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Is your home covered against storm damage?

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

Bad weather and storm damage can leave chaos and destruction behind, especially towards peoples' homes.

But does your home insurance cover storm damage? And what's the true definition of a storm? Here we take a look.

A house suffers 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 repairs have been made.

The average claim for storm damage is £3,334 for contents insurance and £3,108 for buildings insurance*.

Many insurers exclude outbuildings like fences, garden sheds, gates and hedges, unless you have specific cover for them.

The definition of a storm according to The Financial Ombudsman is:

"[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. The Met Office uses the Beaufort Scale which has a scale of 0 to 12 to describe wind speed:

Beaufort wind scale Description Wind speed (mph)
0
Calm
<1
1
Light air
1-3
2
Light breeze
4-7
3
Gentle breeze
8-12
4
Moderate breeze
13-18
5
Fresh breeze
19-24
6
Strong breeze
25-31
7
Near gale
32-38
8
Gale
39-46
9
Strong gale
47-54
10
Storm
55-63
11
Violent storm
64-72
12
Hurricane
73+

There are typically a lot of complaints because insurers dispute whether there was a 'storm' to begin with.

The Financial Ombudsman says they use The Met Office as an indication to find out:

  • If there was a storm
  • How intense the storm was
  • How close the storm was to the insured property

Each insurer's definition of a storm is different, so it's worth looking at the specific wording of your home insurance policy. If it's not in your policy, you can ask and make note of the conversation in case you need it for future use.

Storm damage can end up costing the UK millions depending on its severity. There are many ways a storm can damage your house, including:

  • 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

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

If you think your home is at risk of storm damage it’s important to check the terms and conditions on your policy.

What our home & lifestyle insurance expert says

"Having home insurance in place helps protect your building and contents from potential storm damage, particularly if you live in an area at high risk of flooding.

"It's also important to buy home insurance if your home has features like a thatched roof, timber frames or is made of wattle and daub. These kinds of homes are typically made from old-fashioned construction methods, which makes them more likely to suffer storm damage.

"It's also worth checking how much home insurance cover you need to avoid missing key features that help cover your home from storm damage."

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

Some policies exclude anything outdoors like garden furniture. So, if you know bad weather is on its way, you should take steps to protect it or bring what you can indoors.

If you keep valuable items outside, you can also get garden cover as a policy extra.

Fences aren't normally covered for storm damage under standard home insurance policies. But it's worth checking your specific policy to be sure.

Wear and tear is also not typically covered by most insurers. So, if before the storm your fence was already old and unstable, you're not likely to have this covered. Otherwise, you may need to prove your fence was well-maintained.

Yes, your buildings insurance policy should cover lightning damage to the structure of your home.

Most home insurers should cover for damages due to natural disasters that are out of our control, like lightning. These are sometimes called 'Acts of God'.

A separate 'Act of God' insurance policy doesn't exist, but if you read your policy you should find a list of natural disaster risks that they cover for.

Your home insurance policy should cover a leaking roof if

  • The leak was caused by the storm
  • It's not due to wear and tear on the roof itself

Although some policies, like water damage from a roof leak, may only cover you if you've got accidental damage added to your home insurance policy.

If your roof has blown off from storm damage, home emergency cover helps to make quick repairs to keep your house dry.

If a storm has damaged your house, take these steps to make your home insurance claim as smooth as possible:

  • Contact your insurer as soon as you can. They could 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 act as proof.
  • If you have to, sort out emergency temporary repairs. Let your insurer know about them and keep all receipts and invoices. You should be able to add these to your claim.

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

Most insurance policies say you must maintain your property in a good state of repair. Insurers can refuse storm damage claims because of wear and tear.

Let's say you make a claim for storm damage because your roof tiles have blown off. If the insurer inspects the roof and it turns out that the roof tiles were already damaged, they can 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. Similarly if you have a flat roof that has flooded due to a blocked gutter, or poor maintenance they could also refuse to pay out.

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

  • Clear your gutters at least twice a year and 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
  • Check that your pipes are properly lagged
  • Prevent pipes from freezing over by putting your heating to on to the lowest setting while you're away during the winter months

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

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

Our data shows that living near trees - either on your property or a neighbour’s - can increase your home insurance costs.

Home insurance costs £229, on average, for people who have trees more than 10 metres tall within 5 metres of their property. On the other hand, it costs £142, on average, for people who don’t.*

 

*Confused.com data. August 2022 - July 2023. Buildings, contents and combined home insurance policies.

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