In times of crisis and natural disaster, the last this on one’s mind can be dealing with call centres, completing paperwork and locating and providing supporting documentation. Tackling these matters on one’s own can be daunting and not to mention time consuming.
The issue is that the credit reporting system in Australia is now a comprehensive system which simply means all of your good and bad repayment history is now recorded. This included home loan information, car repayments, personal loans and credit cards. If you are late in repayments this is noted on the credit report as your Repayment History Indicator ( RHI ). Your RHI heavily weighs your credit score adversely and is recorded for two years before it is refreshed. This will most certainly affect your ability to be approved for finance in the near future.
Under section 72 of the National Consumer Protection Act there are provisions for hardship under certain circumstances. The Credit Reporting Code of Conduct now specifies that during an official hardship period, RHI’s are not to be recorded. The question is; ‘how’ and ‘when’ should you apply for hardship, and when is it too late ? The answer is as soon as possible, when you notice that difficult times are current or ahead in the next loan repayment. Too late is after the repayment is missed.
The RHI is just one way that your credit file and score can be negatively impacted during this time, another is by way of payment default. This can occur if the debt is more than 60 days overdue in for a consumer matter. The credit provider must give notices by way of mail to the last address on their record. This is why it’s important to update your address history when you move address so you can be notified and if possible remedy the default by way of communicating with the lender or making a payment or payment arrangement.
But how does all of this help someone affected by natural disaster that may not have a home address or know when they will be able to make the payment or an arrangement ?
The answer is; that there is provisions in place to protect you in this situation, you just need to give notice to the credit provider that you are in fact in hardship and they must provide you with a reasonable relief by way of freezing interest repayments and in some cases putting the whole principle on hold also. You will be asked to complete a statement of financial position and hardship forms.
We understand that you may have several credit facilities and to contact all of them and complete this process may be tough. This is why We Fix Credit is offering our assistance FREE of charge to any one affected by the bushfires including the RFS volunteers to guide you through this process, and even forward on the information on your behalf to the credit providers so that you will not have to worry about your credit score being affected by this tragedy. Prevention of a credit default or adverse credit score is the best cure for your financial future when it comes borrowing when that time arises.
Below you can find some useful information to help with relief, insurance and financial aid during this ongoing crisis.
Department of Human Services
If you’ve been impacted by bushfires in disaster-declared areas, you can access financial support through the Department of Human Services Bushfires hub.
Disaster Recovery Allowance
This is a short-term payment to make up for lost income as a result of the fires. You can receive it for a period of up to 13 weeks and it’s payable from the date you lose income. If you receive the Disaster Recovery Allowance, you may also be able to access the Beneficiary Tax Offset.
The maximum payment rate is equivalent to Newstart or Youth Allowance, depending on your personal circumstances. Applicants have up until 1 July 2020 to lodge a claim. This is available for NSW, VIC, SA and QLD residents.
Australian Government Disaster Recovery Payment
This is a one-off payment of $1,000 for adults and $400 for children who have been adversely affected by the recent bushfires in NSW, QLD or SA. Applicants have until 1 July 2020 to lodge a claim.
These are available for eligible New Zealand residents who have been affected by bushfires.
How to make a claim through the Department of Human Services
- Claims can be made over the phone. You can contact the department on 180-22-66. Phone lines are open between 8am and 5pm (including weekends).
- You’ll need to provide supporting documents within 28 days of making the claim. These can include proof of a hospital admission or damage to your home. You’ll also need to provide proof of identity documents, like a photocopied version of your driver’s licence or passport.
- You can submit forms or supporting documents at your nearest service centre. You can also mail them to Emergency Processing Centre, Reply Paid 7815, Canberra BC ACT 2610.
Australian Red Cross
If you’ve recently lost your home in the bushfires, you may be eligible for a grant of up to $2,000. Grants are available to people whose homes have been destroyed or rendered uninhabitable since July 2019.
How to apply
- Visit the Red Cross Emergency Grants – Australian Bushfires page and register your contact details.
- You’ll need to supply relevant documents that prove your identity and place of residence.
- Once you’ve applied, the Red Cross will follow up on any claim requests made from 6 January 2020 onwards. This will include verifying information provided and checking proof of residence.
- Red Cross grants will be open until 1 April 2020.
The Salvation Army
The Salvation Army is working with state and local government to provide support to affected communities. Forms of assistance may vary from state to state, but typically include the below:
- Financial assistance
- Emotional wellbeing and support services
- Information, referrals and advice
CommBank is offering an Emergency Assistance Package for affected customers. If you’ve been directly impacted by the bushfires, you may be eligible for the below.
