...AND STORM COVER CAN BE JUST AS RISKY
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.’
Damage: Michael Collins in his guest bedroom