Rebuilding or repairing your property after a flood
Guidance for owners and tenants of homes that are damaged or in need of rebuilding after the 2022 floods.
Damaged property after a flood
Property damage from floods, debris and mould can be extensive and take weeks to clean up before being able to start repair or rebuilding work.
Do not start surveying the damage or repairs to your home, business or farm until:
- you are aware of any health and safety risks at the property and how to manage them
- the power supply has been checked by a licensed electrician
- all electrical appliances are checked and tagged as safe to use
- exposed wall framing is made safe
- exposed wiring is certified as safe
- gas checked by a licensed gas fitter
- water supply and sewage checked, tested and cleared by a licensed plumber.
Asbestos materials can be present in flood-affected areas if the buildings were built before 1990. Asbestos is hazardous but can be managed safely.
Homeowners – read your insurance policy to find out if you are covered for the cost of the repairs.
Tenants – advise your managing agent or landlord of repairs needed.
Make your property safe
Once mud and debris are cleared from a property, its walls, floors and building linings can be dried with fans to avoid mould, which cause health problems. Read mould and your health, visit clean-up advice for more information on how to stay safe while cleaning up, and NSW Health website for information on staying healthy.
Be wary of trades and doorknockers who might promise to fix or repair your home quickly with the promise that your insurer will pay. Read more about scam warnings.
Some property repairs can be done quickly, without approval from your local council. These include minor internal alterations to replace or renovate:
- doorways, walls, ceilings or floor linings
- deteriorated frames, including stairs and stairwells
- a bathroom or kitchen
- a built-in fixture like a vanity, cupboard or wardrobe
- an existing sanitary fixture, such as a grease trap
- shelving or racking that is not higher than 2.7m
- a work station or counter.
Minor external and non-structural building alterations that can be done without approval from your local council include:
- painting, plastering, cement rendering, cladding, attaching fittings or decorative work
- replacing external windows, glazing or a door (other than those on bushfire prone land)
- repairing or replacing non-structural walls or roof cladding
- installing security screens or grills
- repairing a balustrade
- restumping or repairing structure foundations without increasing the height of the structure.
For more information on what types of work can be done without approval, contact firstname.lastname@example.org
What to do about extensive damage
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment is working with local councils to reduce barriers to development approval for people wanting to rebuild after natural disasters like floods.
Dealing with trades and builders
In NSW, residential building work valued at $5000 or more (incl. GST) requires a licence. Specialist work like electrical wiring, air conditioning, plumbing, drainage and gasfitting also require a licence.
Don’t pay any money without a written contract. Protect yourself and your investment by using our online tool to check your tradesperson is qualified and/or licensed to do the job.
After a disaster like a flood, there can be a shortage of materials and skilled trades to complete work in a timely manner.
NSW Fair Trading advises:
- checking the suitability of the tradespeople by getting several quotes
- avoiding scammers who may door knock flood-affected areas and promise the insurer will pay
- ask for the tradesperson’s full name and licence number and find out if they are licenced to do the work
- check with your local council or NSW Department of Planning and Environment if a permit or approval is needed.
Help with rebuilding properties and temporary accommodation
The NSW Department of Planning and Environment has a number of resources and planning initiatives to help facilitate rebuilding after natural disasters.
They have recently made changes to help people recover and rebuild after a natural disaster. This includes a range of low impact works to be carried out without the need for development approval.
The Local Government (Manufactured Homes Estates, Caravan Parks, Camping Grounds and Moveable Dwellings) Regulation 2021 has been updated to help people who need emergency accommodation because of natural disasters or the COVID-19 pandemic. These changes include an allowance that temporary caravan parks or camping grounds can be set up, by, or on behalf of a public authority, without approval.
There are also details on temporary installation of a shipping container for storage purposes, and installation of emergency accomodation on private land such as a moveable dwelling.
People who have been displaced from their homes because of a natural disaster can install a moveable dwelling, such as a caravan, on their land or on other land with the landowner’s consent. These moveable dwellings can be in place for up to two years without the need for council approval.
Councils can then extend the two-year exemption period for the installation of a moveable dwelling. This could be to accommodate a person who has been displaced because of a natural disaster in their Local Government Area.
Read the frequently asked questions (PDF, 74 KB) to learn more about temporary accommodation.
Rebuilding fully constructed properties and obtaining an occupation certificate does require council approval.
Some local government approvals also require other works to be scoped, such as plumbing, drainage or surveys.
Councils across NSW suffer a shortage of qualified planners which reduces their capacity to assess development applications, creating longer assessment times and delays delivering regional housing.
Read about the NSW Government regional housing flying squad program to help councils deliver more housing in regional areas.
There are also infrastructure pathways to encourage repair to infrastructure. Read more on the NSW Department of Planning and Environment website.