...AND STORM COVER CAN BE JUST AS RISKY

Scottish Daily Mail - - Money Mail - [email protected]­ly­mail.co.uk By Fiona Parker

WHEN Michael Collins heard a loud crash up­stairs while in his sit­ting room, he thought it was thun­der.

At the time, the tail-end of Hur­ri­cane Lorenzo was head­ing for Bri­tain and there were se­vere weather warn­ings in place all over the coun­try.

But when the part-time chess teacher from Beck­en­ham in Kent went to check, he found that the ceil­ing of his guest bed­room had col­lapsed, leav­ing a 6ft hole.

Michael, 70, re­ported the dam­age to his in­surer, Lloyds, but a month later it re­jected his claim — be­cause the wind speed in his area had been only 45mph. It turns out that buried in the small print in his pol­icy are strict re­quire­ments that must be met in or­der for a claim for struc­tural dam­age af­ter a storm to be suc­cess­ful.

There must have been ‘strong winds with gusts of at least 55 mph’ or ‘hail or snow of such in­ten­sity or weight that it causes dam­age to hard sur­faces or breaks glass’. Ac­cord­ing to Lloyds’ sur­veyor, the dam­age was not caused by ‘a one-off storm event’ — it added that water had en­tered the prop­erty through a tear in the felt un­der the roof, where tiles had been re­placed two years ago.

Michael, who paid Lloyds £344.46 in pre­mi­ums last year, says: ‘How can Lloyds say that Storm Lorenzo wasn’t a storm? I sus­pect I will have to take out an eq­uity re­lease loan to pay for the re­pairs, which could cost up to £12,000.’

In Septem­ber, Money Mail re­vealed how soar­ing num­bers of house­holds are be­ing forced to fight for a home in­sur­ance pay­out. In one case, a fam­ily had their claim for bro­ken gut­ter­ing re­jected be­cause the wind speed in their area had reached just 40 mph, not the re­quired 47 mph.

The prob­lem is that in­sur­ers have in­tro­duced a be­wil­der­ing ar­ray of terms and con­di­tions, and de­fine ‘a storm’ dif­fer­ently as a re­sult.

Ageas, Hast­ings, AXA, Co-op and Esure all de­mand the same min­i­mum wind speed as Lloyds Bank, 55mph. In ad­di­tion, there are min­i­mum rain and snow­fall re­quire­ments that can be used to de­fine a storm.

All five in­sur­ers will ac­cept there has been a storm if at least 30cm of snow falls within 24 hours, or if hail is so in­tense that it causes dam­age to hard sur­faces or breaks glass.

Ageas, Hast­ings and AXA will also ac­cept that heavy rain is a storm if at least 25mm falls per hour; for Esure, it is 25mm in 24 hours.

Ad­mi­ral de­mands a lower wind speed of at least 54mph, but it does not de­fine heavy rain alone as a storm; for Co-op, it’s 15mm of rain fall­ing per hour.

From next year, Tesco Bank will de­fine a storm as ‘a sin­gle vi­o­lent weather event with wind speeds ex­ceed­ing 47mph’. It will also ac­cept snow­fall ex­ceed­ing ‘30cm in depth within a 48-hour pe­riod’ and ‘tor­ren­tial rain­fall of at least 25mm per hour’.

Aviva de­fines a storm as: ‘An un­usual weather event with per­sis­tent high winds usu­ally as­so­ci­ated with rain, thun­der, light­ning or snow.’ It adds that wind or gust speeds ‘should nor­mally ex­ceed 55mph’ to be a storm, but it would ‘take other fac­tors into con­sid­er­a­tion’.

By com­par­i­son, LV=, Royal & Sun Al­liance, Di­rect Line and Zurich do not have de­fined min­i­mum wind speeds or rain­fall measuremen­ts in their poli­cies. All four say they con­sider claims on an in­di­vid­ual ba­sis. Ad­mi­ral, AXA, Ageas, Tesco and Co-op say they may still con­sider a storm dam­age claim even if the weather falls out­side their def­i­ni­tion of a storm. Mike Wil­son, of in­sur­ance claims spe­cial­ist Flax­man Part­ners, says: ‘If in­sur­ers are go­ing to use these min­i­mum measuremen­ts to re­ject claims, they need to make this very clear to cus­tomers when they buy the pol­icy.’ Cus­tomers can chal­lenge a re­jec­tion with the Fi­nan­cial Om­buds­man, which has ruled in favour of pol­i­cy­hold­ers in such cases in the past. A Lloyds spokesper­son says: ‘Un­for­tu­nately, Mr Collins’ home in­sur­ance claim did not meet our storm cri­te­ria and it was re­jected. A range of fac­tors are taken into con­sid­er­a­tion, in­clud­ing wind speed.’ An As­so­ci­a­tion of Bri­tish In­sur­ers spokesper­son says: ‘In­sur­ers will take into ac­count var­i­ous fac­tors when as­sess­ing storm dam­age.’

Pic­ture:GEORGIEGIL­LARD

Dam­age: Michael Collins in his guest bed­room

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