Weather damage and home insurance

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As Storm Eleanor rages on, how do you keep your home safe?

We’ve got some famously unpredictable weather here in the UK, and winter can bring the worst of the lot.

Flooding, snow, gale-force winds and lightning; all of it has the potential to cause some serious damage.

With a couple of bad winter storms already under our belts, now is a great time to have a quick check back over your home insurance documents to remind yourself of what’s covered and what’s not, and to do a few tasks that can help keep your home in the best condition whatever the weather.

Storm damage

A storm is obviously quite a different thing to the miserable winter weather we normally put up with, and can bring a lot of ruin.

High winds can lift tiles off roofs, houses can flood, falling trees and branches can break windows, and some things can even get struck by lightning. The word storm may not appear in your home insurance policy documents, because it’s actually a bit subjective.

Instead, to meet the criteria, your home will usually have to have suffered from the effects of exceptionally strong winds (often in excess of 54mph), sleet, snow, or heavy rain.

It’s important to check the wording in your policy documents so you know exactly how your insurance provider defines a storm and what they’ll pay out for. For example, if you have a sudden leak as a result of a storm, a lot of insurers will undertake emergency repairs. They may not, however, cover you for subsidence or landslip that happens during a storm.

Many insurers only give a 24-hour window for storm damage claims, so it’s vital that you make one as soon as possible. Remember not to throw any evidence away, and to take photos where possible – it can all come in handy when making a claim.

Flood damage

Although often the result of very bad storms, floods and flooding damage tend to be dealt with as a separate circumstance to ‘weather damage’ by insurers. If you live or are looking to live in a flood-prone area, you should put extra measures in place to limit the damage caused by flooding Since the introduction of the government’s Flood Re scheme, affordable home insurance is available for home owners living in potential flood risk areas. See our guide to flood safety here.

Rain damage

A tricky thing to define, rain damage can be anything from minor leaks or damp patches to serious leaks caused by a torrential downpour. Because each insurer will have a different interpretation of the kind of rain damage you can claim compensation for, do read your policy carefully.

‘Heavy rain damage’ may come under the definition of a storm, whereas gradual damage caused by normal weather - with wind and rain included - won’t be compensated for.

Accidental damage

If you don’t appear to have storm or rain damage cover, it may be in the accidental damage part of your policy.

This damage is defined as ‘sudden, unexpected and visible loss or damage which has not been caused willfully or deliberately.’ Lots of companies will pay out for accidental damage to the building of your home, although again, it’s wise to check with each individual insurance company.

Many providers will compensate for accidental damage caused by water entering the home as a result of a flood or storm, but not for damage caused by regular weather conditions, such as frost.

However, it doesn’t necessarily come as a standard part of your insurance package, and may need to be purchased as an add-on. It may also become void if your house is unfurnished or unoccupied.

Is your home well-maintained?

If you need to make in any claim against weather damage on your home insurance, it’s essential that your home is already well-maintained. Your insurance provider will only your home to be damaged by extreme weather conditions and won’t cover you for pre-existing damage or gradual decay caused by bit of wind and rain.

They may also reduce the time you can leave your house unoccupied during the winter months and require you to keep your central heating on so that the cold weather doesn’t cause any problems.

Alternatively, you could turn off your water supply and drain the system in order to avoid problems.

With that in mind, regularly inspecting your home for signs of weather damage or things that can be exacerbated by bad weather can really help keep bigger problems at bay

Tips for weather proofing your home

Here are a few quick things you can do to ensure your home can withstand bad weather conditions.

  • Checking for leaks
  • Checking and clearing gutters of dirt, storm debris or even loose tiles on a regular basis and repairing any damage (if you can) so that water doesn’t get into your home
  • Checking your roof for loose tiles, particularly after windy days
  • Ensuring patches of damp are inspected by an expert to make sure there are no gradual leaks are occurring - these are not covered by home insurance
  • Checking your windows for any cracks or areas where heavy rain can get through
  • Checking your water pipes and tanks, both inside and outside the building.

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