Storm Eunice has been forecast to be the worst storm to hit the UK for more than 30 years. Schools and businesses have been closed, and householders have been warned to batten down the hatches. But what happens if it damages your property?
Will my insurance cover storm damage?
Buildings insurance policies usually state that they will cover financial loss caused by storm damage – but companies have been known to argue over what constitutes a storm. Last year Guardian Money dealt with a case where an insurer refused to pay to repair a leaking roof damaged during Storm Christoph. The Financial Ombudsman Service says these type of disputes are among the main complaints it gets about unpaid storm damage claims.
The Association of British Insurers says a storm is a period of violent weather defined as:
Wind speeds with gusts of at least 48 knots (55mph) – equivalent to 10 on the Beaufort scale 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.
Your insurer may have this definition in its policy or may apply its own rules. If the weather in your area does not meet the criteria, it will turn down your claim.
How do I claim?
As soon as you can, you need to tell your insurer that your property has been damaged and you want to make a claim. Most insurers have 24-hour helplines and they should be geared up to deal with the fallout from the storm, as forecasters have been talking about it for days.
Speak to the insurer before arranging urgent repairs or somewhere to stay.
It may have emergency repair teams to send out but, if not, your policy may cover getting the work done. Tell your insurer that this work needs doing, and make sure you get receipts to submit as you may be able to get the money back from your policy.
When it is safe to, inspect your property properly and make a list of all of the damage. Take photos and keep anything you can in case you need to show the insurer evidence to back up your claim.
What will be covered?
This will depend on your policy. If you have buildings cover, this will pay out for damage to your home – it will cover the cost of replacing items and getting things fixed.
It is also likely to cover accommodation costs if you are unable to stay in your property because of the damage. How much it will pay out will depend on the level of cover you have bought, and what excess you chose – this is the sum you pay towards any work. What cover it offers for things such as garden sheds will depend on the individual policy.
Your possessions will be covered by contents insurance. You may have included garden furniture and bikes on this policy – if you haven’t, then you won’t be able to claim if these are damaged.
Contents cover often offers the option to protect everything in your freezer – if you bought this and have a power cut, remember to tot up and photograph everything you have to throw out.
What about my car?
If your car is hit by a tree or debris blowing around, it will be covered if you have a comprehensive insurance policy – as most drivers do. A third-party policy will not cover storm damage.
The insurer Zurich says during November’s Storm Arwen claims for this type of damage increased by 17%. However, it said storm-related claims were more often for crashes – during Arwen claims for road traffic accidents were up by 35%. So if you are leaving the house, drive carefully.
What if part of my house damages someone else’s property?
If your neighbour’s car is damaged by tiles falling from your roof you may be liable – but they will have to show that you are at fault. If your roof was already in a bad state of repair they may be able to claim against you. The legal liability element of your home insurance should cover this.