Several banks, including NAB, have announced disaster relief packages for customers impacted by Tropical Cyclone Seroja in Western Australia.
The Western Australian town of Kalbarri (about 500km from Perth) was ravaged by ex-Tropical Cyclone Seroja as a category three storm on Sunday night (11 April).
The cyclone made landfall near Kalbarri with gusts of up to 170km per hour on Sunday, with its path impacting more than 1,000km of Western Australia.
The storm has damaged the majority of the town’s buildings, and many homes, while over 30,000 residents were left without power, and phone services have also been impacted.
In the wake of the cyclone, lenders have begun announcing disaster relief packages for customers in regions affected by the cyclone.
National Australia Bank (NAB) was among the first to announce a range of financial relief measures, including:
- Offering reduction on home loan and personal loan repayments or moratorium;
- Credit card and personal loan relief;
- Waiving the application fee for restructuring business facilities;
- Deferral of business loan payments principal and/or leasing payments;
- Waiving costs and charges for withdrawing term deposits early (including farm management deposits);
- Concessional loans to customers seeking support to restructure existing facilities to assist in repairs, restocking and reopening for business;
- NAB Assist tele-consults for customers; and
- Wellbeing support service for colleagues and customers.
Commenting on the measures, NAB’s retail executive, Krissie Jones, said the measures would provide customers access to “immediate” financial support.
She said: “Tropical Cyclone Seroja is impacting a lot of people in these towns – we are here to help and the number one priority is that people stay safe.
“We are here to support all NAB customers, employees and the wider community before, during and after a natural disaster. Anyone who needs assistance or advice should contact us so we can discuss their circumstances and work out the best way we can help.”
The major bank has encouraged customers affected by the cyclone to contact the bank when they are ready to discuss the options available to them by either visiting a NAB branch or calling the bank directly.
Similarly, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA)is providing its Emergency Assistance to customers and businesses in Western Australia storm affected areas.
The relief package consists of a range of options, including:
- Customised payment arrangements for home loans, credit card, business or personal loans;
- Waiving fees and charges;
- Temporary overdrafts, additional loans or emergency credit limit increases (subject to credit approval);
- Waiving fees and notice periods for early access to Term Deposits; and
- Other individual support.
It added that CommInsure customers, may be able to claim emergency accommodation if their home has been damaged and claims through home and contents insurance will be expedited.
Retail banking services group executive, Angus Sullivan, said: “Our thoughts are with everyone impacted and we thank the emergency services who are working to assist those affected by the storms.”
ANZ has also announced that it would provide a financial support package to assist customers and businesses in Western Australian regions affected by the cyclone.
The bank's range of financial support measures include:
- Pausing payments for up to three months on home loans, credit cards, personal loans, and some business loans (the bank said it may still charge customers interest during that period);
- Temporary interest rate reductions on lending for customers experiencing extreme financial distress;
- Waiving fees for restructuring business loans; and
- Waiving fees for accessing term deposits early.
it added that customers with ANZ home and contents insurance may be eligible for emergency funds and temporary accommodation.
ANZ general manager for Western Australia Kathleen Jahour said: "Cyclone Seroja has left a path of destruction in its wake that will likely affect hundreds of residents, many of whom will not yet know the full extent of the damage.
"As people begin the recovery process, we hope these relief measures we've announced today will help them as they face various challenges."
Westpac has rolled out its emergency assistance package along with the other major banks for households and businesses affected by the cyclone.
The measures for both business and retail customers include:
- Home loan customers may apply to defer repayments for up to three months;
- Credit card customers may request to defer repayments for up to 90 days;
- Customers wishing to purchase replacement goods may apply for a personal loan at a discounted interest rate with no establishment fee;
- Waived interest rate adjustments for customers wishing to withdraw term deposits; and
- Business customers may request loan restructuring with no fees incurred.
The bank added that its customers with home and contents insurance may also be eligible to receive access to emergency funds and temporary accommodation under the terms of the policy.
If a customer's home is damaged, the bank has suggested that they should:
- Take photographs and videos of the damage, but only if it is safe to do so;
- Call their insurer if their home is damaged and is not safe, to see if they can access emergency accommodation and advice on how to secure the property;
- Be wary of "storm chasers", as there has been an increase in the number of cases of people falling victim to those knocking doors or dropping leaflets offering inspection reports or emergency repairs. Customers should check their reviews or call their insurer if in doubt, Westpac said; and
- Contact their mortgage provider if they have one to inform them of what has happened.
Westpac chief executive consumer and business banking Chris de Bruin said: “We want our customers to know as they return to their homes and businesses to assess the damage left behind by Cyclone Seroja, that we are on hand to provide help when they need it.
“We have activated our emergency assistance package to provide customers access to urgent financial support, including a range of measures like home loan deferrals and emergency credit card relief. Our customer assistance teams are ready to talk to customers who need to access this support, and we have proactively contacted our home and contents insurance customers where possible."
[Related: Non-bank sets up $1m flood relief fund]
Malavika Santhebennur is the features editor on the mortgages titles at Momentum Media.
Before joining the team in 2019, Malavika held roles with Money Management and Benchmark Media. She has been writing about financial services for the past six years.