Homeowners Insurance: Is Storm Damage Covered?

Leading up to the Cape Town storm which occurred on 6 June 2017, the rest of South Africa including Capetonians, were ecstatic over the thought of receiving a little bit of rain. Although it was predicted that gale force northwesterly winds of up to 70-80km/hour would be expected in Cape Town and the South Western Cape, South Africans surely didn’t expect the tremendous storm that followed.

What followed was, quite simply, a disaster. The worst storm in over three decades had hit Cape Town and then moved eastwards towards the Garden Route. Although the heavy rains were welcomed following the severe drought in which the Western Cape was declared a disaster zone, there’s always a risk of flooding that many homeowners don’t prepare for. As a homeowner, particularly in Cape Town, it’s important to ensure that your home, its contents, as well as your vehicle, is properly insured so that we, your insurer, can pay out your claim.

As larger insurance companies such as Santam,  Old Mutual Insurance, and OUTsurance are already feeling the full effects of the South African economy falling into a recession within the first quarter, and the credit rating downgraded to junk status, it’s no surprise that the current influx of insurance claims due to the Cape Town storm seems to be having a negative effect on insurance companies; not to mention the long-term effects on smaller insurers.

Insurance companies purchase catastrophe cover from re-insurers, which limits the total losses that they will suffer.

As a homeowner, what are your rights?

It’s important to find out exactly what your homeowner’s policy covers in terms of storm damage and flooding. Almost all homeowners insurance policies cover events such as storm, flooding, water damage and fire.It is important, though, that you take special precautions after the water damage has been done by airing out the room since most homeowners insurance policies won’t cover mildew forming, as this could have been prevented and termed as gradual deterioration and not a sudden event.As the homeowner, it is important to ensure that regular maintenance is being done to your home in order to correct problems which may cause the insurance company to deny your claim; also ensuring that your home is valued at the correct replacement value according to the current building costs.

Homes are often insured for their market value, which does not help if it costs more to rebuild the home following severe damage.

Who is liable for the storm damage – renter or landlord?

“The risk and liability involved with immovable property will always be that of the owner. The owner is thus liable for all damages caused by ‘vis major’ (a legal term referring to a superior force outside of human control)Unless the damage was caused due to negligence on the tenants part, the owner of the property is held liable. Since the tenant cannot take out insurance on the property, it remains the homeowner’s responsibility to pay for the damages caused by a storm; in which case the homeowner’s insurance policy will take full effect.

How to avoid flood damage in the future:

  1. When renovating/ building your home, ensure that all plugs, permanent heating fixtures, and electrical points are at least 300mm above the expected flood levels.
  1. If you happen to have a large, flat garden and struggle with water retention problems, it’s recommended to install a perforated 110mm pipe sealed into a bed of gravel and buried 350-450 mm below some of the worst areas in order to allow for easy water absorption.
  1. Some homes are situated at the end of an incline, allowing water to easily accumulate to cause flooding. If possible, place drainage grids with deeper drainage ports to allow the water to pass your home.

“During a drought, the ground becomes harder and more compact so it is less porous for the water to soak through.  Being as prepared as possible will help prevent flooding damaging your property.