As a result of devastating flooding throughout portions of Europe, the insurance and reinsurance industries are expecting billions of Euros in damages, with the event destined to become one of the costliest flood episodes on record. So when can you expect the insurance payments?
Pigeon egg-sized hailstones, full cellars, drowned cars, blown trees – storms have kept large parts of Germany in suspense for days. Whether to a car or a home, the material damage for many people is immense. Buildings, household contents, motor vehicle or liability insurance – who will pay for the damage? and when can you expect the insurance payment?
- After the storm and floods: Where do the insurance payments come from?
- When does the residential building insurance apply?
- What should you watch out for in an insurance against natural hazards?
- What does the contents insurance pay for?
- Partially comprehensive insurance for damage to the car
- More security through fully comprehensive insurance
- Be careful with backflow from the sewer system and backflow flap
- Selection of insurance against natural hazards
- Differences in insurance – according to risk areas
- Do you really need insurance against natural hazards?
After the storm and floods: Where do the insurance payments come from?
1. Household contents or building insurance plus insurance against natural hazards
A normal household or building insurance does not cover damage caused by groundwater, flooding, precipitation or a backwater caused by such events. Cellars that are completely full, muddy living rooms and the like, including the often considerable consequential damage to buildings and household effects, are only insured if a natural hazard insurance has been taken out. This can be taken out in the form of supplementary insurance or, for some years now, as a supplement to household or building insurance.
But be careful: not everything is insured even if you include natural hazards. And such an insurance cannot be taken out for every building.
- Flood preparations before, during and after a flood. Are you prepared?
- The NINA warning app warned of floods in Germany, but unfortunately too few people had the app installed before the floods
- Floods in Germany: Map shows where the water levels are currently highest
2. Car insurance
Severe weather damage to cars and motorcycles is covered by the partial comprehensive insurance – whereby at least wind force 8 is the prerequisite for storms. Drivers have it better with fully comprehensive insurance: Here, wind-related damage under wind force 8 is also insured. In the case of partially comprehensive and fully comprehensive insurance, the insurer also reimburses damage caused by objects flying around, such as bricks or branches. The risk of flooding is also insured.
But: If you park your vehicle in flood-prone areas and do not drive away immediately after the first official warning or drive into flood areas despite a police warning, you may be grossly negligent and only receive partial compensation for the damage.
And: Anyone who causes an accident because of the storm usually needs fully comprehensive car insurance to get the damage reimbursed.
A car owner can also contact the property owner if roof tiles, branches or trees have fallen onto the car from the bottom of the property. However, the landowner only has to pay compensation if he is guilty of having violated his “traffic safety obligation”. It looks similar when a traffic sign falls on the car. If it was properly anchored and in order, the city does not have to pay any compensation, because signs do not have to be designed for extreme weather conditions (OLG Koblenz, Az. 12 U 11/03).
3. Homeowners Insurance
Residential building insurance protects the entire residential building, including all permanently installed objects, from damage caused by:
- Lightning strike, explosion, or implosion
- Storm (from wind force 8) and hail
- tap water
Since the insurance only pays from force 8 in the event of a storm, the following applies in the event of damage: Secure evidence that proves how severe the storm was. This is mainly done via wind measurements by the weather authorities or newspaper clippings about the storm.
By the way: Anyone who has a photovoltaic system should pay close attention to the insurance conditions: is the system insured at all, is it fully insured, which parts are not insured and can you add that or do you need an additional policy?
4. Household insurance
The contents insurance covers all damage to the facility. It is therefore very important for tenants as well. If objects in the apartment are destroyed by lightning, fire, tap water or storms, the contents insurance pays.
The household contents insurance covers all household effects, from furniture to clothing and electrical appliances. Tenants should take out home contents insurance; property owners also need residential building insurance.
The contents insurance covers damage caused by:
- Lightning strike, explosion, or implosion
- Burglary / theft
- Storm (from wind force 8) and hail
- tap water
The Association of Insureds advises that you draw up an inventory list of all items and keep them in a safe place outside your own four walls. You should also keep proof of purchase of valuable items.
5. Natural damage insurance
The natural hazard insurance protects the building from dangers such as heavy rain and flooding. It is offered as an optional additional module for residential building and household contents insurance. More and more insurers are mainly offering residential buildings, but also household contents insurance, including natural hazard insurance. If you don’t want to use it, you have to specifically deselect it. But that’s only been the case for a few years, so it’s not included in many older home insurance contracts.
Natural hazard insurance protects owners and tenants from the financial consequences of natural disasters. The insurance covers – depending on the contract – the building or the property. For example, it pays for damage caused by:
- Heavy rain and flooding
- Snow pressure
- Avalanches / landslides
- Volcanic eruption
When does the residential building insurance apply?
