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MEDIA RELEASE - Know your rights when extreme weather strikes

7 Feb 2017

As Sydney and parts of NSW are soaked by heavy rain and flash-flooding, Legal Aid NSW wants tenants and homeowners to understand their legal rights if extreme weather damages their properties.

As rain continues to lash Sydney and parts of NSW, Legal Aid NSW wants tenants and homeowners alike to understand their rights if extreme weather forces them from their properties.

Legal Aid NSW has a dedicated disaster recovery team with lawyers who are specially trained to help people who have been affected by severe weather events.

"The number one issue we get asked about when people are trying to get back on their feet after a flood or other extreme weather event is about keeping a roof over their head," Legal Aid NSW lawyer Brenda Staggs said.

"For homeowners, that might mean confusion about their insurance coverage or problems making claims. We often hear of people whose insurance promises them temporary accommodation if their homes are damaged, but who end up sleeping on friends’ couches because they don’t realise what they are entitled to."

"And renters might think they have to keep paying full rent even if they can’t stay in their weather-damaged properties, which is not true."

"Our lawyers can also help homeowners who need to renegotiate mortgage payments or people who are having trouble keeping up with loan or credit card payments."

One proactive step homeowners can take is to check whether their buildings and contents are insured against natural disasters, and how much they are insured for – keeping in mind that building costs can rise over time, and may be affected by changing regulations and building codes.

A coverage level that was appropriate five years ago may not be adequate today.

If you have been affected by extreme weather, you can get free legal help from a Legal Aid NSW lawyer. Call LawAccess NSW on 1300 888 529 or visit www.legalaid.nsw.gov.au to find your nearest free legal service.

"Being forced out of your home or losing it altogether because of a natural disaster can be an overwhelming experience and it can have a devastating impact on you and your family," Ms Staggs said.

"Knowing your legal rights can provide crucial peace of mind and help you and your family get back on track after a bushfire, flood or other severe weather event."

"Just as you’d clear out your gutters well before the first embers are at your door, it’s a good idea to check your insurance coverage before disaster strikes."

"And it’s not just bushfires - heavy rain, hail and severe thunderstorms can all wreak havoc that persists long after the clouds have rolled back and the floodwaters have receded."

Media Contact: Sophie Tarr (02) 9213 5208 or 0419 212 334