Guiding consumers since 2009

Drought damage is not covered by insurance

By Jessica Anne Wood

The ongoing drought has seen tougher water restrictions implemented by the City of Cape Town. Among the many restrictions is a limitation on filling swimming pools, and the requirement for pools to be covered to reduce evaporation and water wastage.

READ: Food prices could increase due to drought

Under the City of Cape Town water restrictions, manual top up of swimming pools is only allowed if the pool is fitted with a pool cover. “No automatic top-up systems are allowed and the use of portable play pools is prohibited. This gives right to residents to fill their pools only with a restriction to contribute to saving water. It is the policyholder’s responsibility to ensure the pool has a safe water level to help prevent damage to the structure,” clarifies Presodhini Naicker, head of brand and advertising at iWYZE.

READ: Consumers to feel drought relief

But what happens if you can’t afford to get a pool cover, the drought intensifies and lingers long enough for your pool to stand empty and get damaged as a result? Unfortunately damage, like cracks in the pool lining, will probably not be covered by your home and buildings insurance. This is because under your contractual obligations with your insurer you are required to take all steps necessary to mitigate the risk. So this would include you having to fork out thousands of Rands to protect your assets – your pool included.

Santie Stevens, representative for personal lines and commercial lines at InsuranceBusters, explains: “Insurance companies have terms and conditions within the contract signed and agreed upon between themselves and the insured. Under the general terms and conditions of the agreement it is made clear that the client will ensure to do everything within their power to mitigate risk.

“It comes down do taking the required pre-cautions they would have taken if they have chosen to self-insure and not share their risk with an insurance company at an agreed rate that’s calculated based on their unique risk profile.”

READ: The impact of drought on insurance

 

Will your insurance company pay?

Naicker points out that pools fall under the buildings insurance section of a short term insurance contractual agreement, which means damage to this will be considered as damage to one’s property. However, short-term insurers may have exclusions on some claims, and claims are evaluated on their merit.

“As a policyholder certain obligations need to also be met according to the contractual agreement with the insurer. For example, taking precautionary measures to prevent damage, maintaining the property, etc. This is the policyholder’s responsibility to ensure the property is well taken care of.”

When it comes to pool damage due to the drought, Naicker says that the evaluation of the claim would consider the fact that there are different types of pools in the market, and depending on the pool’s material composition, it will need to be determined how long it will take for the damage to start.

“As a general rule, no pool should stand empty. Should this occur, various factors will determine the outcome. These factors could range from build quality, the underground water table and a mix between different building products being used like marbelite, fibreglass, concrete or plaster, if a pool has a lining or not or whether the pool was previously refurbished. Furthermore, it will consider how the heat or dryness would have impacted the damage,” explains Naicker.

Failure to take precautionary measures to protect your pool may result in costly repairs.

Catherine Naidoo, general manager for Bancassurance Products at Absa Insurance concurs, adding: “Filling your pool and keeping it clean is part of maintaining your pool and therefore is not covered by insurance policies.”

According to Donald Kau, head of corporate affairs at Santam, pool damage caused by the drought “is not an insured peril and such damage will not be covered in terms of your house insurance policy.”

Stevens emphasises that insurance companies can add specific exclusions and clauses to an insurance policy which will clearly indicate if an event that may take place is covered under the policy or not. “These exclusions, clauses, warranties and endorsements can differ from one insurer to another.”

Ash Singh, segment marketing manager at Regent Insurance, adds: “A short term insurance policy which covers your domestic buildings (inclusive of swimming pools) is a perils based contract. This means that there would only be cover for loss or damage, which may arise from a specific list of defined events.”

He explains that most short term insurance policies provide cover for loss or damage resulting from any of the following:

  •            Fire, lightening or explosion
  •            Malicious damage
  •            Storm, wind, hail, snow or flood
  •            Earthquake and earth tremor
  •            Bursting, leaking or overflowing
  •            Impact (for example from falling trees, vehicles, animals or aircraft)

However, these “perils do not include damages arising from drought and/or related water restrictions. Therefore gradual deterioration of swimming pools due to drought and the lowering water levels would not be claimable under a short term insurance contract unless ‘drought’ is specifically listed as an insured peril,” reveals Singh.

