Storm clouds, silver linings

Last week's gales, culminating in a devastating tornado, have left many scurrying to check their insurance cover, writes Emma Simon

HOMEOWNERS have faced a week of misery after the most serious storms since 1987 lashed Britain last week.

More than half a million homes were battered by gales last weekend, and just when forecasters said we had seen the worst of the wintry weather, a freak tornado hit the Selsey area of West Sussex, affecting more than 1,000 homes as gusts of up to 100mph tore off roofs and blew down trees.

Insurers estimate that the cost of the damage caused by the storms could be as high as pounds 500m. This figure will rise further when the full cost of the damage in Selsey is known.

Although the total will be well below the pounds 2.7bn insurers paid out following the big freeze in 1990, many experts are speculating that the latest bout of severe weather could push buildings insurance premiums up again. Michael Gaughan, group marketing manager of Independent Insurance, says: "There will be no immediate rise, but I would not be surprised if we see increases in the spring. By then insurers will know the full cost of these storms, and this may be reflected in higher premiums."

But other insurers, such as Eagle Star, have been quick to scotch rumours of premium hikes. Matt Holmes, a spokesman, says: "Despite the increase in claims over Christmas and New Year, we are not anticipating a premium rise. This only happens after sustained periods of bad weather, not one or two storms."

David Ross, spokesman for Guardian Insurance, adds: "Although the picture on television from Selsey showed how devastated the town was, this destruction was localised. This should limit the cost of repairs, so I do not expect insurers to raise premiums as a result of this one freak incident."

The gales caused a five-fold increase in claims over the period, although most of these were for minor damage compared to the havoc wreaked by the Selsey tornado.

Gill Murphy, a spokeswoman for Direct Line, says: "We have received more than 8,000 calls since Christmas. Most of these were for damaged roofs and guttering." Out-buildings, such as greenhouses and garden sheds, have also been hard hit by the storm.

But property damage has been far more serious for homeowners in the worst- hit regions. In these areas insurers and loss adjusters have seen a 1,000 per cent increase in claims. Fortunately most policyholders no longer have to ring around for estimates, complete a lengthy claims form, pay for repairs and then wait weeks for the insurance company to reimburse them.

Today, in an effort to improve customer relations, insurers have tried to create hassle-free claims procedures. Most household insurers now operate 24-hour helplines and last weekend many insurers drafted in special teams to operate the phone lines.

Helpline operators are able to recommend approved repairers working in the local area. Most insurers will now approve claims up to pounds 500 over the telephone. This saves policyholders filling in claims forms.

In many cases these approved repairers - be they builders, plumbers or electricians - will bill the insurers directly so the policyholder is not out of pocket, which at this time of year is a real bonus.

It is important to know exactly what is, and what is not, covered on your insurance policies. For most structural damage to your property it is your buildings insurer you need to contact. But damaged aerials and satellite dishes are covered on contents insurance. Hedges, gates, fences and trees that have blown over are not generally covered on any insurance policy.

The high winds inevitably brought down pylons, causing power cuts in 18,000 homes in the North-east and North Yorkshire over Christmas.

If this happens it is generally possible to claim for food that defrosted in the freezer on a contents policy. Most standard contents policies offer around pounds 200 for this, though some may offer more. It is also worth looking at the customer charters provided by the electricity companies. If you feel that they have failed to restore power within a reasonable period of time, you may be entitled to compensation.

Reports indicate that homeowners in the North-east are appealing for compensation after they were left without power for most of the Christmas period.

Homeowners in the areas worst hit by storms are also being warned to be on the look-out for bogus builders trying to make a quick profit.

These rogue tradesmen will often target elderly homeowners, charging extortionate fees for repairs. Matt Holmes of Eagle Star, says: "From past experience this has been a huge problem. Homeowners should always seek to use builders that are recommended by the insurer. If this is not an option it is always best to get as many estimates as possible.

"Check with your insurer before proceeding with any repairs, as this can save a lot of problems later."

Keep the receipts

What to do if your home is damaged by bad weather

Always ring your insurers first. Most household insurers provide 24- hour helplines. Keep this number as the insurance company will be able to refer you to a local repairer, help replace damaged goods and advise you how to proceed with your claim.

Make sure temporary repairs are in place, such as tarpaulin over any holes in the roof. This will limit further damage. The cost of these makeshift repairs should be paid for by your insurer.

Keep all receipts for repair work. Insurers may need these to pay claims.

Store damaged goods in a dry place. Loss adjusters may want to inspect them before the insurers settle the claim.

If a pipe freezes, turn off the main stop valve. Apply heat from hot water bottles, a thick cloth or an electric hairdryer. But be careful using electrical goods in damp conditions.

