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One year on, Horsham residents are still waiting for tornado damage to be repaired

Tuesday December 7, 2021 - 00:14 AEDT
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Horsham landlord Mareeta Cox says delays from her insurance company are keeping her property off the rental market in a time of dire need. - ABC

Homes in Horsham north are yet to be repaired, one year after a tornado caused millions of dollars damage.

The tornado hit just after midnight on December 7, 2020, taking chunks of roofs off homes and sending backyard trampolines flying into buildings. 

Thankfully, no-one was injured.

But a year on, Mareeta Cox, a farmer who lives between Coleraine and Harrow, said the tornado took the roof off three rental properties her elderly mother owned on the corner of Howard Street and Alexander Avenue.

It forced the family of five living there at the time to move out, and the property's exposed ceilings have since suffered water damage.

"It's probably 80 per cent of the roof that was lost and the rest is slightly damaged, and the gutters are no longer in line so the neighbour next door is getting water into her place," she said.

"My local builder says he could have fixed it that week, but the insurance company said 'No, we've got to assess it', and it's still ongoing."

She estimated the storm caused $100,000 worth of damage, and has seen the claim handler change three times since the first one was assigned.

"After the first claim handler, it went to an assessment company in Warrnambool who took a few months to come up and assess the structure of it and now another assessor has come up, who seems to be quite good. I'm hoping it can be fixed really soon," Ms Cox said.

"But I just can't understand why it's taken so long ? it was a tornado, I just want it fixed."

Ms Cox said she was considering filing a complaint.

"I think the problem is you've got people working for insurance companies who are claims handlers who haven't been in the job that long, and they have other things that are easier resolve so your claim gets put back, so there is no quality control to ensure your case gets processed in an appropriate time," she said.

[Tornado video]Varied outcomes

Just west in Florence Street, Graham Hill considers himself fortunate despite receiving $40,000 of damage to his garage, windows and roof.

Brickwork on the garage has only begun being repaired in the past week, but he said he was lucky.

"We have been able to remove the car [from the garage] that was also damaged by the storm, and the [car] insurance company has been really supportive ringing me up almost the first week of every month saying 'we want to get your car fixed, what's going on?'" he said.

"The home insurance mob was also not too bad to deal with, but there was a long delay trying to get tradespeople to come round and get quotes to get things going. A lot of our tradespeople are still flat out building new houses.

"You've just got to find the right claims manager that has your interest in there as well.

"Some claims managers are very protective of spending their own boss's money, others just want to get it fixed.

"Our claims manager looked at broken windows, emergency repair work, the shade sail ripped off the side of the house, they were very quick to transfer money and say: 'Just get it done'."

Responding to Ms Cox's claims, a spokesperson for CGU insurance apologised for "delays and inconvenience" she had experienced.

"Determining the best path to repairing our customer's roof has been complex, which has required multiple building inspections and an investigation by a structural engineer to determine the exact cause of the damage and whether repairs could be undertaken," they said.

"We are currently working through the repair options with our partner builder and we're aiming to complete the required repairs as soon as possible."

Ms Cox said the hold up in repairs was exacerbating Horsham's tight housing market.

"The insurance company is still paying the rent I would have received, but it just means no-one can live in the house, and there are hardly any houses to rent in Horsham at the moment," she said.

"I go through a real estate company and they are constantly wanting rentals."

Nola Brown, an agent at Horsham Real Estate, which manages the property, told the ABC the tornado affected more than 20 investment properties in Horsham North, with most investors living outside of Horsham.

Ms Brown said most insurance companies had been good to Horsham North's property owners, and the efforts of SES volunteers directly following the natural disaster saved landlords thousands of dollars in repairs.


© ABC 2021

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