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Will my Homeowner’s Insurance Policy Cover Sudden Flood Damage?

Overall, insurers expect that South Africa’s extreme weather conditions will continue on a parallel trajectory to global warming. This has resulted in many insurers reviewing how they rate your risk and the excesses you are charged in the event of weather-related losses.

Standard homeowner’s or building insurance should cover your buildings and other things that are permanent and immovable within your property boundaries. These include perimeter walls, garages, gates and the motors that power them, outbuildings, swimming pools, borehole pumps, and fixtures and fittings in the building itself. But they don’t usually cover damage to your land, which may prove extensive when severe flooding occurs.

Because extreme weather catastrophes happen with very little warning, and because there’s just no telling how severe they will be, some insurers are declining to provide cover for buildings situated in areas prone to flood or storm surge damage – particularly in coastal areas.

There are certain factors that an insurer will consider when you submit a storm damages claim. These include whether the damage to the property or vehicle directly relates to the bad or unexpected weather, and what the condition of the property or vehicle was in the first place.

A property claim might be rejected if the property didn’t have adequate drainage, retaining walls were not thick enough or foundations were poor quality.

A vehicle claim might be rejected if the policy doesn’t cover flood damage, or if water damage to the engine was caused by negligent driving.

Collapsed boundary or retaining wall claims are often repudiated by insurers on the grounds that there were defects in their design, materials or construction, or that they weren’t maintained – kept free of a heavy creeper for example – and gradually became compromised.

Policyholders argue that the wall wouldn’t have collapsed but for the flood and because flood damage is covered by their policy, the insurer is liable for the loss.

On the face of it this may be true, but if an insurer is able to show that the wall would, on a balance of probabilities, have withstood the flood if it had been adequately constructed or maintained, they are entitled to reject the claim. 

Regardless of whether an insurer accepts or rejects your claim, it’s likely they’ll increase your excess once they know your property is susceptible to flooding because of its geographical position. And possibly your monthly premium as well.

It’s therefore crucial that, as a policyholder, you assess whether or not you’re adequately covered for extreme weather occurrences. To ensure a successful claim, you should always understand exactly what you are insured for.

Give us a call on 044 382 0550 and let us help you understand what your policy does and doesn’t include.

* This article is provided for informational purposes only and should not be construed as legal or financial advice. 

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