Is your home covered against storm damage?
Confused about whether your house is protected? We're here to help.
A British winter wouldn't be complete without a series of storms. It seems like there's a new one every other week.
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.
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What is a storm?
You may think we're teaching you to suck eggs, but it's an important question. Especially if you're an insurer.
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.
READ MORE: How to drive safely in stormy weather
What is storm 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.
Some may exclude fences, garden sheds, gates and hedges. Some may exclude anything outside the house itself, unless you have specific cover for it.
What if your house is so damaged after a storm that you can't live in it? Your insurer should pay for alternative accommodation until they repair the house.
How to claim for storm damage
If a storm has damaged your house, here's how you make the claim as smooth as possible:
Get in touch with your insurer as soon as you can.
Make a thorough inspection of the house.
Keep any damaged items.
If you have to, sort out emergency temporary repairs.
They might be able to give you more advice, or have specific requests to help with the claim.
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.
Your insurance company might want to look at the extent of the damage, and these will act as proof.
Let your insurer know about it and keep all receipts and invoices. You can add these on to your claim.
Storm and flood claims can take longer to resolve as the insurer will need to investigate the damage.
READ MORE: Home insurance for homes at high risk
Why home maintenance matters
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 will inspect the roof. If it turns out that the roof tiles were already damaged due to wear and tear, they may refuse the claim.
Or if you claim for water damage to your house after a storm. If the insurer discovers that the gutters aren't clear, they may 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 may be within their rights to cancel any future claims.
With that in mind, 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.
Can I hire someone to carry out maintenance work on my home during lockdown?
It can be nerve-wracking to hire someone to carry out maintenance work in your house, especially during lockdown. But tradespeople are still allowed to work in your home.
They should be working safely by sticking to social distancing rules and wearing face masks. They shouldn't use anything in your home either, such as towels.
That goes for mugs too, so resist the urge to offer your tradesperson a cup of tea.
If you're concerned, speak to your tradesperson to see what measures they're putting in place to keep you safe.
READ MORE: Hiring a tradesperson: 5 simple steps