James Walker: Beware being caught out when the roof blows off

Summer will seem pretty far away soon if the weather predictions are right. If frost and storms do hit Britain, you may be concerned about what happens if there’s damage to your property. Never fear, your home insurance policy should offer you some form of weather damage protection. However, there are a few tricky things to watch out for.

Consult with the insurer before making repairs

Damage to your property

Your insurer may refuse to pay out if they think that your building was “poorly maintained”. Insurers can also refuse to pay out when it looks like damage to your property has happened over a long time. This is known by the industry term “wear and tear” and refers to things that naturally need replacing over time. For example, if a storm has knocked off tiles that were already loose, your insurer may not pay out (although you should check your policy to see if you’re covered for accidental damage). If, however, the storm has knocked a previously stable chimney over, then you shouldn’t have a problem.

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Of course, there are problems you clearly could have known about with your home and things you couldn’t have been expected to have been aware of. Some structural damage may not be visible or obvious so we’d expect insurers to be reasonable in these circumstances.

If you’re a DIY fanatic, make sure you’ve updated your insurer about the changes you’ve made to your property. Significant structural changes or repairs can have an impact on your premium. For example, how you’ve sealed your roof can have an impact on premiums or a claim – and make sure that new extension is covered.

Repairs and getting
things done

It can be pretty distressing if your property has been damaged significantly as a result of a storm. But don’t rush out to get the repairs done without consulting with your insurance company. If you want to use your own repairs person or specialist, your contract may allow for this – buy you’ll need a quote and you may have to pay for anything over what the insurer could have got from another service provider. Keep hold of any receipts for the work. You’ll need these to make a claim.

Fences and gates

As a rule of thumb, anything that can be easily moved is unlikely to be covered by your home insurance. This includes fences, gates, hedges and garden tables. Before a storm hits, you should be certain to lock away anything that might get blown around by the bad weather – especially if it’s likely to damage your house.

Damage to your possessions

If damage is structural (think of anything that can’t be easily taken away from the property) the “buildings” part of your insurance covers it. Anything else is covered by the contents policy. These can be combined or separate forms of insurance. This matters if you rent your property for example. The structure is usually covered by your landlord – you’ll have to have your own contents policy for damage to your stuff though.

If you’ve made an insurance claim and you think you’ve been turned down unfairly, don’t give in. Make a complaint – and go to the free Financial Ombudsman Service if you want to take it further.