Here’s Exactly What To Do If Your Share House Floods
There are a few things you can do to prepare - and a few things to do if the worst happens.
As floods rock northern New South Wales and southeast Queensland this week, and with more thunderstorms predicted for the rest of the week, it’s a very good time to start thinking about your options if your share house gets hit by a flood.
As all renters know, sometimes it can take months of email exchanges just to replace a single door on a kitchen cupboard. So after scenes in Brisbane this week demonstrated that this low-pressure system isn’t fucking around, it’s important to know what your rights and responsibilities are in order to best look after yourself and others.
How To Prepare For A Flood
If you’re worried about a flood event, the first thing you should check out is the SES website. It offers specific information based on your location to help you prepare for flooding in your area. Areas prone to flooding will often have a corresponding SES Flood safe guide, which provides information about your flood gauges as well as what action to take at certain water heights.
The SES also provides a great DIY guide to help you make your own emergency kit, which can help save you time in the event you have to evacuate your home.
Some recommended items for your GTFO-bag include:
- Portable radio with spare batteries
- Torch with spare batteries
- First aid kit (with supplies necessary for your household)
- Candles and waterproof matches
- Important papers including emergency contact numbers
- Copy of any Home Emergency Plans
- Waterproof bag for valuables
Other measures the SES recommends taking if you think your area might be due for a flood include arranging to stay with friends or family outside of the affected area, and triple-checking the details of any third-party property insurance you possess.
Renting and Flooding
Tenant’s rights websites are critical for knowing your rights as a renter in Australia. The Tenant’s Union NSW and Tenants Queensland both offer specialised fact sheets, detailing your rights as a renter in NSW during emergencies such as floods, as well as tenant advice networks that offer personalised service based on your specific situation. According to Jemima Mowbray, the Policy and Advocacy Manager of Tenants Union NSW, the first rule to follow in a flood event is to “keep yourself safe”.
“Leave the premises if you need to if your housing has become unsafe. Don’t worry about things in relation to obligations to landlords. Your obligation is to keep yourself safe.” Mowbray told Junkee.
Mowbray says to especially follow the directions of council or emergency personnel if they arrive to evacuate you from your property.
“There are a couple of ways you can deal with this as a renter,” Mowbray says. “Get in touch with your landlord or you agent straight away to let them know what’s happened; that the place is unsafe. Then you can talk to them about a rent reduction or rent abatement.”
Mowbray says that while landlords aren’t obligated to provide or offer temporary accommodation after a flood, you are eligible for a rent reduction or abatement if you’re displaced from your housing as a result.
“If you can’t stay on the premises, then you shouldn’t be paying rent and you should talk to your landlord straight away about that”. Mowbray told Junkee. “If you think that your property is unsafe to live in, wholly or partly, you are able to give an immediate termination (of your lease).”
What If Your Landlord Doesn’t Agree That Your Rental Is Unliveable?
If your house has experienced a flood, but your landlord doesn’t believe that the property is unliveable, then Mowbray says that it’s important to contact a tenant legal aid service in your area.
“If your landlord doesn’t agree, then that’s when I would call your local tenant’s advice service right away,” Mowbray told Junkee.
While your property might have survived the initial onset of a flooding event, mould can be one of the more insidious side-effects of flooding that lead to a disagreement over whether your property is unliveable. Rental tenancy advice services like Tenants Union NSW offer fact checks to help renters figure out what to do if mould appears after heavy rainfall.
“If you can’t stay on the premises, then you shouldn’t be paying rent.”
“It sounds silly, because you’re in the midst of a flood why is mould gonna matter?” Mowbray says. “But in the coming weeks that’s a follow on consequence that really has an impact on people’s health who are already stressed and anxious and potential have a whole range of things you need to deal with and then your house becomes unliveable because of the mould.”
In the event that your rental becomes unliveable, either thanks to dank black mould or water damage, Mowbray says you should collect as much evidence as possible if you decide to terminate your lease as a result.
“Take photos of the place, before you leave you’ve collected the evidence to show why you think the place is uninhabitable so you can make the strongest argument,” Mowbray said.
“As a renter, you absolutely should expect that your home is safe and liveable. Don’t feel pressured to move back in or to pay rent in a place you feel is unsafe. You should also expect that the landlord is going to step in a do the repairs and maintenance that’s needed to bring the place up to standard after the event.”
Check Out If You Are Eligible For Government Disaster Payments
While you might not have been lucky enough to be included Peter Dutton’s flood relief GoFundMe’s, the government has rolled out flood relief payment packages for those affected by the recent Queensland and New South Wales floods. If you live in NSW, you can complete a questionnaire by Services NSW to find out if you’re eligible for Government support.