Cape Town – Rain and lightning are increasingly becoming a financial headache for home owners.
South Africa has one of the highest lightning ground strike densities in the world, which can have major financial repercussions for businesses and local home owners.
And with summer fast approaching, the rainy season brings with it not only lightning but also a number of insurance-related challenges for home owners.
This makes it important for consumers to educate themselves about the reasons why insurance claims related to rain or lightning could be rejected.
Warwick Scott-Rodger, Gauteng regional manager of MUA Insurance Acceptances, says lightning is one of the most underestimated natural disasters.
“In the summer months, an increase in thunder storms and lightning is experienced throughout South Africa and can often result in substantial financial losses as a result of damage caused to homes and possessions.”
And because of the high frequency of lighting strike incidents in certain parts of the country, some insurance policies restrict lighting damage cover quite heavily by imposing an additional excess, or in extreme cases even excluding cover all together.
“Therefore, it is very important for home owners to check the terms and conditions of their homeowner’s insurance policy to ensure they have the correct cover in place,” says Scott-Rodger.
Nazeer Hoosen, executive director: PPS Short-Term Insurance says the onus is on consumers to ask questions and make sure they are aware of the possible reasons why insurance claims related to rain could be rejected.
Don’t neglect maintenance
One of the easiest ways to avoid claim repudiations due to water damage in the home is for home owners to perform regular maintenance checks. “Home owners’ insurance pays for sudden and unexpected events – it does not pay for gradual deterioration or maintenance,” says Hoosen.
According to Scott-Rodger, some insurers may have specific policy requirements regarding the installation of lighting and surge protection units, specifically concerning the annual maintenance of items such as lightning conductors.
“Should home owners fail to adhere to these requirements, they may face a claim being rejected on grounds of non-compliance with policy requirements.”
He says even if lightning strikes close to a home, damage can still be substantial. “Some home owners experience damage caused to electrical appliances following a major lighting storm, even if there is no evidence that the lightning hit the home itself.
“This may be caused by underground irrigation systems, or on-site wells, acting as a conductor for electrical charges to reach the home.”
Safeguard your property
Scott-Rodger says there are a number of methods home owners can use to protect their home and its contents against damage caused by lightning. These include:
- Installing a lightning protection system which is made up of a series of grounded lightning rods to assist to direct the lightning to the ground in the event of the home being struck.
- Installing UL-listed surge protectors on electrical service panels and phone, cable, satellite and data lines to protect expensive and sensitive electronic devices in the home.
- Simply unplugging expensive electronics such as televisions and computers – probably the best way to protect them.
- Keeping trees in check. Homes surrounded by large, mature trees are more at risk, as the tallest tree in the neighborhood is the most attractive target for a lightning strike which could split it in half, sending wood crashing through the roofs of surrounding homes.
- Making sure your home owner’s insurance policy is up to date.
Hoosen warns that any claims related to a lack of regular maintenance will be rejected, as it is the responsibility of the home owners to keep the home in an insurable condition.
Drains and roofs can be problem points
He says the most common type of insurance claims companies receive from home owners during rainy seasons are related to water damage caused by water leaking through the roof due to a heavy storm.
In addition to this, poor draining can result in water accumulating quickly in a courtyard area where a drain is blocked, getting into the house instead of draining away and causing severe water damage.
Also, lack of regular maintenance can result in tiles shifting on the roof, broken tiles not being replaced or not put back in place properly. “A roof improperly maintained which allows water in will lead to a claim rejection,” he says.
He advises home owners to walk around their property and check that nothing is likely to stop or hinder water from flowing out and away from their house ahead of the rainy season.
Both Hoosen and Scott-Rodger warn home owners to check the insured value of the home – in other words, whether the building is insured for the correct replacement value allowing for current building costs.
“Often homes are insured for their market value, which does not help if it costs more to rebuild the home following severe damage.
“If home owners conduct alterations, albeit small ones, this can also lead to a large increase in property values, and one does not want to be under-insured at point of claim,” says Hoosen.
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