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‘We must acknowledge what’s happening’ – the hidden devastation of financial abuse | Commonwealth Bank Australia: Next Chapter

‘We must acknowledge what’s happening’ – the hidden devastation of financial abuse | Commonwealth Bank Australia: Next Chapter

Warning: this article contains details that some readers may find distressing.

Six years ago, Jane was able to escape from domestic violence. She had been working tirelessly to support her children and a husband who claimed to have no money. When she left, she discovered he had been earning more than $250,000 a year.

“I had become so tired and so browbeaten just through the process of managing it day by day that I thought, how do I move myself out of this situation?” she says. “It took so much energy to actually pick myself up and take my children.”

Like many victims of family violence, Jane appeared on paper to have it together. She is a former dean of a university, and has a master’s degree. But in private, she was subject to years of financial, emotional and physical abuse that left deep scars on her family.

“I had to stop working because I had a traumatised daughter,” Jane says. “Even now, she still has moments where her trauma becomes so much it is unmanageable. The impact of the financial abuse permeates through everything.”

Australia’s domestic violence laws repeatedly fail victims of abuse. The understanding and management of trauma – suffered by parents and children – is lacking.

For Jane, financial abuse meant she had no choice but to work herself to the bone, frightened by the fallout if she didn’t. Her solicitor husband had withheld his high earnings and left Jane to manage the strain of supporting the household.

“Psychological abuse and financial abuse are part of the same cycle,” she says. “I actually collapsed and had to go to hospital because I had absolutely flogged myself, working incredibly hard with two small children. After we separated, and I received the child support statements, I realised that while

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Hidden home risks that send insurance through the roof

Hidden home risks that send insurance through the roof

When house hunting, the price of homeowners insurance probably isn’t top of mind. But homes with hidden risks can make getting coverage difficult, expensive or both. Learning how to identify them could save you a bundle.

This could be a particularly important concern for first-time homebuyers and those moving from cities to suburban or rural areas who may not be aware of common hazards, says Jennifer Naughton, risk consulting officer for North America for Chubb, an insurance company.

Three out of 10 city dwellers told a Chubb survey in early August that they were considering moving out of the city because of the novel coronavirus outbreak. Meanwhile, the number of first-time homebuyers in the first half of 2020 rose 4 percent compared to a year earlier as lower interest rates made mortgages more affordable, according to Genworth Mortgage Insurance.

Where’s the nearest fire hydrant?

A homeowners insurance premium can depend in part on distance to the nearest fire hydrant and fire station, Naughton says. Homes that are on narrow roads or otherwise difficult for fire trucks to access also could be more expensive to insure.

“If they have to cross over a bridge, it’s not only a consideration of can a car go over that bridge, but also can a fire engine,” she says.

Some homes are at such high risk of wildfires and severe weather — hurricanes, tornadoes, windstorms and hail — that private companies won’t insure them. Without insurance, you can’t get a mortgage, so you’d need to turn to state-run risk pools such as Beach and Windstorm Plans or Fair Access to Insurance Requirements Plans, better known as FAIR. These policies typically cost more and cover less than regular homeowners insurance.

Also, many homeowners policies in storm-prone areas have hurricane deductibles that are higher than the normal

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Hidden Home Risks That Send Insurance Through the Roof | Real Estate

Hidden Home Risks That Send Insurance Through the Roof | Real Estate

Homebuyers may be able to lower their insurance costs by updating those systems and by installing water sensors or a whole-house monitoring system, which shuts off the water supply if a leak is detected, Naughton says. Those systems can range from $600 to several thousand dollars, she says.

Flood risk is also a concern, Naughton says. Flooding isn’t covered by regular homeowners insurance policies, and typically only homes in the highest-risk zones are required by mortgage lenders to buy special flood policies. But the federal government’s flood maps may understate the risk to many properties, especially as hurricanes get stronger and bring intense rainfall along with larger storm surges.

“We’re seeing coastal flooding that’s going in quite a bit,” Naughton says. “People who previously didn’t consider flood insurance should because of the rain aspect as well as the surges.”

Again, talking to the neighbors and a local insurance agent can help you assess the potential costs. You can get quotes for flood insurance from the National Flood Insurance Program as well as a few private insurers.

Earth-shaking risks

The U.S. Geological Survey says 16 states are at high risk for a damaging earthquake in the next half-century: Alaska, Arkansas, California, Hawaii, Idaho, Illinois, Kentucky, Missouri, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, South Carolina, Tennessee, Utah, Washington and Wyoming.

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