Storm damage - what should I be covered for?
It's been one storm after another lately in the UK, and the damage is keeping insurance companies busy with claims. Here we look at the types of claims that typically are and aren't covered on home insurance, and some of the things you can do to try and prevent the damage occurring in the first place.
What should I expect to be covered for on my home insurance?
As storm is a major risk on home insurance policies, most types of damage caused by it are covered. Of course, a storm has many elements, and each can inflict different types and severities of damage. Typical things that a standard home buildings insurance policy should cover to repair or replace are:
Damage to or loss of all or part of the roof of your home and any insured outbuildings like garages and sheds due to high winds, lightning strikes, rain or weight of snow
Windows broken by flying debris
Falling chimney stacks
Damage caused by falling aerials and satellite dishes (your Contents policy might also cover the aerial and dish itself)
Damage to buildings caused by falling trees or branches, whether or not the offending tree or branch originated on your property
The cost of alternative accommodation for you and your pets whilst any damage that prevents you living in your home is repaired
Some insurers will define storm in their policy wording, so unless officially recorded wind speeds, the rate of rainfall or depth of snow in your area hit a certain level, they won't consider the claim to be covered as resulting from storm damage. Not all insurers apply these thresholds and those that do can have different rules, but if your home is in an area prone to high winds, it might be worth checking the insurer's stance when comparing home insurance.
When it comes to dealing with the claim, many insurers will instruct their own inspectors and repairers to attend your home and carry out works. When there's widespread storms, the claims operations of insurers can struggle to cope with the volume of claims, and they may ask you to source repairs locally and then claim back the costs up to agreed limits. In all instances you should log the event with the insurer as soon as you can, though expect the phone lines to be busy so if your insurer offers online claims reporting that might be your best option.
What about my belongings?
Items in your home are covered by your Contents policy, so if the roof comes off or rain gets in through a broken window and damages your belongings, your Contents policy will pick up the cost of repairing or replacing those items. Some Contents policies will also cover belongings you might keep outside, such as garden furniture or children's play equipment.
We know that some people can end up without electricity for days on end following bad weather in the UK. If you find yourself without power and suffer a loss of frozen or chilled food as a result, many Contents policies will cover this if you can evidence the loss with photos or receipts. Some will apply a cover limit, but almost all will apply your policy excess when you claim, so a claim solely for this is unlikely to be worthwhile unless you have a particularly large freezer and suffer a total loss, but well worth including if it's part of a larger claim for other damage.
What things should I expect not to be covered?
As we've seen above, home insurance policies do cover a lot of different types of damage associated with storms, but when it comes to bad weather, there are some things that we just expect will take a battering and suffer damage. So things like fences, gates and hedges which are always prone to suffering from high winds tend to be excluded from storm and flood claims.
Also, any damage that has occurred over a longer period of time or is as a result of a lack of routine maintenance is unlikely to be covered either. Homeowners and property landlords should ensure that cement, mortar, rendering and roofs are in good condition at all times to stay clear of this exclusion kicking in.
Is there anything I can do to try and prevent damage occurring?
It's always best to be prepared and there's a few things you can do when you first hear there might be a storm on the way:
Secure anything outside that could be at risk from high winds, ideally moving things indoors if possible. So things like trampolines, garden furniture, plant pots, wheelie bins.
Check fences and gates are structurally sound. If something looks close to breaking already, you might be better off removing it yourself now before the weather hits rather than risk it coming loose in the storm and causing more damage to your - or worse, your neighbours - property
Prior to the storm arriving, make sure all doors and windows are closed and locked
If there's a risk of flooding in your area, move any valuables you can upstairs if possible, or at least off the ground if that's all you can manage