Warming up to essential insurance preparations

by BERTUS VISSER

The winter chill has set in, so preparing your home or business for the colder months should be top priority. Depending on where you are based, you may be expecting the rains to set in. In drier parts, you could be entering fire season or be bracing yourself for temperatures that can freeze pipes. Whatever your situation, it’s important to understand the risks that could affect you. Maintenance is a much-needed safety net that goes hand in hand with your insurance cover.

A good place to start is by taking a walk around your house to look for any glaring issues, noting drainage outlets and if any damage or cracks are visible. Your insurer will repudiate a claim if a long-term leak, for example, is found to be the cause behind a claim. It can be determined if something has resulted from ‘wear and tear’. You are expected to carry out the necessary maintenance beforehand to avoid wear and tear. Most general maintenance is relatively simple, so the cost to get everything up to standard could be significantly less than the worst-case scenario.

Service your gutters, drains and roof – including your holiday home or any rental properties you own. Note if waterproofing is up to scratch, that window frames are maintained and that everything is functioning as it should. Consider the volume of rain runoff on your roof as well. If any repairs or additions are needed, tend to them immediately.

After heavy rains, be mindful of clearing water that has filled potholes or created large puddles in your driveway, to avoid unnecessary accidents.

If there are big trees on your property, ask a professional to assess if any felling is needed. An unstable tree can cause extensive damage in a storm and is easy kindling for a fire. Keep in mind that your neighbours may be able to claim against you if they suffer damage from an issue on your property – like a tree blowing over in a storm – so enough liability cover is essential too.

Clean your chimneys too, as blockages can cause a fire to start inside a chimney, which can result in damage to your roof and adjacent structures. Service any fire extinguishers too; if you’re lucky, you haven’t used yours in a while – which is why you need to have it checked.

Beyond the most obvious risks, you also need to consider potentially large losses over which you have no control, and whether your insurance is comprehensive enough for your needs.

Insurance will protect you if pipes burst, for example. Water expands as it freezes, leading to the pipe bursts. However, without proper cover, the costs of flooding damage to flooring, electric appliances or electrical points – depending on how far the water travels – could pour in. In the case of a rain-related flood, you should consider the potential damage to structures that remain in place as well as anything that may be washed away. Water damage can affect your garden and can lead to mould or issues with rot inside your house.

In the case of fire, smoke and heat – or even the pressure of the water used to put out the fire, and the chemicals it contains – can have dire consequences on your property’s structure and contents. In a worst-case scenario, your business or home may need to be completely rebuilt. It’s therefore critical that the correct replacement value for the property itself and the contents inside are noted in your policy for your insurance to count.

Your cover should factor in the costs of rebuilding, as well as potential demolition costs for what remains after an accident. You may also have other expenses, like having to pay for alternative accommodation during a rebuild. On the commercial side, expenses can add up exponentially – make sure you consider them all.

Whether it’s dry or wet, hot or cold around your home or business, insurance is essential. Without it, recovering financially can take months – or even years.

There are many aspects to consider, so take the time to check your policy carefully – even if any changes attract a steeper premium. It will still be cheaper than surviving any issues without cover. Chat to your adviser to help you stay fully covered, protecting your business, home and belongings as best you can, no matter the weather.

Bertus Visser is chief executive of distribution at PSG Insure.