Here, we consider how to protect your home from potential damage, and the process of making a home insurance claim following a storm or flood.
Preparing your home ahead of cold weather
You may find a weather-related claim turned down if you’ve failed to maintain your home to a reasonable standard. It’s worth taking time ahead of any potential spells of bad weather to do any repairs and checks.
- Check for loose roof tiles and repair these.
- Fix broken fences or walls – in case these fall down during a storm.
- Check drains and gutters are free of blockages.
- Prune trees close to the house.
- Secure windows and doors if a storm is expected.
- Park your car away from trees, and ideally in a garage.
- Put outdoor items such as garden furniture away, or tie them down.
- Turn off water to outside taps, and repair indoor dripping taps.
- Install loft and wall insulation if not already in place.
- Check that pipes are lagged properly.
- If you’re away during the winter period set your heating to come on during the coldest part of the night. Ask somebody to check on your property if you’re away.
What am I insured for after a storm?
Check what your home insurance policy covers, as they often differ when it comes to storm damage. Check if your policy covers gates, garden walls, fences, and sheds, for example.
Typically, garden furniture is excluded unless it’s specifically mentioned in your policy – check with your insurer, but always make sure to put it away or secure it during the winter months. You can buy separate garden cover as an extra, if you have pricey items such as barbeques and sheds and want these covered.
You can make a claim for any damaged belongings or furniture in your home under your contents insurance, if you have a policy.
Before making a claim for storm damage
You will most likely have to pay an excess, which is the sum you are liable for in the event of a claim. The sum varies, and you’ll have agreed to this when taking out the policy.
Beware that if you have a no claims bonus, you may lose some or all of it by claiming. This means your insurance cover may be more expensive when you come to renew your policy.
Your insurer will also amend your premium if, for example, your home is damaged by flooding. It will now consider your home at risk of flooding again in future.
Do I have enough cover for storm damage?
Disputes sometimes arise over what insurers’ consider a ‘storm’. While a storm generally involves high winds, alongside rain, hail or snow, insurers use different ways to categorise them when assessing a claim.
Some insurers use the ‘Beaufort scale’ to decide whether to pay out in the event of a claim. This categorises wind speed on a scale of 0 to 12. They may say only winds above a certain point on this scale constitute a storm. If you are worried about being in an area with bad weather, check your policy wording.
Falling trees may cause some of the greatest damage, so check if your policy covers this occurring. Possible exclusions to weather damage may include fences, walls, gates, sheds and other outbuildings.
Flooding has been a huge problem in some areas of the country in recent years. Some homeowners affected by flooding have reported facing difficulties finding cover in subsequent years – however, the Association of British Insurers and the government have put a scheme in place to help.
Speak to your insurer, and find out more on the Flood Re website.
How to make a claim
Contact your insurer as soon as you notice any damage, and say you want to make a claim. Take photos of the damage, and record the date and time. This should help at a later stage with paperwork.
Arrange for any urgent repairs yourself then inform your insurer. Make sure to keep receipts, so you can claim the costs back later. If your home is uninhabitable after a storm, your insurer should pay for alternative accommodation, until repairs can be carried out.
If the damage is severe –following serious flooding, for example – you may need accommodation for several months. So discuss the options with your insurer to make sure you’re comfortable with the choice.
If there is damage to your neighbour’s property from, for example, a tile falling off your roof, don’t panic. Your building insurance may include liability cover. However, your neighbour will typically make a claim on their policy, and get any costs returned from your insurer. Swap details, and the process should hopefully go smoothly.