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Rise in home claims following storms

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Home insurance claims for damage to property during the recent storms have surged. We look at when insurers pay out – and when they won't.

  Protecting the door from flooding

The storms and flooding which have hit the UK over recent weeks have resulted in a huge increase in home insurance claims.

One insurer, RIAS, has revealed it is facing a six-fold increase in claims for storm damage to property since Christmas, with flood-related cases up by a factor of four.

Is your home covered against storm damage?

AA Insurance says that most of its recent home claims have been for lost tiles or slates, as well as dislodged TV aerials and damage caused by falling trees or branches.

The vast majority of homeowners have a buildings insurance policy in place to protect against storm and flood damage.

Mortgage lenders generally make it a condition of the loan that cover is in place. But even if they don't, it makes sense for people to insure what is likely to be their most valuable asset.

Problems can arise, however, when an insurer says that a particular instance of damage is not covered under a customer's buildings insurance policy.

What is storm damage?

The Financial Ombudsman Service, which resolves disputes between financial firms and their customers, receives about 350 complaints every month about buildings insurance claims.

Roughly half relate to storm damage, says spokesman Rory Stoves.

"The majority of complaints we see about claims for storm damage tend to involve disputes between the consumer and the insurer about what actually constitutes a storm."

The Ombudsman says that a storm usually involves "violent winds, usually accompanied by rain, hail or snow".

When settling arguments over whether the weather conditions involved in a claim can actually be described as a storm, the organisation may consult local weather reports.

Stoves adds: "We also see complaints where the insurer does not consider damage to a building was caused entirely by a storm."

Flood sign

Wear and tear

This could be where the insurer thought that roof tiles had already been damaged by general wear and tear.

Disputes can also arise where insurers decide that gutters had not been kept clear of leaves and other debris and had contributed to water damage to the property, for example.

When it comes to floods, again many disputes are caused by disagreement over whether the damage in question was actually down to flooding.

In some cases, Stoves says, a consumer has noticed that a ground floor or basement room that had been watertight before has started to let water in.

"The insurer may have turned down a claim for the damage on the grounds that it was not caused by a flood, but by a rise in the underlying water table."

The firm may then argue that the property had not been adequately waterproofed, so the claim is not covered under the terms of the policy.

Gareth Lane, head of home insurance at Confused.com, has advice for ensuring your claim is accepted.

How to make a home insurance claim

"Firstly, report a claim as soon as possible: a lot of insurers expect a claim to be reported within 48 hours," Lane says.

"This will result in it being dealt with, and ultimately settled, a lot more efficiently."

He adds that householders should check with their policy provider before arranging any repair work.

"Insurers will allow alternative companies to carry out any repair work, but may need to agree costs with them.

If claims costs are kept to a minimum, then this will be reflected in future premiums."

Why home maintenance matters

Finally, Lane says it is important to maintain the property throughout the year. Read our guide to preparing your home for winter.

"Ensure you act upon any damage, no matter how small, even if you don't need to make a claim.

"A future claim may be invalidated if you haven't made sufficient attempts to re-protect yourself from subsequent adverse weather, despite realising the risk."

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