INSURANCE CLAIM: Jessie Harlow inspects the damage to her North Ipswich home she believes was caused by high winds in a storm in October last year.
INSURANCE CLAIM: Jessie Harlow inspects the damage to her North Ipswich home she believes was caused by high winds in a storm in October last year. Rob Williams

'Holy s**t, an earthquake': Home owner's insurance fight

HER house shaking as the wind rattled through the timber walls, North Ipswich home owner Jessie Harlow thought she was experiencing an earthquake.

It was late October last year when a typical Queensland summer storm rocked Ms Harlow's 1930s home but it wasn't until the next month she noticed some alarming damage.

While moving furniture in the living room, she noticed grass and daylight peaking through a sizeable gap between the floor and wall of her home. When she went outside to investigate further, Ms Harlow found her house had shifted on the concrete stumps.

Now she's facing a damage bill worth tens of thousands of dollars after her insurance claim was rejected.

She said insurer CGU claims soil and stump movement caused the damage, not the storm.

"My whole house shook and it actually moved my house off the stumps. It shifted the whole house." she said.

"I thought, 'holy, we're having an earthquake'. There was not a lot of damage that I could see except there was water coming out of the light fitting on the front veranda and one of the doors wouldn't close properly.

"It wasn't until I moved the furniture in the lounge room that I realised there was a gap between the wall and floor. The floor and wall have come apart on the whole length of the house."

She said her insurance company, CGU, sent inspectors to look at the damage but they claimed it happened before the storm hit.

"Insurance is saying because the stumps have been packed before, it has obviously moved, then it's likely the soil has subsided over time and that has caused the damage," Ms Harlow said.

"They won't pay because they say it's not caused by the wind. I just thought it would get done because you pay your insurance in good faith and it's covered for storms. I've never missed a payment so I thought this is what I was covered for.

"What I really want to know is who else got damage in those high winds, if anyone else suffered damage or some sort of wind damage so I can prove it's not just me and I'm not imagining it."

Ms Harlow said she bought the house three years ago after returning to Ipswich to be near her family.

"It's such a gorgeous little house, it's such a cute little house. I really like my house," she said.

A spokesperson for IAG, the company that manages CGU insurance, said a general approach was applied when assessing all storm damage claims.

"During the event of a storm, our priority is the safety of our customers and to ensure they have immediate help and support," they said.

"Our builders and technical specialists can then assess the cause of damage to a property and the repairs required to help our customers get back on their feet as soon as possible. We may also be required to use experts, such as engineers, to assess the cause of damage to a property, to ensure we make the appropriate decision in line with the policy."

Ms Harlow said she wanted to hear from anyone else who had damage to their home in October's storm. Contact her via harlowjm@yahoo.com.au.


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