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Is your home covered against storm damage?

A British winter (and often a British summer) wouldn't be complete without a handful of storms.  

These storms can leave chaos and destruction behind. And for some unfortunate people, damage to their homes too. 

But are you able to claim on your home insurance to repair the damage? Let's take a look.

A house suffers storm damage

What is a storm?

You might think we're teaching granny to suck eggs, but it's an important question. Especially if you're an insurance company.

The Financial Ombudsman Service deals with a lot of home insurance complaints. Many of those are about storm claims that insurers have rejected.

One of the main reasons for this was because insurers disputed that there was a 'storm' to begin with.

So, what counts as a 'storm'?

The Financial Ombudsman defines a storm as:

"[Something that] generally involves violent winds, usually accompanied by rain, hail or snow".

Some insurers, but not all, define storms in more detail on their policy documents.

These definitions usually have a specific wind speed eg it's considered a storm if the wind is more than 54 mph.

Others may refer to the Beaufort Scale. The Met Office uses this scale to describe wind speed. Based on this, a storm is a 10 on the Beaufort scale, with wind speeds of at least 55 mph.

It's worth looking at the specific wording of your home insurance policy to check what they consider a storm to be.

 

What is storm and weather damage?

There are many ways a storm can damage your house:

  • Roof tiles blown off in heavy winds
  • Damage to the house from lightning
  • Damage from fallen trees and debris
  • Water damage due to heavy rainfall.

 

Does my home insurance cover against storm damage?

Yes, buildings and contents insurance policies usually cover against storm damage. And if your home is left uninhabitable, your insurer should pay for alternative accommodation until they repair the house and you can move back in. 

Some might exclude fences, garden sheds, gates and hedges. Some might exclude anything outside the house itself, unless you have specific cover for it.

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What is storm and weather damage insurance?

Storm and weather damage insurance should come as part of your home insurance, but levels of cover vary between providers.

So, if you think your home could be at risk of storm damage it’s important to check the small print on your policy.

 

What can I claim for after a storm? 

Your policy should cover any significant damage that your property suffers as a result of a storm.

But it’s important to note that some policies might exclude anything outdoors like garden furniture. So, if you know bad weather is on its way, you might want to take steps to protect it or bring it indoors.

 

What do I need to do to claim on storm and bad weather insurance?

If a storm has damaged your house, here's how you make the home insurance claim as smooth as possible:

Get in touch with your insurer as soon as you can

They might be able to give you more advice, or have specific requests to help with the claim.

Make a thorough inspection of the house

Take photos and record any damage you find. Take note of the date and time so it's as close to the end of the storm as possible.

Keep any damaged items

Your insurance company might want to look at the extent of the damage, and these will act as proof.

If you have to, sort out emergency temporary repairs

Let your insurer know about it and keep all receipts and invoices. You might be able to add these to your claim.

Storm and flood claims might take longer than normal to resolve as the insurer might need to investigate the damage.

 

Why home maintenance matters with storm damage claims

Another reason why insurers refuse storm damage claims is because of wear and tear.  

Let's say you make a claim for storm damage because your roof tiles have blown off. 

The insurer might inspect the roof. If it turns out that the roof tiles were already damaged due to wear and tear, they could refuse the claim.

Or, say you claim for water damage to your house after a storm. If the insurer discovers that the gutters aren't clear, they could refuse the claim. 

Most insurance policies say you must maintain your property in a good state of repair. If they later find out that this isn't the case, they might be within their rights to cancel any future claims.

 

How can I protect my property from a storm?

Here are some routine maintenance chores to reduce storm damage and help you out later:

  • Clear your gutters at least twice a year. Check again after any period of heavy rainfall.
  • Check your attic for signs of water damage.
  • If you can, inspect your roof for any loose tiles or other damage.
  • Prune shrubs and trees to reduce to risk of debris.
  • Remove creeping plants on the outside of the house.

Also, examine trees near your property and remove branches that could potentially damage your home in a storm.

Contact your local council if it is on public land or a tree surgeon if it's on yours. Not only could large trees pose a risk during a storm, but they could also increase the risk of subsidence.