Winter storms are causing chaos across the country and with a red alert issued for Storm Isha today, you need to know what to do if your property is damaged.
Here is what happens if a storm damages your property, who is responsible if your neighbours fence blows down or a tree falls on your car, how and when to claim on your insurance and how to claim compensation in the event of a power cut.
Remember, if you are looking for tradespeople to help with your repairs you can search YELLOWTOM for professionals in your area.
DOES HOME INSURANCE COVER STORM DAMAGE?
Buildings insurance policies typically state they will cover financial loss caused by storm damage. However, insurers have been known to dispute what constitutes a storm.
According to the Association of British Insurers, a storm is a period of violent weather defined as:
- Wind speeds with gusts of at least 48 knots (55mph)* or;
- Torrential rainfall at a rate of at least 25mm an hour or;
- Snow to a depth of at least 1ft (30 cm) in 24 hours or;
- Hail of such intensity that it causes damage to hard surfaces or breaks glass.
(*Equivalent to Storm Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale. )
This definition may be in your policy documents, or your insurer may apply its own rules. And if the weather where you live doesn’t meet this criteria your claim will be rejected. However, given the strength of winds seen in the recent week all over the country, it seems unlikely insurers will challenge whether it was a storm or not.
HOW DO I MAKE A STORM DAMAGE INSURANCE CLAIM?
If your home has been damaged during the storms – whether a tree has fallen on your house, or your roof has been damaged – contact your insurer ASAP. The majority of insurers have 24-hour helplines you can use in an emergency.
If you need repairs carrying out urgently, when you speak to your insurer you may find out it has emergency repair teams it can send out. However, if that’s not the case your policy may cover getting the work done. But make sure you tell your insurer that this work needs doing, and ensure you get receipts to submit as part of your claim.
And as soon as it’s safe to do so, give your home a full inspection and list all the damage. Take photos and videos of the damage. And don’t start throwing things away even if they’re damaged. Keep everything you can in case you need to show your insurer evidence.
STORM DAMAGE: WHAT WILL BE COVERED ON MY INSURANCE?
Buildings insurance is designed to cover damage to your home. So, if the structure of your home has been damaged during a storm, this is the policy to claim on. And it will usually cover the cost of alternative accommodation if you can’t stay in your home.
Contents insurance covers your possessions. Depending on your policy and depending on what’s damaged, this may cover items such as your garden furniture.
With both types of insurances, the maximum amount they will pay out will depend on your policy. Each policy will also have its own terms and conditions including exclusions so read the fine print, so you know exactly where you stand.
IS IT WORTH CLAIMING FOR STORM DAMAGE ON MY INSURANCE?
This will depend on a number of factors. These include how much your excess is and how much it would cost to pay to get the problem fixed yourself. You’ll also need to consider the fact you may pay more for your next policy at renewal if you make a claim. However, if there is a widespread storm event impacting a large swathes of people as there was last week, and lots of people make claims for storm damage you may find your quote at renewal increases as a result, even if you haven’t claimed. So you might consider making a claim anyway.
And when it comes to your renewal, you should always shop around anyway. That is the best way to secure the best price. It also means you’ll get the right cover for your needs at the lowest price possible.
STORM DAMAGE TO ROOF
Storms can cause all sorts of damage to roofs. Dislodged roof tiles are one of the most common forms of damage caused by strong winds. This is a particular risk if tiles are already loose and in older properties.
The cost of repair will depend on factors such as the amount of work required and where you live. However, according to Checkatrade, “The average roof tile replacement cost is £170 for up to five broken tiles, presuming the replacement tiles can be easily sourced and there are no access issues.”
However, bear in mind that hairline cracks or other high-risk tiles could also be noticed upon inspection, which could increase the price further.
There are other factors to consider with roof tiles too. If a tile falls from your roof and causes damage to a neighbour’s property, you may be liable. However, your neighbour will need to show that you are at fault. So if your roof was already in a poor state they may be able to make a claim against you. And while this should be covered by the legal liability part of your home insurance, it’s advisable to ensure your roof remains in a good state of repair.
FENCES AND WALLS DAMAGED: WHO PAYS TO FIX THEM?
If a garden fence or wall has been damaged in the storms, before getting it repaired you should establish who is responsible for it. You can find out if a fence or wall is your responsibility by looking at your deeds. If it’s not clear, then you are reliant on ‘presumptions’ to establish who is responsible.
If it’s your responsibility, it’s worth checking if any damage is covered by your buildings insurance. Although policies often exclude storm damage to fences, hedges and gates. So, you may need to pay to fix it yourself.
And if it’s your neighbour who is responsible, unless the existing fence is causing a safety hazard, there is actually very little you can do to force your neighbour to repair or replace it if they don’t want to.
IF A TREE FALLS ON MY PROPERTY AM I COVERED?
The majority of insurers will cover damage caused by falling trees or branches as standard. The exception is if the damage is caused during maintenance such as by a tree surgeon.
So if your home has been damaged by a tree in your garden falling on your property during the storms, you will usually be covered.
WHAT IF MY NEIGHBOUR’S TREE DAMAGES MY HOUSE?
However, you might be surprised to learn that if a neighbour’s tree causes damage to your home, you probably won’t be able to make a claim against them, says the AA.
This is because unlike car insurance, where your insurer can recover losses from a third party if you’re not at fault, home insurance only covers the owner’s property.
Although you might be able to make a claim against your neighbour if you can prove your neighbour was negligent. For example if the tree was known to be damaged.
If you’re making a claim on your home insurance because of a neighbour’s tree falling on your home, you will need to pay your policy’s excess. You can try to recover the excess from your neighbour through the small claims court. However, it’s usually best to sort out the issue between yourselves.
AND WHAT IF THE TREE WAS ON PUBLIC LAND?
If a tree that sits on public land falls on your home you should contact the council. While they may clear the tree away, you will also need to make a claim on your own home insurance for any damage. However, similarly, if you feel the damage was caused as a result of the council’s negligence and want to seek financial redress you can make a claim.
CAN I GET COMPENSATION FOR A POWER CUT?
In the recent storms, many homes were impacted by power cuts. Having a power cut in your home is extremely disruptive, especially if it lasts for several days. However, you can claim compensation if this happens.
Your electricity distribution company usually has 24 hours to restore your electricity supply if it fails as a result of a storm. However, following severe storms such as we’ve seen this deadline can be increased to 48 hours.
If your power supply isn’t restored by this deadline, your energy firm should pay you £70. An additional £70 should be paid for each additional 12 hours without power. This is usually capped at £700.
You will normally need to make the claim with your energy supplier within three months of the problem being rectified.