Insurance, banking and financial hardship - disaster advice

Consumer Affairs Victoria can help with insurance, banking and financial hardship issues in a disaster, such as a storm, flood, bushfire or earthquake.

Insurance

If you have insurance, contact your insurer to lodge a claim before you start any major repairs. Your insurer will have a copy of your policy.

Take photos before cleaning up and make a list of everything that has been damaged.

It is important to lodge a claim, as it means:

  • your insurer must assess your claim and decide if you are covered
  • if you are not satisfied with the outcome you can seek a review through your insurer's internal dispute resolution system – the Australian Securities and Investments Commission (ASIC) has information about how to make a complaint.

If you are still not satisfied after making a formal complaint, you can visit the Financial Ombudsman Service website or call 1300 780 808.

Form more information about:

  • flood and storm damage insurance
  • claiming on home insurance.

visit the Storms, floods and fires page on the MoneySmart website.

Banking and loans

Banks, building societies and credit unions have financial hardship arrangements for people affected by disaster.

They also have dedicated numbers for affected customers to call:

Bank

Telephone

ANZ

1800 149 549

Bank of Melbourne

13 22 66

Bank of Queensland

1800 079 866

Bendigo and Adelaide Bank

1300 652 146

Citibank

13 24 84

Commonwealth Bank

13 22 21

Credit Union Australia (CUA)

13 32 82

Heritage Bank

1800 222 030

HSBC

1300 555 988

ING

13 34 64

NAB

1800 701 599

Rabobank

1800 025 484

Suncorp

13 11 75

St George

1800 629 795

The Rock Building Society

1800 806 645

Teachers Mutual Bank

13 12 21

Westpac

1800 067 497

Applying for a hardship variation

If you are not able to negotiate a suitable arrangement with your credit provider, you have a legal right to seek a 'hardship variation'.

This is a formal process where you ask your credit provider to vary the terms of your loan contract.

You can ask your credit provider to vary your contract in one of the following ways:

  • postpone your repayments (with interest being added onto your loan)
  • allow you to make interest-only repayments for a period
  • extend your loan period (which means you will pay less in each repayment over a longer period of time, though more interest in the longer term).

After you apply for a hardship variation, the credit provider must respond to your request in writing within 21 days.

If your credit provider refuses your hardship application, it must give reasons.

If you think the reasons provided are unfair, you can complain to an independent dispute resolution scheme such as the:

  • Financial Ombudsman Service on 1300 780 808
  • Credit Ombudsman Service Limited on 1800 138 422.

ASIC can provide more information about help available if you cannot pay your debts.

Related information

Help in an emergency - Department of Human Services website or call 180 22 66

Insurance Council Australia website or call the 24-hour emergency hotline 1300 728 228

Australian Bankers' Association website for information about what support the banks are offering

Financial Ombudsman Service website or call 1800 337 444

Victoria Legal Aid website for free legal information about insurance and related issues or call 03 9269 0120 or 1800 677 402 (rural callers)

Disaster Legal Help website from a group of legal service organisations who provide free information and support for Victorians affected by disasters.

Last updated: 03/01/2016

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