If you have a burst pipe, turn the water supply off immediately and call a plumber or your insurer.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Suggested Topics
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
In too deep? Travel cover is among the benefits offered by packaged bank accounts

Claims firms blamed as complaints soar over packaged bank accounts

Many customers complained they were switched to the accounts without their knowledge

Finger on the interest rate trigger: the Bank of England

The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums

Meanwhile, high-street lenders continue to cherry-pick and be more competitive on larger loans

China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'

The market plummeted this week, losing all the gains made for the year

Which? warns sports fans about Rugby World Cup ticket scams

GetSporting.com offers deals that may be too good to be true

Could it be the time to focus on Japan? Some believe the country has no choice but to boost consumption and the economy will get back on track

Investors told to travel the world in the search for higher returns

Assets have risen in value across the board and volatility isn't going away. Rob Griffin asks where we should put our cash
As rising house prices push up demand for renting, so tenants are having to dig deeper than ever

Starter home initiative is urgently needed as rents go through the roof

Rents in England and Wales rose by 1.9 per cent in July to an average of £804

Peer-to-peer lending rates put Nisas to shame

The returns from P2P providers look more attractive than ever

Questions of Cash: Log-in problems turned eDreams booking into one-way ticket to nowhere

The company failed to provide our reader's flight ticket - or a refund

Hot property: business has been booming in estate agents this month, even though it’s the height of the summer holiday season

Heat rises for mortgage deals as UK homeowners sense a rate hike coming

The housing market should go quiet in August but instead people have been acting like cheap loans won't last. Do we really have to rush, asks Simon Read
Phones have now overtaken personal computers as the most used way of accessing the internet

Who you gonna call? The Complaints Busters

Unhappy customers have been given their own Ombudsman to help fight for them.

Undergraduates are being tempted with freebies by banks

Students should give freebies a wide berth and focus instead on cheap borrowing

An interest-free loan far outweighs the value of any of the bank's incentives

The Spanish carrier changed a reader's flight from Madrid – to a time before she was due to land

Questions of Cash: 'A connecting Vueling flight was cancelled and all my travel costs were left hanging in the air'

Our reader encountered problems when flying from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity ride

Complacency about rising rates could prove to be costly

Interest rates stay at 0.5% for now - but don't wait to get a better deal on your savings and mortgage

The years of ultra-low rates are coming to an end

The elderly are being targeted by fraudsters with postal scams such as fake prize draws

Fraudsters are bombarding older people with dangerous pension scams: here we reveal the warning signs

Many people are being repeatedly targeted by crooked schemes

Football and credit cards aren't always a good match

A football club-branded credit card could end up being a financial own goal

It may be a great talking point when you get your football club plastic out in front of your mates, but these deals aren't the best option for all fans

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Recruitment Genius: Content Writer - Global Financial Services

    £25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Web Developer - PHP

    £35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...

    Recruitment Genius: Field Sales Consultant - Financial Services - OTE £65,000

    £15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

    Recruitment Genius: Loan Underwriter

    £18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

    Day In a Page

    Orthorexia nervosa: How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition

    Orthorexia nervosa

    How becoming obsessed with healthy eating can lead to malnutrition
    Lady Chatterley is not obscene, says TV director

    Lady Chatterley’s Lover

    Director Jed Mercurio on why DH Lawrence's novel 'is not an obscene story'
    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests

    Set a pest to catch a pest

    Farmers in tropical forests are training ants to kill off bigger pests
    Mexico: A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life

    The dark side of Mexico

    A culture that celebrates darkness as an essential part of life
    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde. Don't tell other victims it was theirs

    Being sexually assaulted was not your fault, Chrissie Hynde

    Please don't tell other victims it was theirs
    A nap a day could save your life - and here's why

    A nap a day could save your life

    A midday nap is 'associated with reduced blood pressure'
    If men are so obsessed by sex, why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?

    If men are so obsessed by sex...

    ...why do they clam up when confronted with the grisly realities?
    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3

    Jon Thoday and Richard Allen-Turner

    The comedy titans of Avalon on their attempt to save BBC3
    The bathing machine is back... but with a difference

    Rolling in the deep

    The bathing machine is back but with a difference
    Part-privatised tests, new age limits, driverless cars: Tories plot motoring revolution

    Conservatives plot a motoring revolution

    Draft report reveals biggest reform to regulations since driving test introduced in 1935
    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation: Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places

    The Silk Roads that trace civilisation

    Long before the West rose to power, Asian pathways were connecting peoples and places
    House of Lords: Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled

    The honours that shame Britain

    Outcry as donors, fixers and MPs caught up in expenses scandal are ennobled
    When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race

    'When it comes to street harassment, we need to talk about race'

    Why are black men living the stereotypes and why are we letting them get away with it?
    International Tap Festival: Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic

    International Tap Festival comes to the UK

    Forget Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers - this dancing is improvised, spontaneous and rhythmic
    War with Isis: Is Turkey's buffer zone in Syria a matter of self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Turkey's buffer zone in Syria: self-defence – or just anti-Kurd?

    Ankara accused of exacerbating racial division by allowing Turkmen minority to cross the border