Flooding can be caused by many different factors – it can be a leak at the property, such as an overflowing tap or burst pipe, or from external issues, such as flooding from heavy rainfall, or a fractured water main. If you are unfortunate enough to suffer a flooding emergency, it’s useful to be familiar with a few basic terms – when you are communicating with your insurer or the company assigned to carry out the repairs. This will help you to detail and understand the extent of the damage incurred and how it was caused.
Types of water damage
If you hear your insurer mentioning ‘Water Ingress’, this means how the water has penetrated the property. Ingress can happen in a number of ways, such as seepage via damp through the walls, through missing slates or tiles on a roof, or under eaves due to blocked gutters. In the case of ground-level flooding, from an external water source, ingress is the extent to which the water has penetrated into the building.
However, insurers define these two modes of water penetration as two different things. ‘Flood Damage’ is caused by events outside the home, such as a river bursting its banks, or a water main fault. If the water has come from a burst pipe or a leaking appliance in you or your neighbour’s home, your insurer will define that as an ‘Escape of Water’. The latter is the most common type of home insurance claim in the UK. Most standard buildings and contents insurance policies provide cover for damage caused this way. The majority of contents insurance policies also offer cover for flood damage as standard too. But it’s worth noting that in the UK, people living in ‘Flood Risk Areas’ should flood-proof their homes – or they may face the consequences of paying much higher insurance premiums and excesses for their cover.
One of the key terms when it comes to insurance claims is ‘Accidental Damage’. This is anything that happens to your property that is beyond your control and will be covered by your insurance premium, if you have ‘Accidental Damage’ cover. It is sometimes an add-on – which is anything that is included in your policy beyond the basic package. If the flood damage is so bad that you can’t remain at the property for safety reasons, you may have to be put up in ‘Alternative Accommodation’. This will be provided by your insurer, and might perhaps be a hotel or B&B. A ‘Loss Adjuster’ is the person who liaises with the homeowner and investigates the claim, on behalf of the insurance company, during the process.
When it comes to home insurance, the term ‘Buildings’ doesn’t just include your actual house. For the purposes of cover it also encompasses the outside of your property, your drive, any external or boundary walls, fences, your garden, and anything contained in there, such as sheds and trees. It also includes any structure attached or near to your property, such as outbuildings, garages and conservatories, plus fixtures such as oil tanks, drainage, cabling, satellite dishes, aerials and pipes.
When insurers refer to ‘Contents’, this means the goods that you keep in your home. This can be anything physical, such as computers, electrical appliances, furniture, and furnishings, such as curtains, blinds, and carpets, as well as personal possessions, like clothing, footwear, cameras, jewellery, and mobile phones. It also includes anything kept in any garages, sheds, or outbuildings, such as gardening or DIY equipment. ‘Sanitary Fittings’ are slightly different and are bathroom fixtures such as lavatories, baths, and basins.
When it comes to repair, the ‘Rebuild Cost’ is the monetary value of rebuilding your home, if it is completely destroyed by a flooding emergency. This will be to construct the property as it was before the event and the sum will be less than the actual value of the property, but the material and labour costs. ‘The Reinstatement Cost’ is the sum to repair what remains of the structure and its fixtures and fittings – such as carpets – that have been damaged in the flooding.
It’s worth checking your home and contents cover, to read exactly what your insurance policy covers, to what value and if all types of flooding are covered.