Is insurance just for peace of mind?
Most people realise how important it is to insure their home and possessions as a safeguard against their worst nightmares becoming a reality. Be it burglary, storm damage, fire or flooding, virtually everyone has insurance which enables them to sleep at night, not worrying about being left out of pocket or with nothing after a major disaster.
Or so you would think. But as keen as the industry is to collect premiums from you, things are quite different when an insurer has to pay a claim. Even a simple small claim such as a handbag loss can result in a disputed claim requiring proof of original costs (receipts) and police crime number etc. Even when the claim is eventually paid (ours took over a month) the following years premium increased by over 30%.
So it is hardly a surprise that this grubby industry is dragging its heels in settling claims from those flooded in January. This, despite the Prime Minister David Cameron saying on national television that he was “putting insurers on notice that they needed to pay up the money fast” So how can it be that, according to the Association of British Insurers, 7,480 householders, that is 40% of those who made a claim for flood damage this year, are still waiting to be compensated by their insurer? The ABI figures also highlight that 2,600 will still be waiting at Christmas! Around a 100 families on the Somerset Levels are still in temporary accommodation, often living in caravans.
The ABI says it does not know the exact number of people living in temporary accommodation and insurers say not all outstanding claims are disputed and think that 85% of the flood claims submitted will be settled before the New Year. That would still leave 15% (nearly a sixth) who are still waiting!
New flood risk maps have been produced by the Environment Agency that, for the first time, also include areas at risk of flooding from surface water in addition to the risk from rivers and the sea. According to The Independent, new mapping techniques used by the EA have reduced the number of homes shown at risk of surface water flooding – when the drainage system cannot cope with extreme heavy rainfall – by 800,000 to 3 million with a further 2.4 million properties are at risk of flooding from rivers and/or the sea.
The new EA flood risk maps will give insurance companies more information to set premiums and could alter the risk profile of homes now shown as at risk of flooding, with some homeowners seeing their premiums increase.
For homeowners that search for the best deals using comparison websites, the average annual premium is £130 according to the AA. However, those that live in areas deemed at risk of flooding pay huge premiums and have excesses that can be thousands of pounds, with insurance companies setting premiums to fully reflect the risk of flooding.
In the past, homeowners in high-risk areas have been subsidised to some extent by those living in regions with a low risk of flooding. However, this has now become unsustainable, with the increasing frequency, number and cost of claims arising from damage caused by flooding since 2007. Some policyholder’s premiums have risen substantially, by as much as 35%, after a revised flood risk assessment by their insurers. Many homes that had been flooded in the past have become virtually uninsurable.
Winds strong enough to cause damage to property are fairly rare in the UK. When a severe weather warning is issued in your area it is a good idea to take some sensible precautions to protect your home and property.
Autumn precautions and maintenance measures to take:
- Check your fences. Most home insurance policies specifically exclude storm damage to fences. So before the autumn weather sets in replace and loose or rotted fence posts, repair panels and replace rotten gravel boards. Ensure all panels are securely fixed to fence posts. It is a good idea to add screw the battens on fence panels as this makes them stronger and prolongs the panel life.
- Make sure that your guttering, drainpipes and overflow pipes clear of debris and leaves and check they are securely attached to the building.
- Regularly inspect your roof for damage, loose or missing tiles and broken or missing pointing and any dislodged lead flashing. Even if it appears minor, ignoring small items like a missing tile may provide a weakness meaning any storm damage is likely to be much more extensive if it is not attended to beforehand.
- Inspect any trees on your own and neighbouring properties. Cut off any branches and dead areas, likely to be dislodged by a storm. Cut down any dead trees. However do not touch and trees that are protected under a tree preservation order but write to the council and ask permission to get a tree surgeon to do the work.
- It is best if the TV aerial is located inside your roof space. If it is not consider this but as a minimum ensure it is securely fixed so that it doesn’t come loose in high winds. Also be sure to check that what it is fixed to is also secure!