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EDITIONS
Monday, 28 October, 2002, 11:52 GMT
Q&A: The cost of the storm
Q&A graphic
The British Insurance Brokers' Association has estimated that the cost of the latest storms across the UK could reach as high as 200m. But what does that mean for consumers?

I've woken up to a damaged home and car - am I covered?

Providing you are one of the 75% of homeowners who have household insurance, your house should be covered.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said "storm and wind damage" is a standard part of household insurance and would cover damage caused by storms such as those this weekend.

There is less good news for car owners. Only "fully comprehensive" motor insurance will cover damage to your car. Drivers with only "third party, fire and theft" are not covered.

What happens if my property causes damage to my neighbour's house?

Your neighbour would claim on their own insurance. To claim against you, your neighbour would need to prove that you had been negligent in the maintenance of your property.

The ABI said that is very difficult to prove.

What should I do first?

The British Insurance Brokers' Association (BIBA) said the first priority is to make the property water-tight and then contact your insurer.

A number of larger insurance groups have a 24 hour hotline open to deal with queries and have laid on extra staff to deal with the calls.

How do I set about getting the house repaired?

BIBA is urging homeowners to consult their insurer before booking repair work.

The insurance association warns against the "fly by night" tradesman who seek cash in hand payment, and cannot guarantee their work.

"Only pay what the job is worth," warned BIBA, adding that insurers usually have a database of tradesman that they recommend.

If you go ahead with unnecessary repairs or work of unsuitable quality, insurance companies could refuse to pay up.

What about my garden?

An exception to the household insurance rule are things such as fences and garden sheds.

Individual insurance groups differ on whether they cover these are part of the policy. Damage to a ten-year old garden shed, for example, could be deemed the result of "wear and tear" rather than simply the storm.

Walls, on the other hand, which are fairly robust and sturdy, are more likely to be covered.

Will my premium be affected?

Not immediately. The ABI said a single claim for something such as storm damage will not be enough to increase the cost of a premium - events like these are, after all, what insurance companies are there for.

However, it is the frequency of such large-claim events in the last two years which could threaten premiums.

BIBA has warned that events such as the World Trade Centre attacks, floods in Europe and the high winds earlier this year, are all costing the industry dearly.

What if I am not insured?

There is little good news for uninsured consumers.

If your property was damaged as a result of poor maintenance work by your neighbour - by loose roofing tiles, for example - it might be possible to lodge a claim against them.

However, the ABI said proving such cases is difficult.

A more prudent approach for uninsured homeowners who were spared this time would be to buy a policy, as such erratic incidents become more frequent.

"Freak weather incidents are becoming more common," warned the ABI.

See also:

28 Oct 02 | Business
27 Oct 02 | England
25 Oct 02 | Moneybox
15 Aug 02 | Business
29 Jan 02 | Business
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