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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

 

Does home insurance cover 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.

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

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What is a storm?

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 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.

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.

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
 

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.

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

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

 

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.

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.

You can also get garden cover as a policy extra which could cost you more but may be worth it if you have valuable items.

 

Is a blown over fence covered by homeowner insurance?

Yes, but only if your homeowner insurance covers for wind damages.

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.

 

Is lightning covered by home insurance?

Yes, homeowners' insurance should cover lightning strikes. 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 doesn't exist, but if you read your policy you should find a list of natural disaster risks that they could cover for.

 

Does house insurance cover roof leaks?

Like a blown over fence, your home insurance policy might cover a leaking roof if it isn't due to wear and tear on the roof itself.

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

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

 

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 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

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.

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.

  • Check 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 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.