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How to keep cars and home safe ahead of the storm

By Angelique Ruzicka

The Western Cape is set to be hit by the worst storm in 30 years. Reports say that the province will be hit gale force winds of between 90 and 97km/h, flash floods, and hail. Correspondence has been sent to schools to ask them to shut down and keep children and staff at bay. The Western Cape is also urging people to stay away from work tomorrow if at all possible.

But while the Mother of All Storms is set to descend on the Western Cape, what can you do to ensure that your content, home and car are safe? And are you covered by your insurer if there’s a lot of damage caused by the storm which is set to arrive tonight. 

The current downpour in South Africa has been causing damage to property and wreaking havoc on roads, causing flash floods and hiding ominous potholes under the treacherous guise of water puddles  It has left many a motorist and home owner asking the question whether their motor and household insurance is capable of weathering the storm? 

 According to Mandy Barrett of insurance brokerage and risk advisors, Aon South Africa, insurance companies are currently being inundated with weather related losses while service providers are not able to adequately cope with the amount of damage within reasonable time frames.  “Numerous structural claims on houses have been reported as a result of roofs that are leaking, floods and rising damp,” says Mandy.  

Home insurance – what’s in, what’s out?

A homeowner’s insurance policy will cover any damage to the building, according to the insurance agreement, but does not cover maintenance related damage.  “To give an example, if your home floods as a result of deteriorated waterproofing on the roof, the policy will cover the damage caused, but will not cover the repair of the actual waterproofing.  It is the owner’s responsibility to maintain the building in terms of keeping gutters clear and maintaining waterproofing, among others,” explains Barrett. 

Besides trying to stem the flow of water, there isn’t a lot that a person can do to prevent a flood. “The only advice I can give is to move as many of your belongings as you can out of the water and into other rooms that are not flooded.  The longer the water is left sitting, the more damage it causes,” says Barrett. 

Aon says to prepare for tomorrow’s storms there are a few things you can do:

  • Keep gutters clear to facilitate proper drainage around the house
  • Check the waterproofing on the roof. While it may be too late to get a builder out to help on this now this is something you should have checked on a regular basis.
  • Attempt to stem the flow of water in the event of a flood
  • Install lightning rods along the outside of the house if your area is prone to lightning strikes
  • Power generators could greatly assist in keeping your food frozen in the freezer
  • Fit all your plugs with lightning protectors to prevent power surge damage 

Motor Insurance – are you covered for everything?

The majority of insurance policies will however cover your vehicle, should it become stranded. It’s not advised to go out in the rain with your car tomorrow but if you have to do so, drive carefully and don’t speed as the roads are bound to be slippery roads and there could be potholes that can cause damage too.  

While tyre damage is not normally covered by insurers it will be covered if another part of your vehicle is damaged at the same time, says Barrett. Overall, your car should be covered but on the proviso that it is maintained in a roadworthy condition at all times.  “An accident claim could potentially be repudiated if the tread on the tyres is deemed insufficient to have stopped the vehicle in time.  The legally required minimum tread depth is 1.6mm.  It is in fact one of the leading causes of motor vehicle accidents and I would therefore recommend that motorists check their tyres on a regular basis,” says Barrett.

Beware if you are travelling with items. If at all possible try and leave things like laptops at work rather than transport them in the car. If they get damaged in the storm, they may not be covered. “It is however prudent to mention that personal effects, such as laptops, clothing and such will not be covered by vehicle insurance, as the liability lies under the all risks section of a policy, where these items need to be specified,” Barrett explains.  

Aon provides additional tips for driving in stormy weather:

  • Increase your following distance to allow enough time to react.
  • Keep an eye out for motorists swerving to avoid objects in the road and be prepared to do the same
  • Many traffic lights are out of order due to the rain, so drive carefully
  • Reduce your speed
  • Roads are congested with many tempers fraying, keep your cool 

Claiming – is it a good idea?

If you do get your car, goods or home damaged in the storm tomorrow, decide whether it will be worthwhile to claim from your insurer. If the damage is minimal, you could always pay for it yourself and protect your no claims bonus, if your insurer offers it. Otherwise excesses have to be paid for and this may also hurt your pocket. If you regularly claim from your insurer you could be subject to substantial premium increases or rejected as a client by your insurer.

 “In some instances where clients repeatedly claim for a certain incident, some insurers may even exclude this claims cause from the policy cover or provide notice of cancellation entirely,” says Barrett. 

If you are unsure about what you are covered for, contact your broker or insurer.  “The broker’s role is to examine your circumstances in detail and to impartially recommend covers that will meet those needs.  Choice, simplicity of wording and customisation will ensure that your assets are covered correctly.  Not only does it provide you with peace of mind, but a broker’s expertise will also ensure prompt and fair settlement of any claims so you can get back to your life without delay,” concludes Barrett.

 

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