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.
17 April 2015 06:00 PM
23 April 2015 12:00 AM
Experts disagree about the 7% increase over the past year
22 April 2015 07:29 AM
Too many mortgages are being sold with misleading gimmicks
21 April 2015 09:54 AM
The firm’s revenues slumped by a third to £217 million in 2014
21 April 2015 12:00 AM
The average quote for a buildings and contents policy has fallen by 3.6 per cent
10 April 2015 07:00 PM
15 April 2015 12:56 PM
Joining Barclays Blue Rewards costs £3 a month but then lets customers in for handouts of up to £15 a month
15 April 2015 07:27 AM
A charity is urging anyone struggling financially to see if they could get help from the state
13 April 2015 11:39 AM
Video: With an election looming, a hung parliament could hit sterling
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
03 April 2015 08:00 PM
02 April 2015 01:14 PM
Video: Tom McPhail, head of pensions at Hargreaves Lansdown, says May's outcome could alter your pension
30 March 2015 04:22 PM
Video: Simon Read talks to Fidelity's Tom Stevenson
- 1 Migrant crisis: Greek soldier saved 20 people singlehandedly off Rhodes beach
- 2 Frank Lampard's face drops when Holly Willoughby introduces him as a 'Man City legend'
- 3 UK weather: Britain braced for snow as arctic air mass moves in
- 4 Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
- 5 General Election 2015: Stephen Hawking says he will vote Labour
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
The sickening truth about food banks that the Tories don't want you to know
Aaron and Melissa Klein: Oregon anti-gay bakers ordered to pay $135,000 after refusing to make cake for same-sex wedding
Andrew Lloyd Webber: Phantom of the Opera writer mocked after issuing a warning about Ed Miliband and Nicola Sturgeon
General election 2015: Labour will toughen hate crimes legislation surrounding Islamophobia
HSBC review into moving headquarters from UK 'underway'
iJobs Money & Business
£20000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you recently QCA Level 4 qu...
£20000 - £22500 per annum + OTE £30K: SThree: SThree Group have been well esta...
£25 - 30k: Guru Careers: We are seeking an Application Support Analyst / 1st L...
£45K - £55K (DOE) + Benefits: Guru Careers: We are seeking a full stack .NET D...
Day In a Page
Surrounded by the Western fells, this five-bedroom Georgian home retains many original features including panel-plastered ceilings, sash windows and fireplaces.
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, subject to change of use permissions.
A former period coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
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.
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 four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
This four-bedroom home has exposed brick chimneys and a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining - the doors open to the patio and garden.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
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.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.
A four-bedroom apartment on the ground floor of a stunning period property in North Yorkshire, with two kitchens and a large south-west facing garden.
This high-spec two-bedroom home is part of a smart collection of new flats at Beaufort Park and has a large decked balcony that's perfect for summer drinks.
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.
Overlooking a golf course, this six-bedroom Edwardian detached home spans four storeys and retains many period features including the original, operational servants' bells...
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.
In a Grade II-listed manor just outside of Bath, this three-bedroom home is arranged on two floors with a skylight in a vaulted roof line.
Open the living room's bi-fold wooden doors to reveal a retro-style kitchen, and a conservatory leading to a paved garden at this three-bedroom home.
A Grade II-listed, four-bedroom home, in a charming Somerset village, with a two-storey studio that could be converted into a holiday cottage
A modern four-bedroom Victorian home, within walking distance to the high street
A luxury apartment in the Gothic mansion of Wyfold Court in Kingwood, offers six bedrooms spread over three floors and a turret
This school conversion, near Stockwell Tube, oozes New York loft style. The one-bedroom flat features double height ceilings and exposed brick work
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
High Crest House covers an impressive 9384sq ft, with almost three acres of grounds including a tennis court and summer house enclosed by electric gates
A six-bedroom farmhouse with separate accommodation in converted stables. Situated in the village of Church Aston, within walking distance to the market town
A two-bedroom flat with under-heated walnut floors and bespoke built-in storage. The Tube and Clapham Common are a short stroll away
A refurbished seven-bedroom townhouse with staff quarters, cinema room, superb gym, steam room and plunge pool
A minimnalist four-bedroom home designed to the highest spec, featuring glass walls and a kitchen space lit by a glass roof
Hibernate during winter and make your living during the summer at this busy guesthouse with panoramic sea views, in the village of Lynton
A four-bedroom penthouse next to the Tate with direct views of St Paul's from two floors of luxurious living space
A four-bedroom detached home surrounded by spacious gardens and woodland, close to New Pudsey
An 18th-century, three-bedroom home near Langstone Harbour built from ships beams with vaulted ceilings and wood burning stoves
A five-bedroom semi-detached home with a mix of period and modern features in a popular and convenient location
This five-bedroom red-brick beauty overlooks the village green and sits in just under two acres of land
A three-bedroom villa with self-contained flat, minutes from Lake Windermere
A five-bedroom Victorian home with four receptions, superb gardens and paddock in Pembury
An eight-bedroom house on the south side of the The Green with cinema, wine cellars and summer house
This 17th century beauty is full of rustic cosiness, while the detached home office means you can also run a business
Four exclusive apartments in a Grade II-listed former medical school with 2,275 sq ft of living space and 18ft ceilings
A five-bedroom terraced house on the popular Peterborough Estate, ideally located for both Eel Brook Common and South Park
A state-of-the-art farm-building conversion on the former Cliveden Estate, with 11,420sq ft of internal space, cinema and wine cellar
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
A boutique mews house, set around a central courtyard, with three bedrooms and a private roof terrace