Philippa Wild, head of technical marketing and Vitalitydrive for Discovery Insure, states: “Generally, damage to swimming pools, unless related to the unforeseen causes happen from cracking due to ground movement, low water levels, damaged equipment or inadequate maintenance. This damage occurs over time and is not related to sudden and unforeseen circumstances. Therefore, it does not form part of the cover provided by short-term home insurance.  However, if a dangerous and unforeseen event, as listed in the cover agreement, caused damage to the swimming pool an insurance claim will be reviewed.” 

Insurance: Need insurance? You can apply for a range of insurance products on Justmoney.

 

Denying your insurance claim

Ultimately, when it comes to the drought and any resultant damage from it to your pool it is you, the homeowner that is responsible for it. “Should no precaution put into place to avoid or mitigate the risk, the insurance company can or may repudiate the claim. Under the general terms and conditions of an insurance policy it is normally clearly stipulated that the client must take all precaution to prevent damage,” says Stevens.

She adds: “Insurance is for unforeseen events. When we are in the current drought state, mitigation can be taken to avoid damage caused to the pool and for this reason it will not be seen as an unforeseen event, when precaution could have been put into place to avoid the damage that may be caused by water evaporating from the pool.

“However, should the pool crack and the client did take all required measurements to reduce loss or damage, the insurer will indeed look at the claim and base their decision on merits and individual circumstances.”

Be prepared

Singh states: “Homeowners are encouraged to take all reasonable precautions to safeguard against loss or damage to their swimming pools. This includes measures such as installation of suitable, purpose-built pool coverings (which drastically reduce evaporation) and which are, in fact, required by the City of Cape Town, as well as using alternate water sources to maintain the water level of swimming pools where possible. This could include using rain water storage tanks and/or diverting gutters directly into the swimming pool.

“It is also advisable to confirm with your local municipal authority whether the water restrictions in your area allow topping up of swimming pools for maintenance purposes. Level 3B water restrictions (imposed from 1 February 2017 by the City of Cape Town) only prohibit the use of automatic top-up systems for swimming pools.” However this may change if/when the water restrictions are tightened.

Stevens emphasises that the onus is on the insured/client to read the terms and conditions and know what is included and excluded from cover.

READ: How to save water during water restrictions

Tips to protect your swimming pool

Naickeroffers the below tips to help protect your swimming pool from damage:

  • Shield the pool with a plastic cover, this will reduce the evaporation of the water and buy time, it will also keep the pool free from debris.
  • Regular maintenance of the pump, piping and seals, check the pool for any pre-existing cracks or leaks and repair these where needed.
  • Smart use of rainwater - people residing in affected areas should plan ahead and capture rainwater to use during drought.

Naidoo adds the following ‘don’ts’ to the list of things to do to protect your pool:

  •          Do not use domestic water into your pool as the chemicals in it can cause harm to the surface of the pool. Rather use that water for your garden and not your swimming pool.
  •          If you have an older model pump, try purchasing a newer model that is more economical as pumps utilise water to operate, thus reducing water levels further.
  •          Do not dive into your swimming pool.

 

 

 

Recent Articles

Featured What’s the deal with underwriting?

When you apply for a long-term insurance policy, a financial adviser will ask some personal questions about your lifestyle, family history, health, and even ask you to take some medical tests. This process is called underwriting, but is it really necessary?

 

How are you taxed on your retrenchment package?

Unemployment is one of the biggest problems in South Africa. The emergence of the Covid-19 pandemic has exacerbated the situation with a lot of companies retrenching their employees.  When retrenched, you’ll receive a retrenchment package, but do you know how much tax you’re liable for?

Car repossessed – don’t be taken for a ride

When the country is facing an economic downturn, chances are your finances will feel the pinch. This can lead you to make bad financial decisions such as skipping your vehicle payments. But every decision has consequences and if you don’t pay your instalment, the bank will repossess your car. But what can you do when this happens?

 

Why you should consider gap cover

Your medical aid should protect you from incurring large medical bills when you’re sick. But what if your plan doesn’t cover the full cost of your medical expenses? We got in touch with insurance experts to find out whether gap cover is worth having.

Deals

Office furniture at discounted prices at BDK

Price: Available on request
When: Daily
Where: Johannesburg

Da Vincis Happy Hour Special

Price: Available on request
When: Daily
Where: Cape Town

Use your Absa card and get 30% cashback at Dis-chem

Price: Available on request
When: Daily
Where: Nationwide


Latest Guide

Guide to debt rehabilitation solutions