As we know only too well from the press, in recent years storms and flooding are becoming a more regular occurrence in the UK. Thousands of homes and businesses have been affected all over the country, which makes home insurance seem more important than ever. Whether you've been hit by flooding on multiple occasions, have had a near miss or have been fortunately sat high and dry, it's always good to know what storm damage insurance you have. It may not be as straightforward as you think.
What is storm and weather damage insurance?
If you have a buildings and contents insurance policy, it will very likely cover storm and weather damage. This means that if your home is damaged by a storm or bad weather then your insurance company should cover the costs for the repairs and rehome you whilst the work is done, if need be. However, there are so many exclusions and subjective viewpoints that proving that damage was caused by a storm can be challenging. The Financial Ombudsman deals with many disputes surrounding this, and it's sometimes not a clear cut decision.
Why you might not be covered
Did the storm happen?
Your insurer will want to see that a storm actually damaged your property and also whether the weather conditions constituted a storm. Defining a storm can be difficult, but the Ombudsman states that it consists of 'violent winds, usually accompanied by rain, hail or snow'. However, they also recognise that damage can occur to your property due to bad weather that doesn't necessarily include high winds. Your insurer will look at the evidence that a storm occurred using various methods - the beaufort scale (a wind scale rating), weather reports and whether there was damage to surrounding property.
Was it accidental and not down to the weather? Your insurer will also consider whether the damage was accidental. If they think that to be the case and you don't have accidental cover included on your policy then you probably won't be insured. Accidental damage cover is often available as an extension of cover but you may find some policies that include it as standard. So it's important to know exactly what cover you have...or don't have.
Is your property poorly maintained?
If insurers believe the damage has occurred because you haven't maintained your home properly, they may decline your claim. Say you've had loose roof tiles for a while and haven't taken steps to secure them. If they subsequently fall off in high winds and cause further damage, your insurer may not pay out. So it's really important that you keep your home to a good, sound standard.
Was it an 'act of God'?
Many insurers use this term in their buildings and contents insurance clauses. It refers to an unpredictable, large scale event that couldn't have been planned for – such as lightning, a tornado, an earthquake etc. If this concerns you it might be a good idea to ask your insurer to confirm whether this applies to your policy and get them to explain exactly what it means.
Was damage caused by snow? Properties can be damaged by snow - sometimes it's due to a long snow storm, but sometimes it's due to snow accumulating over a period of days. Say a large weight of snow causes a roof to collapse - it’s not always clear whether this could be called storm damage, or potentially poor maintenance.
How to minimise the risk
Make sure you give yourself the best possible protection by:
- Protectg your home against adverse weather conditions - keep it maintained and weather tight
- Checking all pipes regularly, and repairing any leaks, no matter how small
- Making sure your home is properly insulated
- Checking, clearing and maintaining gutters
- Keeping plants and trees that grow near your house under control
- Planning - in the event of a storm coming make sure you shut all your windows and doors, store all garden furniture away and ideally park your car in a garage to protect it from falling tiles or trees.
What to do in the event your property is damaged by the weather
You may find that you have to leave your property in an emergency and so can't contact your insurer immediately, but make sure you do so as soon as is practically possible. In the meantime, make sure you keep any receipts and invoices that are given to you in relation to the the repair of the damage. If you need alternative accommodation your insurer will be able to tell you if you are covered for this and will be able to arrange it for you, so this is another reason to contact them as soon as you can.
Make sure you are adequately insured
By making sure you're adequately insured with the right policy, you can have peace of mind that you've done the best to protect your home and family. So make sure you choose a suitable insurance in the first place and read the policy thoroughly so you know exactly what you're covered for.
We can help you search for the best insurance providers to meet your needs. Start a home insurance quote, it doesn't take too long. We'll ask you some questions about you and your home. Then we'll get you a list of buildings insurance quotes that suit your needs. Our results page is clear and easy to understand, giving you a summary of each quote and presenting them in price order. In your own time you can decide which one is best for you.