cause a claim to be rejected.
Landlords have also reassessed insurance cover to make sure specific landlord insurance is in place. When these disasters occur, often the property can be marked as unliveable during the repair stages which can take several months. If rent cover is not included in the policy, then this can be financially crippling.
With this being the 10 year anniversary of the Toowoomba floods, our thoughts are with the families and businesses impacted by this event. Today is a day in our history that we will never forget.