More homeowners are complaining to the Financial Ombudsman about insurers rejecting claims for damage – but are losing their cases because of the small print in their policies.
So, if you are shopping for home or buildings insurance, the three main points to consider are:
- What is a storm?
- Was the damage was caused by a storm?
- Was the damage during a storm caused by the storm?
“Financial loss caused by storm damage is normally covered by most buildings insurance policies and we deal with a relatively small but steady volume of complaints on this topic,” said a spokesman for the Financial Ombudsman.
“A storm will generally involve violent winds, accompanied by heavy rain, hail or snow. Storm damage can sometimes be caused to property even where the wind has not been particularly strong but where there have been extreme incidents of other forms of bad weather.”
One homeowner who had a claim for storm damage to stone cladding on the front of her house took her case to the ombudsman in a row over how fast wind had to blow to be considered a storm.
The insurer told her claims for storm damage were not accepted if wind speeds failed to reached level 10 on the Beaufort scale – a windspeed of between 55 and 63 mph. At the time of the damage, the winds did not reach this speed.
The homeowner argued the wind was strong enough to cause the damage regardless of the exact speed and demanded her claim should be covered under the policy.
She added that if the claim was not covered as storm damage, then it was accidental damage.
The insurer was adamant the damage was ‘gradual deterioration and wear and tear,’ which was not covered under her policy.
The the complaint was upheld because recorded wind speed is not the deciding factor in cases involving storm damage.
The ombudsman rejected a claim from another homeowner who discovered guttering on her house was damaged after a week of heavy snowfall.
The insurer would not pay out because the damage was caused by the weight of the snow on the guttering over time, rather than by an ‘insured event,’ like a storm.
The bad weather was not disputed – but was not pinpointed as the cause of the damage. Had the homeowner’s policy included cover for accidental damage, the insurer would have paid out.