Actually, storm damage to the house is basically covered by the residential building insurance. However, the storm must have at least wind force eight for this. Evidence that the policyholder must provide. The data from the German Weather Service or media reports from the day of the accident can help. In the event of hail damage, the insurer pays regardless of the wind force.
Even if lightning strikes and causes a fire, the building insurance takes care of the claims settlement. In the event of thunderstorm damage due to overvoltage, overcurrent or short circuit, a so-called overvoltage clause must be agreed so that the insurance bears the costs.
So-called natural hazards caused by water entering the building from the street or flooding are not insured. If you want to cover this, you need additional elementary insurance.
What should you watch out for in an insurance against natural hazards?
Natural hazards insurance is offered in addition to household contents or residential building insurance. It protects against damage caused by natural events such as floods, earthquakes, snow masses and floods.
The catch: In the event of water damage, the insurance only applies if the water has reached the surface. Damage caused by groundwater that presses into the masonry from below is not insured. This often makes the evidence difficult.
And: houses in risk locations are often only insured for a lot of money or not at all. Anyone who has already been affected by a natural hazard may not find a new insurer.
If you take out insurance against natural hazards, you should ensure that damage caused by precipitation and backwater damage is included.
What does the contents insurance pay for?
Household contents insurance takes effect when furniture and other furnishings are damaged. If the house or apartment has to be vacated temporarily, the contents insurance will cover the costs of hotel accommodation, tidying up, transport and storage of furniture for a certain period of time.
However, if you have left windows or doors open despite a storm, you will not receive any money from the insurance.
A sufficient sum insured is also crucial. Consumer advocates recommend at least 650 euros per square meter to avoid underinsurance. Because if that is the case, the insurance will only cover the costs of new acquisitions on a pro-rata basis.
Partially comprehensive insurance for damage to the car
Damage caused by falling roof tiles, branches and kinked trees is covered by the partially comprehensive insurance. But only if the storm was at least 8 strengths. Even if hail and flooding damage the vehicle, the partially comprehensive insurance comes into play. If you have agreed on a deductible, this will be deducted from the damage.
More security through fully comprehensive insurance
If you have parked your vehicle in an area at risk of flooding despite a police warning, the insurance company can refuse to regulate in whole or in part.
This is different with fully comprehensive insurance. It pays for damage regardless of the wind speed and also takes effect if the damage is your own fault. As a rule, however, it is not the replacement value that is insured, only the current value of the vehicle.
Be careful with backflow from the sewer system and backflow flap
Details are particularly important when it comes to flooding. It is important to know which flood damage is excluded by the insurer or only insured against a surcharge or the fulfillment of certain conditions. A backwater occurs, for example, when the sewer system is so overloaded by heavy rainfall, thaw or flooding that it cannot absorb any more water.
As a result, the water flows back into the house through the drainage pipes and collects there. The insurers also offer policies with coverage for backflow damage, but almost always charge a premium for this. In addition, backflow flaps usually have to be installed in the discharge pipes so that this cover is provided.
Selection of insurance against natural hazards
The natural hazard insurance does not necessarily have to be taken out with the same provider with whom the household or building insurance was also taken out. Differences can be found in the amount of the damage sums covered, the monthly contributions and, last but not least, in the insured claims.
In addition, most building elementary insurance companies reserve a deductible which, depending on the insurance package, risk class and premium amount, can amount to around 1,000 euros. In addition, there is often a waiting period for the first few months during which no damage is covered.
An extensive comparison before taking out the contract is worthwhile in order to find the best individual insurance for you.
Differences in insurance – according to risk areas
As the name suggests, an elementary household contents insurance is available for elementary damage to household items – i.e. furniture and interior fittings. The building elementary insurance covers elementary damage to the building.
The area in which the residential building is located is crucial. Because a natural hazard insurance not only differentiates according to the size and value of the object to be insured, but also according to the so-called risk area in which it is located.
There are four different hazard classes in total:
These differentiate how often floods occur on average in this area:
- rarely or not at all (hazard class 1)
- about once every 50 to 100 years (hazard class 2)
- around once every 10 to 50 years (hazard class 3)
- or more often than once in 10 years (hazard class 4)
The amount of the contribution always depends on the risk class.
Do you really need insurance against natural hazards?
Check your insurance conditions. If there is no natural hazard insurance, you should urgently make up for it. Damage from flooding is increasing, even far away from classic flood areas, and as soon as natural hazards have already occurred in a region, taking out insurance becomes more difficult, if not impossible, or more expensive, as the area may therefore be upgraded to the hazard class.