What Constitutes as a Storm and What is Storm Damage?
Storm damage is not always listed in home insurance policies and building insurance policies are often vague when it comes to defining what actually constitutes as a storm, and so it is recommended that you ask your insurance provider for an addendum listing all types of storm damage covered, particularly if you are living in what is considered a high risk area.
A storm is generally categorised as violent winds, which may or may not be accompanied by torrential rains, hail, and snow. Storm damage can include flooding, structural damage caused by debris and fallen trees, and fire cause by electrical faults, but policy wording differs, and so it is essential that you read the small print to find out exactly what is covered under your home insurance policy, and more importantly perhaps, what is not.
Is My Home Covered Against Storm Damage?
Ireland has recently experienced some of the worst weather it has seen in decades, with Storms Brian, Eleanor and Hector combining forces with Hurricane Ophelia to leave thousands of homes across the country with severe structural damage.
The weather is beyond our control, and as such, many Irish homeowners automatically assume that their home is fully covered against storm damage under their home insurance, building insurance, or contents insurance policies, but unfortunately, this is not always the case. If your insurers can prove that your property has not been adequately maintained to protect against storm damage, they can refuse to pay out your weather-related insurance claims.
Storm Damage Covered by Home Insurance
Severe structural damage, such as a missing roof or basement flooding will most likely be covered under your buildings insurance policy, and if you are unable to stay in your home while it undergoes repairs, your insurer will usually cover the costs for temporary accommodation.
In Ireland, many home insurance policies also include emergency home assistance, which covers short-term fixes such as missing roof tiles and plumbing problems, even over weekends, but all of the aforementioned cover only comes into effect if your home is deemed as ‘suitably maintained’.
As a homeowner, you are fully responsible for maintaining your home from everyday wear and tear. If your home insurance provider believes that you haven’t maintained your property to a sufficient standard, they could refuse to settle your claim in the event of storm damage, and you could be left to foot the bill for repairs.
Things like missing roof tiles, blocked gutters, and inadequate waterproofing can all help null and void your home insurance claim, so carry out routine maintenance once or twice a year, and fix anything that could lead to more damage in the event of a storm.
Making a Home Insurance Claim for Storm Damage
If you intend to make a claim on your home insurance for storm damage, you should contact your insurer at the earliest opportunity, and always within 48-hours of the damage taking place. Many Irish home insurance providers offer a 24-hour emergency contact number, which should be used in the case of severe structural damage, especially if you have been forced to leave your home. Before contacting your insurer, you should:
- Assess safety: If you suspect structural damage, you should leave your home immediately and contact your insurers for further advice before re-entering the property.
- Assess Damage: Make a comprehensive list of all visible storm damage, including photos wherever possible, but don’t exaggerate your claim. Your insurers will, in most instances, send someone (a loss adjuster) to inspect the damage, and any erroneous listings could void your claim.
- File Your Storm Damage Claim: Complete all the necessary paperwork and submit your insurance claim. It is recommended that you document the entire process, from the first call to your insurer, and include things such as dates, times, and any correspondence received about your claim.
- Keep Damaged Items: Do not dispose of home contents that have been damaged by a storm. Your insurance providers may wish to inspect them when considering your claim.