Does home insurance cover storm damage? The UK has just weathered a week of severe storms that have brought extreme winds and flooding to many parts of the country.
Storm Dudley, Storm Eunice, and Storm Franklin have wreaked havoc in England, Wales, Scotland, and Northern Ireland.
With the last of these storms subsiding and cleaning up underway, households across the country are beginning to assess the damage the weather has done to their homes.
So if your house is damaged by a storm, does home insurance cover storm damage?
Here’s what you need to know.
Does Home Insurance Cover Storm Damage?
Construction insurance usually says to cover financial losses caused by storm damage, but companies have been known to argue about what a storm is. Last year Guardian Money handled a case in which an insurer refused to pay to repair a leaking roof damaged during Storm Christoph. According to the Financial Ombudsman Service, these types of disputes are among the most frequently received complaints about unpaid storm damage claims.
The Association of British Insurers says a storm is a period of violent weather defined as:
- Wind speeds up to at least 48 knots (55 mph) – equal to 10 on the Beaufort scale or;
- Torrential rain at a rate of at least 25 mm per hour or;
- Snow to a depth of at least 1 foot (30 cm) in 24 hours or;
- Hail of such intensity as to cause damage to hard surfaces or break the glass.
- Your insurer may have this definition in your policy or apply its own rules. If the weather in your area does not meet the criteria, your claim will be rejected.
What to do if your house is damaged by a storm?
If your home was damaged in a storm, Confused.com has given you four top tips to ensure your claim is handled in the best possible way.
Please contact your insurer as soon as possible – they may be able to provide further advice or have specific requests to process a claim
Do a thorough inspection of your home: Photograph and record any damage to your home as soon as possible after the storm has ended. Note the date and time.
Keep the damaged items: Your insurer may want to see the extent of the damage and will prove it to you.
Provide temporary emergency repairs as needed – let your insurance company know if you do this and keep all receipts and bills. You may be able to add it to your claim.
Claims for storm and flood damage can take some time as the insurer may need to investigate the damage.
How do I claim?
- Tell your insurer as soon as possible that your property has been damaged and that you want to make a claim. Most insurers have 24-hour helplines and need to be prepared for the storm’s aftermath, as meteorologists have been talking about it for days.
- Take pictures and keep as many as you can in case you need to show proof to the insurer to support your claim
- Talk to the insurer before arranging urgent repairs or lodging.
- You may need to send emergency repair kits, but if not, your policy may cover getting the job done. Tell your insurer that this work needs to be done and make sure you get the receipts as you may be able to get your policy money back.
- If it is safe, inspect your belongings well and make a list of all damage. Take pictures and keep as many as you can in case you need to show proof to the insurer to support your claim.
What does storm damage insurance cover?
Homeowners’ insurance generally helps cover the following types of storm damage:
Water And Ice Damage
Whether it’s a spring thunderstorm or an icy roof, water can damage a home. While ice and hail damage is generally covered by homeowners insurance, coverage for water damage varies up to the limits stated in your policy, depending on the cause. For example, homeowners insurance can help protect you if a frozen pipe breaks in your home. Check your policy to see what types of water damage it covers.
Lightning strikes and power surges
If lightning strikes your home or other structure covered by your policy, the damage caused, such as fire or smoke damage, is generally covered by the homeowner’s insurance policy. Some policies also provide coverage for power surges and outages caused by lightning, such as damaged electronics or appliances. As with any coverage, limits apply. Check your policy or contact your agent to find out the types and amount of coverage.
Wind, hail, and fallen trees
If a severe storm hits, the siding can be damaged by hail and shingles blown from the roof by the wind. Homeowners’ insurance usually covers wind damage. Coverage typically also includes damage from hail, wind-driven rain, or snow that enters the home when a roof or wall is damaged by wind. Most policies also provide some cover for fallen trees that damage your home, as long as the tree breaks in a storm or wind.
What types of storm damage are excluded from homeowners insurance coverage?
Damage from an earthquake or ground movement is generally not included in homeowners’ coverage. However, earthquake insurance may be available as a separate policy. A broker can tell you if this coverage is available in your area.
Homeowners’ insurance does not cover flood damage, whether caused by a rainstorm or a river overflowing its banks. Talk to an agent about whether flood insurance, which is sold separately, makes sense for you.
Homeowners’ insurance can provide protection and peace of mind in many situations. While you can’t control the weather, having home insurance can help you get back on your feet after a storm.
What about my car?
If your car is hit by a tree or debris, you’re covered if you have comprehensive insurance, like most drivers. A third party policy does not cover storm damage.
Insurer Zurich says that during the storm Arwen in November, claims for this type of damage rose by 17%. However, he said storm-related claims were more often accident-related: during Arwen, road accident claims rose by 35%. So when you leave home, drive carefully.
What if part of my house damages someone else’s property?
If your neighbour’s car was damaged by shingles falling from the roof, you may be liable, but they will have to prove you’re guilty. If your roof was already in disrepair, they may be able to claim you. The liability element of your home insurance should cover this.
One final caveat to keep in mind with storm damage insurance is home maintenance.
Insurers may reject your claim if you haven’t taken simple steps to keep your home in good condition, a requirement common to most home insurance policies.
For example, if your roof was damaged in a storm and the insurer found during an inspection that your roof was already in disrepair, you may not be eligible for coverage.
So you should perform basic maintenance, such as checking your gutters every few months or inspecting your roof space for water damage, to make sure you have the best chance of getting covered.
This maintenance can even include landscaping if you have large or creeping vegetation in your yard that could cause damage to your home.
Claim disputes storm damage insurance
Since insurance companies sometimes have a specific definition of a storm and/or a limit on what type of damage is covered in their policies, your insurer may dispute your storm damage claim.
If this happens, it’s worth checking your home insurance policy to check for specific wording regarding storm damage.
If you believe that your insurance company is unreasonable in not covering you and you have tried everything to resolve it with them, please contact the Financial Ombudsman Service for advice.