Home Insurance > Weather and Storm Insurance

Despite what the nay-sayers may argue, there is no denying the impact of climate change on the UK. The summer of 2018 may have been one of the best on record (soaring temperatures, England in a World Cup semi-final, and a frankly superb season of Love Island), but the weather wasn’t normal. It was great, don’t get me wrong, but it wasn’t right.

It’s not just in the summer months that climate change is having an impact. February 2019 was the warmest on record in the UK, with an average temperature of 10 degrees being 4 degrees warmer than usual.

Some people might say this is fantastic, I mean, we all want to live in a Mediterranean climate, right? And there’s no denying that the warmer weather puts us in a better mood. But, when you look at the cold hard facts, we should be worried.

New evidence from the world weather attribution confirms that human-related activities and emissions are linked to the rising global temperatures and will lead to increasingly common instances of extreme weather. While Britain is not particularly known for relentless heatwaves, wild hurricanes or violent snowstorms, the country’s climate is changing and Britain is set to experience more extreme weather in the future.

The effects of extreme weather

At its worst, extreme weather can destroy buildings, ruins roads and, in the most severe cases, lead to fatalities. Flash floods, hurricanes and snowstorms are impossible to control, even with the highest level of preparation.

However, the UK is not prepared. A few years ago, the Committee on Climate Change  warned that the UK was badly prepared for the impacts of climate change, electrical storms, heatwaves and floods.

Despite this, storms, floods and extreme weather becoming increasingly common in the UK, and we’ve now followed our American counterparts in naming them.

But while we may be more familiar with the likes of Storm Aileen and Hurricane Ophelia and their appetite for destruction than ever before, are our homes adequately protected?

Given the damage that a storm can do to your property, you naturally want to ensure that the repair costs are covered should a volatile batch of weather cause destruction. So, how does storm protection work and is your property covered?

Home Insurance and extreme weather

Whether you’ve been directly impacted by a storm, had a near miss or have never come close to feeling the havoc that an extreme weather front can bring, you need to know the level of protection your property has, as it might not be as straightforward as you think.

Firstly, the good news is that if you have home insurance, your home should be covered from damage caused by storms and other types of extreme weather. Not only does that mean that your insurance provider should cover the cost of repairs, but they should also rehome you while the work is being done if required.

How Insurers classify extreme weather

However, while this is what your insurance provider ‘should’ do, it doesn’t mean that they will. There are some exclusion and controversial viewpoints when it comes to proving the damage that has been done by a storm.

If you enter a dispute with your provider surrounding this issue, the matter will be referred to the Financial Ombudsman who will deal with it. The Ombudsman Service claims to deal with around 350 complaints of this nature every month, so it would be fair to say that it’s a fairly common issue.

One of the main points of contention is what is classified as a ‘storm’ by insurers. For the majority of us, storms involve high winds, bad rainfall and a bit of thunder. However, for insurance providers, storms will have an official definition and they will use information regarding your local area to assess if the weather conditions at the time of the damage were severe enough to fall into the ‘storm’ category.

While the Beaufort scale estimates that tiles can be blown off of roofs during wind speeds of around 45mph+, some insurance providers only consider winds of 55mph+ to be storm-like conditions – which, according to the Beaufort scale, is when serious structural damage is likely to occur.

What factors can affect a payout?

So, if your property is damaged during a storm and you have home insurance, why wouldn’t a provider payout?

In some cases, insurance providers will decline to pay out for weather-related damage if they feel that the damage has happened due to the property not being maintained to an acceptable standard. For example, if a storm damages your roof tiles, an insurance provider may not cover repairs if they thought that the tiles had already been damaged by general wear and tear.

Similarly, if your gutters have not been cleaned and cleared for a number of years, an insurance provider is unlikely to cover the costs of repairs of any structural issues caused by water damage.

In more extreme examples, insurers have been known to not pay out during floods due to the property in question not being watertight enough to prevent water from getting into the property.

As these examples show, what insurers determine as storm damage can differ drastically to what you determine as storm damage, hence why there are so many disputes.

 

How to make a damage claim

If your property is, unfortunately, damaged by extreme weather, you need to report it to your insurance provider within 48 hours of the incident occurring. The sooner the damage is reported, the sooner it will be assessed, discussed and dealt with.

If the damage needs to be repaired immediately to prevent further damage, you can go ahead and get the work done yourself, but make sure that you keep receipts and take photos of the work being undertaken. Failure to provide proof of repairs and proof of payment will lead to your insurer refusing to cover the costs of the work.

If you do submit a claim, an insurance provider will want to assess the extent of the damage before they agree to pay for the cost of repairs. If the damage is serious enough, the provider will appoint a loss adjuster to assess how severe it is. The adjuster will contact you within 24 hours and will visit your home within three days. Bear in mind, however, that if the damage has impacted your city, town or village and not just your house, the adjuster is likely to be extremely busy so the process may take longer than usual.

Not only will the adjuster assess the damage, but they will give you a timetable for how long the repair work will take, and inform you of the company who will be carrying out the repairs.

If you would prefer to use an alternative company to carry out the work, the insurance provider will need to agree on costs with them. However, while this may make the process longer, if your suggested company is offering a lower price, it may keep your future premiums down.

How to protect your property against extreme weather

If you are worried about your property being damaged by extreme weather conditions, there are some steps that you can take to protect it.

You must keep your property maintained to an acceptable standard and keep it as weather-tight as possible. Not only will this prevent damage, but should a storm occur, it also means that you will stand a better chance of repairs being covered. Remember, your insurance provider will not pay out on damage inflicted by general wear and tear, so look after your property as best as you can.

To make sure that your property is in an acceptable state of repair, remember to check all the pipes in your property regularly and repair any leaks that may have appeared, no matter how small they are. You should also ensure that your property is properly insulated and that there are no games or holes in the insulation.

The exterior of the property also needs to be maintained. Check, clean and maintain your gutters, clearing them of any debris and unwanted objects that may have snuck in and caused issues. You also need to keep any plants or trees that are near your home under control to prevent them from interfering with the structure and potentially causing further damage.

Lastly, always plan ahead. If you know that a storm is coming to your area, shut all your windows and doors, put your garden furniture away and park your car away from trees or areas with over-hanging structure. While you can’t control a storm, there are steps you can take to prevent as much damage as you can.

 

Hopefully, you’ll never be in a position where you have to claim against your home insurance because of a storm, but if you do end up being so, it’s important to know what you’re covered for. Read the details of your home insurance and make sure that you understand what is involved. If you feel like your provider is being unfair, remember that you can always dispute your claim through the Financial Ombudsman Service, who are experts in this issue.

In extreme weather conditions, your safety is the most important issue, so do not contact your provider or take photos of damage until it is safe to do so. If you do have an issue, get to safety first, listen to the advice of the emergency services and then make a plan from there.

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