Buildings and Contents Insurance

It’s now over four years since the 2007 storm. In just 24 hours between 25th and 26th June 2007, 100mm (about 4”) of rain fell on Hull and the surrounding district, causing devastation to almost

9 000 homes.  It was likened at the time to 20 Olympic sized swimming pools falling on the town every second!

The subsequent flooding of almost 9 000 homes has had a major impact on the buildings & contents insurance market locally. Refusal of cover, high excesses and, in some cases, refused claims (due to failure to disclose the flooding risk) have all been suffered by local residents.

Few Insurance firms are better placed to comment on the matter than Hedon Insurance, with offices in : Hedon, Hornsea and East Hull, we insured a sizeable number of the properties affected by the 2007 storm. Our lines were jammed for days dealing with claims.

‘Since 2007, we have had to change our approach to property insurance in order to keep our client’s cover realistically priced and effective. But, since the fourth year has passed, we have been very successful at getting cover for clients, at realistic rates, with some insurers’ observes Managing Director, Anne Walters.

The Storm and subsequent flooding affected the operations of 1300 businesses locally and 3000 families were forced out of their homes. The cost of property insurance claims locally was enormous, running into hundreds of millions of pounds.

It wasn’t therefore surprising, perhaps, that Scientists’ declarations that it was a ‘one in a hundred years event’ failed to convince the underwriters at most of the UK’s leading insurers that it would be another 99 years before such conditions were seen again!

‘What happened is very difficult for insurers to legislate for going forward’ explains Anne Walters ‘Floods tend to be caused by high sea levels or rivers and streams breaking their banks – this flooding was caused by a failure of the region’s drainage system to cope with a storm, on a scale which has never been witnessed locally’

‘In the face of such claims, it is natural that insurers would view the risk posed by properties in the region differently’ Anne continues ‘And that they would need to reflect the recent claims position locally in premiums going forward. Some customers were given a hard time by insurers in the year following the storm although things are getting better now’

Buyers now have to be very careful when completing insurance application forms. Insurers often ask questions such as : ‘Do you live near water?’ or ‘has your home ever flooded?’ or ‘is it free from flooding and in an area free from flooding?’ The problem is that a lot of people in our area would have to answer ‘yes’ to one of those questions now.

And so the problems begin. Failure to disclose a known flood risk is likely to invalidate your property insurance in the event of a claim.

‘A lot of ‘online’ insurance quotations will either not ask about flood risk specifically, assuming it as being ‘in the negative’ in a long list of assumptions that you ‘click’ in acceptance of, or if a risk of flood is declared they will decline to quote. People who believe that they would be considered to be at risk of flooding need to be very careful when they ‘click the box’ what they are agreeing to ’

‘I am usually comfortable with people exerting their freedom of choice to buy their cover from wherever they like – it’s a market, after all. However, for people living around here, I would definitely suggest that they stay with local firms to ensure that the person arranging the cover will take into account ‘local factors’ – such as flooding risks’

The key to getting the best terms for cover that will stand up to the test of a claim is to be absolutely honest when answering all the questions on the insurance proposal form. Do not be tempted not to disclose significant facts – like your house has previously flooded – you’d be surprised what insurers databases can tell them! If you have made a claim previously – remember to mention it and include the important details. Finally, even if you do go on to shop around, make sure that you speak to a local broker and get some advice relating to any local issues.

Hedon Insurance can confirm that insurers are still open for business in Hull and the surrounding area. ‘With few exceptions, we can still get competitive cover for customers in areas that were caught by the storm’ Anne Walters concludes.

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