Never fear, your home insurance policy should offer you some form of weather damage protection. However, there are a few tricky things to watch out for.
Your insurer may refuse to pay out if they think that your building was ‘poorly maintained.’ Of course, how well maintained a property is can be subjective, so if you don’t think the insurer is playing fair you have every right to make a complaint. Insurers can also refuse to pay out when it looks like damage to your property has happened over a long time. This is known by the industry term ‘wear and tear’ and refers to things that naturally need replacing over time. For example, if a storm has knocked off tiles that were already very loose, your insurer may not pay out (although you should check your policy to see if you’re covered by an accidental damage policy). If, however, the storm has knocked a previously stable chimney over, then you shouldn’t have a problem.
Of course, there are problems you should be expected to know about with your home and things you really couldn’t have been expected to have been aware of. Some structural damage may not be visible or obvious so we’d expect insurers to be reasonable in these circumstances.
If you’re a DIY fanatic, make sure you’ve updated your insurer about the changes you’ve made to your property. Significant structural changes or repairs can have an impact on your premium. For example, how you’ve sealed your roof can have an impact on premiums or a claim. For obvious reasons, insurers may be reluctant to pay out in the event that the storm causes damage to something they don’t know about, like an extension you’ve built yourself, for example.
It can be pretty distressing if your property has been damaged significantly as a result of a storm. But don’t rush straight out to get the repairs done without consulting with your insurance company. They’ll have people in the local area who they can contract for you. If you want to use your own repairs person or specialist, you may be able to do so if your contract allows for this – buy you’ll need a quote and you may have to pay for anything over what the insurer could have got from another service provider. Keep hold of any receipts for the work. You’ll need these to make a claim.
As a (very) general rule of thumb, anything that can be easily moved is unlikely to be covered by your home insurance. This includes fences, gates, hedges and garden tables. Before a storm hits, you should be certain to lock away anything that might get blown around by the bad weather – especially if it’s likely to damage your house.
If damage is structural (think of anything that can’t be easily taken away from the property) the ‘buildings’ part of your insurance covers it. Anything else is covered by the contents policy. These can be combined or separate forms of insurance. This matters if you rent your property for example. The structure is usually covered by your landlord – you’ll have to have your own contents policy for damage to your stuff though.
The most common claims for contents arise as a result of flooding. Flooding claims can be tricky to sort out and may take some time. As a result, they can be the cause of a great deal of distress. Don’t forget you can make a complaint about the insurer if you don’t think you’re being treated fairly – it won’t affect your claim.
If your car ends up damaged, you’ll have to rely on your car insurance policy to cover it. Check to make sure that your policy covers storm damage, and make sure to park your car away from any trees! Fallen trees are a frequent cause of damage, and are easily avoidable!
Damage caused by floods comes under a separate category in your home insurance policy. When you were sold your policy, your insurer should have checked whether your home was at risk from flooding. If you live in a high-risk area, your insurance premiums will most likely be higher to take this into account. Always double-check your policy to make sure that you’re covered.