Advice and Opinion

Avoid the cold shoulder from your insurer

We are in the thick of winter and recent national warnings of extreme cold weather are a chilly reality to us all.

The Western Cape and Kwazulu-Natal are experiencing heavy flooding, while in the Free State and Eastern Cape, snow is piling up. “It’s cold throughout the country, and a very important time to check your insurance policy adequately covers you for the damage extreme weather can cause. And as we all face tough economic times, a claim being rejected can be a really costly affair, leaving you and your budget cold,” says Bertus Visser, Chief Executive of Distribution at PSG Insure.

Keeping safe and warm

As the chill bites, gas heaters are an economical way to ward off the cold, but gas shortages are again on our doorsteps. For those of us using gas (and those lucky enough to have access to a supply of it before it becomes scarce), it is important that adequate safety measures are incorporated to keep safe, as well as compliant in line with your insurance. “Don’t forget to turn your heater off when you are not using it, and keep it away from flammable items,” Visser says.

By law, gas hot water systems, stoves and ovens require a Certificate of Conformity and must adhere to certain standards, such as where gas bottles are placed. “This is vital in complying with your insurance policy against detrimental accidents, especially as we tend to use these types of appliances more often in winter,” he says.

Don’t let your budget burst

Water expands when it freezes, which could lead to cracked or burst pipes inside and outside the house. A burst pipe could result in terrible damage to your floor, furniture and any electronics (such as your TV, which no doubt also works harder in winter to keep you entertained indoors), and the costs of accidents like this can easily add up to thousands of rands. “Your contents insurance must be at the right level to replace everything in your home that could be damaged if there were to be a flood, or any other natural disaster, such as a fire,” Visser says. “Be responsible when using indoor fire places as well.”

Consider the cost of replacing wooden flooring and imported carpets or fittings, as well as the cost of replacing what is in your cupboards.

When it rains, it could pour

If your homeowners or household insurance is not sufficient, water damage can be a real problem. “This might simply be minor damage in your garden, or it could be a lot worse such as roof damage leading to flooding. This delayed winter we are experiencing is unexpected, proving how quickly the weather can turn. It can, however, almost certainly take months or even years to recover financially from a weather-related incident without adequate insurance,” he adds.

Brave the cold front

“Even though cold weather can make it difficult to get maintenance done, aim to do what you can now to protect your home,” Visser says.

While your contents insurance should cover you (provided it is sufficient), your claim is likely to be repudiated if your roof has been leaking for months and you just haven’t gotten around to fixing it. “Sometimes it is only heavy rains that show us where leaks are, but the onus is on you, the insured, to maintain your property. Your policy will not cover gradual deterioration or wear and tear.” Visser says. “It would be worthwhile to get a professional in to have a look at your property to detect any faults.”

It’s not skiing weather on the roads

It is also worthwhile to have your tyres checked and to make sure your car is running well to avoid any accidents. “Your replacement value should be up to date and you must make sure you have third party liability cover, even if you don’t want to insure your car specifically, such as if it is an older model. If there is a claim against you from another driver, this becomes essential.”

Defrosting any doubt

The insured value of your home is very important to keep up to date – this includes making sure any construction, carpentry, plumbing or electrical work will be adequately covered. “If you are concerned about whether or not your insurance cover is on par with what is needed, chat to your financial adviser for some assistance,” Visser concludes.