It is unlikely that there ever would have been more Google searched from South Africa for insurance related searches on water and flood damage. The last time that there has been so much flooding was in the light 1980”s - a time before Google! It is important to recognize the responsibility is entirely ours to find out which situations are covered and which are not!
In this post we would like to discuss the impact of water damage on insurance – and especially the damage to homes and household belongings!
As a start we need to consider the different descriptions of “Home” and “Household”
- Home insurance will cover the actual building, the structure and permanent fixtures – the bricks and mortar.
- Household insurance relates to movable possessions such as furniture and electrical appliances. This type of insurance covers a range of contingencies, including, but not always limited to, theft, acts of nature (such as lightning, storm, flood or snow) as well as damage caused by fire, power surges and subsidence.
What are the typical threats to our homes and belongings?
We would like to mention the following typical threats
- Fire damage due to an electrical short or a lightning strike
- Water damage due to a water main burst which floods your entire property
- Find your house stripped of all its contents due to a robbery
- Water damage due to a burst geyser
- Water damage from flooding.
Insurance for water damage in our homes is not always as clear as we might like to believe - this also often differs between countries and different principles might apply in those countries where floods, tornados and hurricanes are more frequent. In some of those countries special insurance against flood damage needs to be acquired from the government.
Some homeowners have found that their insurance covers losses from a burst pipe and appliance leaks -but not from floods and national disasters. Home insurance could be a minefield of fine print and exclusions when it comes to insuring against natural disasters. We would like to focus especially on South Africa
Water Damage and damage caused by flooding
As a general guideline most standard policies should cover damage caused by storm, flood, wind, water hail or snow as well as the cost of consequent rain damage to your home’s interior or its contents.
This could include damage from a leaking roof after a natural event such as hail, falling trees, or very high winds. Also included could be damage caused by a bathtub overflowing.
Some other claims such as sewer backups, flooding from an overflowing river or lake, and water seepage (usually seen in basements) are however often not covered by a regular homeowner’s insurance policy.
It is important to note that insurers are justified in protecting themselves in
the household policy from reckless and negligent behaviour by home owners that could contribute to the damage.
Taking reasonable precautions to reduce damage
A household insurance policy protects homeowners against sudden and unforeseen losses. Insurance does however not cover damage resulting from a failure of routine maintenance. If homeowners fail to conduct reasonable maintenance, a loss may not be considered unexpected, and in some cases insurers may reject the claim outright.
If the water damage was due to the owner not keeping the insured house maintained and repaired then your insurance would not cover it.
How can the homeowner take reasonable precautions to protect from water damage?
- Do not ignore indications of an obvious water problem in your home.
- You should immediately attempt to find and stop leaks at their source.
- It is important to dry all wet areas and provide air circulation to aid in the drying process.
- Cover any areas with a tarp to prevent more water damage. Covering, drying, and dehumidifying wet areas can help minimize the possibility that mould will develop.
- Mould can cause further damage to your property and can potentially cause health problems.
- Check gutters and roof flashing regularly for blockages and inspect screws on asbestos type and iron roofs.
- Homeowners should pay close attention to the maintenance of thatched roofs.
It is important that you should immediately report any water damage to your insurer – either directly or via your broker.
Insurance cover for Household Items
Will my household items be covered against damage from water and flooding?
Most household insurance policies will only cover everyday types of household items such as appliances, furniture and clothing. Jewellery and very expensive items need to be insured separately and specifically
Taking out a household insurance policy requires that you itemise the household items that you wish to insure. This is for the sake of clarity between you and the insurer, so that you can both know exactly what is covered by the policy. Remember to contact your insurer to add and itemise any expensive purchases and to provide serial numbers for identification of items such as Cellular phones, iPads etc.
Conclusion and Advice
We always need to refer to the most important question – what is the fine print in your insurance policy and what does YOUR policy say about insurance cover?
Insurance is not a “one size fits all”. Insurance is very much an individualised product whereby you as the policyholder are covered for what you have bought.
It is your responsibility to find out whether the water damage was caused by a covered peril such as a storm of flood. If you don't know what water damage is covered, review your home insurance policy or check with your insurance company now, before any damage occurs.