- Emergency accommodation assistance
- Waiving of selected fees
- Consideration of additional loans (including emergency credit increases)
- Fast-tracked insurance claims
NAB is providing a $1 million Disaster Relief Fund to help customers and employees affected by bushfires across the country. If you’ve recently lost your home, you may be you may be eligible for a $2,000 grant to help cover costs like temporary accommodation, food and clothing.
For information on how to access the grant, contact NAB on 1300-683-106. Lines are open from 8am–8pm Monday to Friday and 9am–1pm Saturday AEST/AEDT. Visit NAB’s Natural disaster and crisis support page for more information.
ANZ has a financial relief package available for customers affected by bushfires across the country. Features of the relief package include:
- The ability to suspend loan repayments for up to three months
- Temporary interest rate relief
- Waiving of fees associated with restructuring business loans
- Early access to term deposits without incurring a fee
- ANZ home and contents insurance customers may also be eligible for measures around emergency funds and temporary accommodation
A Disaster Relief Package is available for Westpac customers in NSW and QLD who have been affected by the bushfires. The package offers various forms of help including the following:
- The ability to defer repayments for up to three months
- Access to personal loans at a discounted interest rate
- Early access to term deposits without incurring a fee
- Emergency accommodation assistance for insurance customers
Bank Of Queensland
For those that have been affected and require relief from interest repayments, you can complete the hardship forms on the link below;
If you would like further information on how BOQ may be able to assist you during financial difficulty or would like assistance with completing an application, please call their toll-free hotline number 1800 079 866 and speak to one of their team members. Alternatively, you can complete a paper application and submit it at any BOQ branch.
Other service providers offering relief
Optus, Telstra and Vodafone have all committed to waiving volunteer firefighters’ phone bills for December and January.
Telstra is offering free interim services for NSW, ACT and VIC customers and small businesses who have lost service as a result of the fires. Telstra is also offering free calls and Telstra Air Wi-Fi through local payphones in the wider community.
A Telstra hotline is available for customers who have had to evacuate or have recently lost their homes. Contact 132 203 for more information.
A hotline is available for volunteer firefighters and those affected by the bushfires. Dial 1300 301 671 for more information.
Vodafone volunteer firefighter customers can call 1300 650 410 or visit a store for a credit on their phone bill. This will cover service charges between December and January.
There’s also a range of options available under Vodafone’s hardship policy. This applies to any customers who have been directly impacted by the fires. Contact the financial hardship team on 1300 650 405.
Telecommunications Industry Ombudsman ( TIO )
Consumers impacted can now receive assistance with their unresolved telephone and internet issues from the Telecommunications Industry ombudsman.
Staying connected through phone and Internet services is important for the safety of residential consumers and small businesses in areas impacted by natural disasters.
For local residents, remaining connected to phone and Internet services means being able to contact emergency services, stay connected to medical assistance, and remain in touch with friends, family and neighbours. For small businesses it means being able to continue trading, supplying goods and providing a vital network for members of the community.
TIO’s Natural Disasters help line – 03 8600 8308
Residential and small business customers who have been impacted by the fires can receive a “temporary freeze” on their accounts.
Priority assistance will be provided customers who have recently lost their homes or been evacuated. You can contact the Energy Australia hotline 1800-120-084 or send a direct message via Facebook and Twitter.
Volunteer firefighters can receive a $150 credit per customer for their electricity or gas bills. AGL will also pause the bills for all customers affected by the bushfires.
For more information, you can contact AGL on 13-12-45.
If you have other account or supply concerns, please get in touch with Origin and they’ll do what they can to assist. You can:
- Send a message via facebook
- Speak to a Live Chat agent
- Call 13 24 61 and ask for the customer advocacy team
Special relief is being offered to volunteer firefighters and customers who have lost their homes. This includes waiving power bills and half-price membership offers. Visit https://energylocals.com.au/hardship for more information.
Lodging a claim can be stressful, especially when you’re dealing with the emotional fallout of a natural disaster. Below are some quick tips to help simplify the process:
- Your home insurance provider may be able to offer assistance when it comes to emergency accommodation.
- It should also be the first point of contact in terms of home repairs and rebuilding (once it is declared safe to do so).
- If you want further clarification around your policy, you can contact the Insurance Council of Australia Disaster Hotline 1800 734 621.
- Community members can also enquire via www.disasters.org.au.