Sisters Stephanie (left), 19, and Brooke Harris, 17, at their Dobies Bight home, near Casino, which was badly damaged by floodwater in January last year. Their mother, Caroline, is still fighting with her insurer over a damages claim.
Sisters Stephanie (left), 19, and Brooke Harris, 17, at their Dobies Bight home, near Casino, which was badly damaged by floodwater in January last year. Their mother, Caroline, is still fighting with her insurer over a damages claim. Cathy Adams

Flood victims' battle with insurance company

SINGLE mother of four Caroline Harris and her children have been unable to live in their Dobies Bight home, near Casino, since wading out across floodwaters in January last year.

The home, overlooking the Richmond River, was extensively damaged when it was inundated by 25cm of water during the flood.

For more than 12 months, Ms Harris has been locked in a dispute with her insurer, CommInsure, about which damages are covered under her policy.

Flood damage has left the home with floorboards so badly warped that doors will not swing open or shut. The only water tank was so badly cracked by debris in the floodwater it will no longer hold water.

CommInsure is refusing to pay for a number of repairs to the home, which Ms Harris said should be covered under her policy.

Ms Harris said to repair the floor the house needed to be raised and the old piers replaced. However, CommInsure claimed it was not obliged to pay for this because there was evidence of prior pier movement.

“It's an old house, and of course the piers will have moved, but it was nothing like this,” Ms Harris said, pointing to a floor that resembled a gently-rolling wave.

CommInsure is also refusing to cover the cost of a new water tank because Ms Harris carried out repair work on the concrete tank prior to the flood.

“They said because it has been patched it is no longer covered. They never said if you fix things you won't be covered by the policy.”

Ms Harris showed The Northern Star a letter from CommInsure sighting a failure to keep the property in good repair and a lack of maintenance as other reasons it was refusing to pay.

On Christmas Eve, Ms Harris received a check for $41,000 from CommInsure. However, Ms Harris said the total cost of damages caused by the flood was more than $100,000.

What CommInsure was willing to pay for was a new melamine kitchen, she said. However, it can't be installed until the floors are fixed.

Last week, the family was told the Casino rental property they are living in is about to be sold and they are expecting a notice to vacate within four weeks.

CommInsure issued the following statement: “CommInsure has assessed the customer's initial claim and paid an amount in accordance with the customer's insurance policy. After independent reviews by builders and engineers of the customer's further claim, CommInsure has determined that the claim was not due to the flood in January 2008. Therefore it does not fall within the policy for flood cover. Furthermore, CommInsure's decision has been independently upheld by its internal dispute resolution process in accordance with General Insurance Code of Practice requirements.”



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