Storms Dudley, Eunice and Franklin have wreaked havoc in the UK over the past couple of weeks; flooding, fallen trees and for some unfortunate people, damage to their homes too.

There are many ways a storm can damage your house:

  • Roof tiles blown off in strong winds
  • Damage to your house from lightning
  • Damage from fallen trees and flying debris
  • Water damage due to heavy rainfall

In this article we will look at what insurers class as a ‘storm’, and whether or not you are able to claim on your home insurance for any storm damage to your property.

What is classed as a storm?

The Financial Ombudsman Service defines a storm as:

“Generally involves violent winds, usually accompanied by rain, hail or snow. But in some cases we may find there’s a storm without there being high winds. There are occasions where rain, hail, or snowfall by itself can constitute a storm. Any extreme form of bad weather has the potential to cause damage to a property.”

The Association of British Insurers define a storm as:

“A period of violent weather defined as:

  • Wind speeds with gusts of at least 48 knots (55mph)* or;
  • Torrential rainfall at a rate of at least 25mm per hour or;
  • Snow to a depth of at least one foot (30 cm) in 24 hours or;
  • Hail of such intensity that it causes damage to hard surfaces or breaks glass

*Equivalent to Storm Force 10 on the Beaufort Scale

The Financial Ombudsman Service deals with a lot of home insurance complaints. Many of these complaints are regarding storm damage claims that insurance providers have rejected. One of the main reasons claims were rejected was because the insurance provider disagreed that a storm occurred.

Some insurance providers will define what they class as a storm in more details on your policy documents. These definitions usually mention specific details, for example, it is considered a storm if the wind speed is in excess of 54 mph. Other insurance providers may refer to the Beaufort Scale, a scale used by the Met Office to describe wind speed. A storm is 10 on the Beaufort Scale, with wind speeds of at least 55 mph.

It is worth looking at the specific wording on your home insurance to check what your insurance provider defines a storm as.

Does my home insurance cover my home against storm damage?

Yes. Buildings and contents insurance usually covers against storm damage, but the level of cover provided can vary between insurance providers. Your policy should cover any significant damage to your property because of a storm. However, some may exclude fences, garden sheds and gates and some may exclude anything outside the house, unless you have specific cover for items.

**Your insurance provider should be made aware of any item worth more than your policy’s single item limit**

If you think that your home could be at risk of storm damage, it’s imperative that you check your insurance providers definition of a storm, along with the small print on your policy.

What do you need to do to make a claim on your home insurance?

  1. Contact your insurer as soon as you can. Many offer a 24-hour help line. They will be able to offer you advice and make you aware of any specific requests they have in order to proceed with your claim.
  2. Make a thorough inspection of your house. Make a record of any damage you find and take photos to support the damage. Note the date and time, so it is as close to the end of the storm as possible.
  3. Don’t dispose of damaged items. The insurance company may want to examine the extent of the damage, and any damaged items will act as proof.
  4. If you have to, arrange emergency temporary repairs. Inform your insurer of the steps you have had to take and keep all receipts and invoices. These may be able to be added to the claim.

Why might my claim not be successful?

As well as claims being rejected because the insurance provider disputes that a storm occurred, insurers could reject the claim due to wear and tear. If you submit a claim for a damaged roof due to a storm and, upon inspection, it becomes apparent that the roof was already damaged due to general wear and tear, the insurance provider could reject the claim.

Most home insurance policies state that you must maintain your property in a good state of repair. If it is discovered that this hasn’t been the case, the insurance provider would be well within their rights to cancel any future claims.

What steps can I take to protect my home against storm damage?

  • Clean your gutter out at least twice a year. Inspect them for damage after any heavy rainfall.
  • Check your loft for any signs of water damage
  • If you are able to, inspect your roof for any loose tiles or other damage
  • Prune shrubs and trees close to your property to minimise the risk of flying debris
  • Make sure any unsecured items, such as furniture in gardens, that can cause damage in high winds are secured
  • If you are in a flood risk area, try to move valuable or essential items upstairs or to a high area

Tony Buckingham, Managing Director of Buckingham Insurance says, “If any customers have suffered damage to their homes as a result of the recent storms, please don’t worry. Our staff are on hand to look at the specifics of your policy and to help you with your claim. Please contact us or telephone us on 01246 575 625 (Clowne) or 01773 748 627 (Ripley). We will be more than happy to assist you every step of the way.”