Insurer Youi has left customers stranded after natural disasters, failing to repair properties devastated by Cyclone Debbie and in a hailstorm, the financial services royal commission has heard.
Sacha Murphy told the royal commission on Wednesday that her Broken Hill home was damaged by a massive hailstorm in November 2016.
After she contacted her insurer, Youi, builders assessed the damage. All said the house had structural roofing issues and needed more work than Youi had advised.
Eventually one builder simply pulled off part of the roof, and then said it was too expensive to do any more work.
“It was scary. We didn’t know what would happen, what type of damage would occur, and my children were too scared to sleep in the house,” Ms Murphy, who was three months pregnant at the time, said.
They moved into the same bedroom and put their beds together.”
Calls to Youi brought nothing and the roof was not repaired until May 2018 – by which time the house had suffered rain damage. Ms Murphy, who has a partner and four children, is still waiting for the roof and internal work to be properly completed.
Meanwhile, Queensland businessman Glen Sutton and his wife told the royal commission they fled their home in Cannonvale, near Airlie Beach, to shelter with neighbours during the eye of Cyclone Debbie in March 2017. After the storm, they found their house had lost part of its roof and had suffered extensive internal water damage.
It was unliveable, so they managed to find temporary accommodation.
The couple contacted Youi and arranged for “make safe” repairs. However, the builder who came to do that work refused because he said it would take much longer than the eight hours Youi had allocated.
By about May some work had been done at the Sutton home, and a tarpaulin had been installed over the damaged roof.
However, a couple of months on, the tarp was “torn to shreds” in a wind storm. Despite Mr Sutton’s pleas, it was not replaced until January 2018.
In the mean time, subtropical rain continued to damage the home. Mr Sutton said his wife had videoed the rain pouring in and was so distressed about the issue that he asked Youi to deal exclusively with him.
“My faith in Youi as an insurer has plummeted to zero: I feel we have been abandoned by Youi,” he said in an email.
Several builders came to inspect the job, but all said it was too big for them and required an engineering plan – which Youi was unwilling to provide. Eventually, Mr Sutton spent $10,000 on independent consultants’ reports.
“We were totally fed up with Youi. At this point, the emails were in the many hundreds backward and forwards, and we felt like we were getting nowhere,” Mr Sutton said.
Eighteen months after Cyclone Debbie hit, the repairs are still to be completed and Mr Sutton said he had no idea when they would be.