Sadly, the recent fires in the Western Cape – which saw so many people lose their homes as well as all their possessions, their personal documentation and, in some instances, their livelihoods – are a very grim reminder of the huge price we can pay for making (or failing to make) important financial decisions without being fully aware of the consequences. So let’s take a look at some of the things you need to bear in mind to be sure the insurance cover on your home properly meets your needs:
1 The sum you insure your house & contents for, should ALWAYS match the price you’d have to pay to replace them
If you are unlucky enough to lose your home, or for it to be damaged in any way, you will only be paid out the amount you’ve covered it for. (So if it’s worth R1 million, but you’ve only insured it for R500 000, that’s all you’ll get.)
Understanding the importance of …
If you are underinsured, you’re likely to find your insurer will apply an “average” to your claim which, basically, means that you will be responsible for the portion of your “loss” that isn’t covered. So, say you incur damages of R300 000 on your R1m property, you’ll only receive a R150 000 payout, because you’ve only insured it for half the amount. This will leave you R150 000 out of pocket and potentially, unable to afford to complete the repairs, or it could drive you to use inferior materials and finishes which will have an impact on the value of your home.
— Hollard Broker Zone (@HollardInsure) July 25, 2017
… Updating your home value regularly
Costs rise all the time, so it is really important to have your home and contents revalued regularly. If necessary, you can adjust your insurance to make sure you’re always adequately covered.
… Rebuilding costs
There’s often more to rebuilding than the costs of the materials and labour. You may need the help of an architect or surveyor, and there could be demolition fees, too – all of which carry their own (variable) costs. So when you‘re calculating the costs you need to insure, you’ll need to factor these in, too.
… Not over-insuring
When you insure a property, it excludes the cost of the land it stands on. This means you should only insure your home and contents (rather than the property’s potential sale price), as you won’t be able to claim more than the costs of rebuilding the actual building with all its infrastructure, fixtures and fittings.
… Extraordinary expenses
Sometimes, even when we take the trouble to carefully consider all angles, extra expenses can creep in and it’s best to factor these in the upfront. For example, the fires that ripped through Knysna and Plettenberg Bay damaged so many properties that building materials and contracting resources will be at a premium, and that will add to unexpected costs. Even though you may believe you could rebuild your home for less than what a professional valuation suggests, don’t be tempted to work on lower building rates.
… New building requirements
If you live in a historic home or an older property, you may find that rebuilding will involve you making upgrades to comply with current building regulations. (For example, a heat pump or solar geyser in place of an ordinary geyser.) Again, these may add unexpected costs and it’s worth doing the homework upfront to ensure your policy covers them fully.
2 You need to be able to provide proof of the household contents you own, as well as their value
Home contents cover is always calculated according to its replacement value but, in order to claim, you need to be able to prove that you own certain items and what they are worth. Again, there’s something to learn from the unfortunate experience of the Western Cape fire victims, many of whom had to flee their homes without being able to rescue anything – let alone documentation that could prove ownership or value of their assets.
Things you can do …
… Keep digital records
Take photos or videos of your household contents (and corresponding receipts), then store them digitally, online in cloud storage, so you can access them anywhere, anytime.
— Hollard Broker Zone (@HollardInsure) July 26, 2017
… Make an inventory
Download a free inventory app onto your cellphone and store the same information there, or ask your broker for an inventory checklist.
… Make electronic copies of your identity documents
If you lose your documentation and can’t prove who you say you are, you may have difficulty in accessing your funds when your insurance company processes your claim.
… Include e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g
Even if you have chosen to exclude certain high-value items in your policy (such as jewellery, because you believe it is adequately protected from theft in your safe), don’t leave them out of your inventory or they won’t be covered in the event of a fire or any other calamity.
… Ask a professional valuator to do the job for you
It’s an onerous job so, if you’re unlikely to do it yourself, don’t leave it. Call in professional help.
3 When you need insurance advice, consult a broker
The purpose of insurance is to return you to the same position you were in before you experienced any loss, and a broker has the experience and know-how to advise you appropriately. If you want to reduce costs, rather discuss other ways of saving premiums such as having a higher excess or installing additional security, than being underinsured. Especially when it comes to replacing the roof over your head.
— Hollard Broker Zone (@HollardInsure) July 31, 2017
Ask your broker.