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
Sunday 11 January 1998
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.
29 August 2015 12:00 AM
Many customers complained they were switched to the accounts without their knowledge
29 August 2015 12:00 AM
Meanwhile, high-street lenders continue to cherry-pick and be more competitive on larger loans
29 August 2015 12:00 AM
The market plummeted this week, losing all the gains made for the year
29 August 2015 12:00 AM
GetSporting.com offers deals that may be too good to be true
21 August 2015 10:00 PM
21 August 2015 10:00 PM
Rents in England and Wales rose by 1.9 per cent in July to an average of £804
21 August 2015 10:00 PM
The returns from P2P providers look more attractive than ever
21 August 2015 10:00 PM
The company failed to provide our reader's flight ticket - or a refund
14 August 2015 10:00 PM
12 August 2015 11:28 AM
Unhappy customers have been given their own Ombudsman to help fight for them.
14 August 2015 10:00 PM
An interest-free loan far outweighs the value of any of the bank's incentives
Questions of Cash: 'A connecting Vueling flight was cancelled and all my travel costs were left hanging in the air'
14 August 2015 11:30 PM
Our reader encountered problems when flying from London to Ibiza in May to take part in a charity ride
Interest rates stay at 0.5% for now - but don't wait to get a better deal on your savings and mortgage
06 August 2015 01:49 PM
The years of ultra-low rates are coming to an end
Fraudsters are bombarding older people with dangerous pension scams: here we reveal the warning signs
07 August 2015 09:07 AM
Many people are being repeatedly targeted by crooked schemes
08 August 2015 12:00 AM
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
The best deals on personal loans: Peer-to-peer providers are more competitive for smaller sums
Buying property overseas? Check out these hotspots
China stock collapse: Five things you need to know about 'Black Monday'
My Tinder date asked for a refund when I declined a second meet up
The most expensive cities in the world 2015
- 1 A daily walk 'can add seven years to your life'
- 2 Rules on 5p plastic bags likely to lead to arguments at the check-out
- 3 Chrissie Hynde says women who 'wear high heels and dress provocatively entice rapists'
- 4 Blood Moon and Supermoon: September to bring brightest – and dimmest – full Moon of the year on same night
- 5 News agency criticised for describing Amal Clooney as 'actor's wife' in coverage of human rights trial
Climate change: 2015 will be the hottest year on record 'by a mile', experts say
'Women only' train carriages: Jeremy Corbyn unveils radical move to tackle public harassment
Black holes are a passage to another universe, says Stephen Hawking
Tony Blair attacks Jeremy Corbyn's 'Alice In Wonderland' politics
Theresa May says migrants should be banned from entering the UK unless they have jobs lined up
Iain Duncan Smith 'should resign over disability benefit death figures', says Jeremy Corbyn
iJobs Money & Business
£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£35000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: From modest beginnings the comp...
£15000 - £65000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...
£18000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...
Day In a Page
In a sandbanks location, moments from the beach, this three-bedroom apartment has a large open-plan living area and a south-west facing balcony.
This four-bedroom home has an annexe accessed from the side of the house, with potential for improvement and conversion subject to the necessary permissions.
In the heart of the hamlet of Wardley, this five-bedroom period home offers countryside views and a stylish interior, with original features and open fireplaces.
Offering countryside views and landscaped gardens, this three-bedroom Grade II-listed lodge has a spacious conservatory and a large cellar that could serve as a workshop.
Set in approximately 1.5 acres, this four-bedroom home comes with a second, detached property that's currently used as an annexe.
In the hamlet of Newchurch, this former parish church is now a four-bedroom home complete with clock tower and eyrie.
Offering scenic views from a large balcony and sun terrace, this four-bedroom home has a wraparound garden and a heated swimming pool.
Offering views across the Humber and East Yorkshire Wolds from a glass panelled balcony, this four-bedroom barn-style home befits a life of leisure.
This four-bedroom home offers versatile accommodation with annexe potential; features include a hot tub, sauna and Norwegian BBQ hut.
Well-located for schools, colleges and the town centre, this contemporary thatched cottage offers flexible living space with six bedrooms.
Built in 1907, this four-bedroom Edwardian period home has been refurbished by the current owners, retaining many original period features.
Surrounded by landscaped gardens, this five-bedroom home offers living space across three floors.
This lovely country home in Burnham Market is currently run as a popular holiday cottage, with five en suite bedrooms and colourful gardens.
This three-bedroom 17th-century former village bakery is just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
Set on a landscaped plot, this light and airy four-bedroom home comes with a log burner in the lounge, a fitted kitchen and an open-plan ground-floor layout.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Built on a former chapel site, this impressive four-bedroom home boasts balconies, stunning views and contemporary modern living.
This three-bedroom house is situated in a quiet mews and set over three floors. Features include glazed staircases and high ceilings.
A period townhouse set over four floors, this five-bedroom home was built in the 18th Century and retains many original features.
With five bedrooms, this spacious home offers beautiful gardens and modern interiors - set within the popular market town of Bingley.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This first-floor flat comes with two bedrooms, an impressive open-plan reception room and two lovely roof terraces.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Moored at Taggs Island and reached via a pretty garden, this two-bedroom houseboat has a vaulted reception room and skylit garden studio - currently a beauty salon.
On the edge of the city, this six-bedroom home comes with an outdoor swimming pool and a large garage block that has annexe potential.
A contemporary house spread over three storeys, this three-bedroom detached home has large sliding doors that open out to the River Quaggy.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
This former village bakery, dating back to the 17th century, is now a three-bedroom detached home just a few miles from the East Sussex coast.
On the picturesque Isle of Man, this four-bedroom character home has a ground-floor shop that's currently run as a newsagents and a flat that would make an ideal holiday let.
In a new collection of flats, this first-floor two-bedroom apartment offers ample entertaining space and a prime view of Furze Green from a private balcony.
This three-bedroom stone-built cottage currently trades as the village store with a restaurant in the annexe and family accommodation on the upper floors.
Previously two semi-detached properties, this five-bedroom home is spread over three floors with a large breakfast kitchen, orangery, office and gym on the second floor.
This five-bedroom home enjoys countryside views over the Blyth estuary to Southwold, offering flexible living space with a ground-floor annexe - ideal for use as a holiday let.
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Capitalise on the fabulous views of Trevone Bay by taking two homes and creating one spacious boutique B&B. Just a cliff-top walk from Padstow.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.