Money Times - December 15, 2015

Posted by Jill Kerby on December 15 2015 @ 09:00




Six years after the worst bout of flooding for half a century …many parts of the country have again experienced the worst bout of flooding for half a century. And the same homeowners and shopkeepers who weren’t insured back in 2009 are still without insurance. Thousands more will fall into the same category.

Poor planning and an even worse response to the deluge of floodwater in communities along the Shannon, in low-lying midlands counties, along the coasts of Waterford and Cork means that not only have their lives and businesses been devastated this Christmas season but their chance of ever getting flood cover, even if proper flood defenses are put in place, is unlikely.

Property insurance, as the insurance industry keeps reminding us, is designed to cover the unexpected risk of an event, whether high water, fire, a burglary, etc, not one that has already happened or is inevitable.  ‘Premiums for the many for the claims of the few’ is their unofficial motto.

Communities that are built on flood plains, or built near rivers that have been known to cause flooding in the past, however infrequently, must now rely on the ability of their local authority and their own efforts to help defend their vulnerable properties and after the event, hopefully, emergency aid from the Government to help them recover.

What isn’t going to happen, said a spokesman for Insurance Ireland, the trade body for the insurance industry, is the compulsory insuring of at-risk properties.

According to Sean O’Connell of The Insurance Shop in Dublin, who specialises in providing shop insurance for small retailers all over the country and is a Chubb agent, losing flood cover is inevitable for anyone who has a premises or property who has been caught up in this deluge. People who are living in the flood zone “could see their premiums rise even higher than they are rising for everyone” and anyone who has made a claim “shouldn’t expect future flood events and water damage to be covered by their policy” though it could be reinstated “if proper flood defenses are put in place by the authorities and they can demonstrate that they actually work.”

Until then, what can you do to both protect your property and try to keep the cost of premiums down?

Mr O’Connell suggests the following:

 -       Read your current or prospective policy document carefully to see exactly what cover you have and any exemptions that may be in place.

-       Use a good general insurance broker to try and get you the most competitive policy. Using a broker can be a great help when making a claim.

-       Always hire (or get your broker to hire) a loss assessor of your own if you have a catastrophic insurance claim like flood damage, a fire or a costly break-in. They will negotiate on your behalf with the insurer and hasten the claim process.

-       Consider increasing your “excess” – the amount you pay per claim value – in order to bring down the cost of the annual premium.

-       Retailers in flood areas should consider raising their stock permanently off the ground; protect their premises with flood gates or barriers that slot into door frames; put special flaps on air vents and consider protecting internal shores with non-retaining valves on inflow pipes (to sinks, toilets) that stop the backwash of water from sewers.

The cost of these latter kinds of protection devices and systems is not cheap, says O’Connell and will require specialist builders and some investment. They  may simply be unaffordable for private residences.

“But the one thing that future home buyers can do is never, ever, buy a house in an estate that’s called ‘Riverside View’ or ‘SpringBrook’ or ‘Brookfield’.  It’s a sure giveaway that your house is going to be near water.’ Climate change has already resulted in considerable coastal erosion and serious wind-related insurance events that could also put at risk your ability to insure your property.

Meanwhile, the Irish Broker’s Association has also produced a useful checklist of how to protect your property from flooding events or should there be another big freeze this winter. Some of their tips include:

 -       Check the Exterior Walls of Your Home for Holes: Even small holes where cable wires or phone lines enter your home can be an entry point for freezing air. Purchase a tube of foam insulation, and close them up. Then, use weather stripping to remedy any cracks around your doors.

-       Keep Your Gutters Clean: Full gutters increase your chance of having ice form on your roof, and that's not something you want to mess with! Set aside some time to clean your gutters out before the freezing temperatures get here.

-       If you are going to be away from home for any period over the winter months make sure to advise Family/Neighbours/Friends to check your house during severe weather periods.

See www.iba.ie or www.hjiu.ie for more details.


Do you have a personal finance question for Jill or would you like a copy of her new Talking Money Guide, which can also be downloaded directly at www.irishlife.ie? Write to her c/o this newspaper or by email: jill@jillkerby.ie



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