Mount Helen resident denied continued insurance cover

A MOUNT Helen woman is furious with her insurance agency after she was told her home and contents policy would not be renewed due to bushfire threat.

Debra McMahon said her Boak Avenue home was insured by Australian Unity for 12 years, but her renewal notice had left her baffled.

She said she received a letter stating that due to the “frequency and magnitude of catastrophic weather events throughout Australia”, the agency launched a review of her location.

“Unfortunately, as part of this review, your property has been identified as having a high potential for bushfires and we are unable to continue to offer cover,” the letter read.

Ms McMahon said the agency told her “expert service providers” assessed Mount Helen as unsuitable for insurance cover by using detailed bushfire mapping.

But, in a development last week, the insurer told Ms McMahon she would be offered cover because she was “a loyal customer”.

The change of heart occurred after Ms McMahon contacted The Courier, the Insurance Ombudsman and the Insurance Council.

Her new premium was also several hundred dollars more expensive.

“What’s changed in 12 years?” she asked. “It’s lucky we opened that letter, otherwise we would never have known we were not covered.”

Ms McMahon said she had now approached another insurer who had agreed to cover her home and contents for $500 less than Australian Unity’s updated premium.

Australian Unity’s underwriter, Calliden Insurance Limited, confirmed to The Courier they would not be writing new business in the Mount Helen area.

However, spokesman Mike Hooten said renewals such as Ms McMahon’s would be assessed “on a case-by-case basis”.

Ms McMahon warned other Mount Helen residents to be aware of any changes to their insurance policy.

“I would just hate for someone’s house to burn down and then find they were not covered,” she said.

Insurance Council of Australia spokesman Campbell Fuller said each insurer made their own decisions about the markets they operated in.

“From time to time individual insurers may choose to stop renewing policies in some areas where they already have a significant exposure,” he said.

“Often this will create competitive space for other insurers to sell new policies.”

Mr Fuller said with 122 licensed insurers operating, the market in Australia was highly competitive.

“The Insurance Council of Australia advises anyone looking for a new insurance policy to shop around and find the policy that best matches their circumstances,” he said.

For information on finding an insurer that meets your needs, visit www.findaninsurer.com.au

jordan.oliver@fairfaxmedia.com.au

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