WHEN Greenwell Point home owners Stephen and Theresa Davis inquired about their insurance coverage with NRMA they received the shock of their lives.
The home insurance for their Adelaide Street property had jumped from $1057 to $5059.13.
The couple also have a home in Penrith and Mrs Davis said she was left “astounded” by the hike in cost for the coastal property.
“We were initially alerted to a possible problem when our neighbour told us her insurance had risen from $944 to almost $6500,” she said.
“Our policy wasn’t due for renewal until July, so I rang NRMA to check what our premium would be and was told by a company representative ‘investigations had been carried out and it was decided we were in a flood prone area’ and our premium would be more than $5000.
“Our property backs onto a reserve, which faces the Shoalhaven River, it may flood at the other end of the street, but we have never been affected.
“My parents had owned the property for 40 years and never had any problems.”
Mrs Davis said she wasn’t happy with the company response and spoke to another NRMA representative who told her they were "acting on information from Shoalhaven City Council".
“I contacted council, who said they hadn’t provided any information. They did say they had been asked by the Insurance Council of Australia for details of flood prone areas and were in discussions with its solicitors as to whether that information would be provided.
“Most people in Greenwell Point are pensioners and can’t afford this sort of hike.
“It’s ridiculous and we won’t take it lying down. We won’t let the NRMA walk all over us.
“It’s first-class daylight robbery.”
Mrs Davis said NRMA advised the insurance would be cheaper if they removed flood coverage.
“Why would I want to do that? I’m not stupid,” she said.
“I said I would take all my insurances somewhere else and they didn’t seem to care.”
Mr Davis said he would like to sound a warning to older residents in the area.
“A lot of elderly people would take it, that if it’s written in black and white, that’s what they have to pay,” he said.
“How could an elderly pensioner afford $6000?
“They need to know they can shop around and get the coverage they want at a cheaper price.
“Every year when we renewed our policy we asked if we were covered for flood and we were told we were – now it seems we may not have been and if we want it we are going to have to pay extra.
“Who can afford that?"
Mrs Davis said she had contacted rival insurance company GIO which would provide coverage, including flood cover, for just over $1000.
Shoalhaven City Council’s floodplain manager Isabelle Ghetti refuted claims the organisation provided flood information to the insurance industry.
“We have flood information readily available on our website, flood studies and the like, but they have not been done for insurance companies,” she said.
“Electronic documents, including detailed maps of the catchment, are published on the internet.
“NRMA may be telling their customers they are working with us but I can say we haven’t been working with them.
“We are undertaking flood studies for flood risk management and those reports are not specifically related to the insurance industry.”
She confirmed the Insurance Council of Australia had requested information from the city on flood prone areas and council was in discussions with its solicitors as to whether that information would be made available.
NRMA defends premium hikes
An NRMA spokesperson said a review last year showed the Davis’ property to be a high flood risk.
“The property had not previously been assessed as a flood risk however following last year’s review, which included council’s data, the property was shown as a high flood risk,” the spokesperson said.
“This year’s premium had been adjusted to reflect that.
“Home insurers in Australia face the challenge of getting the balance right between keeping premiums affordable and collecting enough premium to cover our customers’ claims when the worst happens.
“We assess every customer’s personal circumstances to ensure everyone pays a premium that reflects their risk - and that takes into consideration a property’s flood risk.
“The premium for each customer depends on the likelihood of their home flooding, what damage may occur and the value of their property.
“Around 13 per cent of properties in NSW are subject to some risk of flooding. Two per cent are considered high risk.”
The spokesperson said to develop a complete picture of a customer’s risk, the company used various information sources, which included council data where available, state and federal mapping, terrain and watercourse mapping, insurance information and the Government National Address File (GNAF).
The company said it understood Shoalhaven City Council was undertaking a more detailed study of levee options for the area via the Greenwell Point Floodplain Risk Management Options Feasibility Study.
“According to council, flooding in June 2013 caused flooding above floor to some properties on Adelaide Street as well as flooding of some roads,” the spokesperson said.
“Council’s Floodplain Management Plan [completed in 2011] recommended building a levee across the front yard of 97 Adelaide Street [which is the Davis’ property].
“Building flood mitigation infrastructure such as a levee in the area would significantly lower premiums than what they are today as the risk to property would be lessened.”