The UK has been battered repeatedly in the last few months by a neverending series of storms. Large parts of Britain are currently dealing with the aftermath of flooding and storm damage – and there’s reportedly more turbulent weather on the horizon too.

Storm and flood damage can be incredibly distressing to deal with. At Times Money Mentor, we’ve previously covered how to limit the cost of storm damage. But what can you expect if you need to make a claim on your home insurance policy? Here’s my guide.

What happens when you make a home insurance claim for storm or flood damage

Let’s start off with a bit of reassurance. Insurance companies are usually pretty effective at swinging in to action when there’s a flood or significant storm. They’ll usually have their contractors – the loss adjusters – out in areas affected by the incident quickly. Loss adjusters are there to help assess what needs to be done as a priority, along with the subsequent repairs and claim issues that arise as a result. They price this up for the insurance underwriter who is ultimately responsible for your claim.

Perhaps inevitably, some people have contacted me over the last few months to say that they can’t get hold of their loss adjuster or there are simply too many people affected in the local area for the adjusters to respond effectively to all the claims. This is going to be a challenge for the insurance industry over the next few years. All I can suggest is keep trying – your insurer has an obligation to get someone out to you as soon as possible.

When your home is damaged it’s easy to feel a little lost – the sheer enormity of all of the things that need doing sorting out can seem overwhelming. But don’t worry – there’s a straightforward process to making an insurance claim.

How to make an effective home insurance claim for storm or flood damage

  • Call your insurance company to log your claim as soon as you can, even if things like flooding are ongoing. Try to get as much advice from them as you can. Remember to make a note of when you called and who you spoke to.
  • Keep a record of any extra spending you’ve incurred during the initial event, including hotel bills and emergency repair works, as this may be covered by your policy too. Make sure you keep documentation in a safe place with your insurance documents if you have them. I’d photo any key documents and receipts so you have an alternative record.
  • When you can, make a list covering the damage to the property including photographs (if it’s safe to return to take them). Try to list all of the ‘bigger ticket’ items you own that have been damaged. Making a bullet point list is the most effective way of doing this.
  • Speak to the insurance company about what will happen next. Remember to ask:
    • What they are proposing (repairs, structural work, contents).
    • Accommodation if the property is uninhabitable.
    • Special requirements (if you have medical conditions that affect where you can be rehoused).
    • Contractors and their contact details.
  • I’d also ask for a dedicated contact telephone line with the insurance company that you can call for updates.
  • Don’t authorise people to carry out repairs without speaking to the insurer first. You might not be covered if your chosen contractor is more expensive than the insurer’s choice.

When you make a home and contents claim, make sure you explain the impact on you personally. Particularly if you’re ill or have a young family and you can’t stay in your property – they’ll tell you what will happen next. If you work from home then the insurer needs to know this too. Not only does it mean your claim will be dealt with more effectively. It will also ‘personalise’ the case so the insurer understands the impact on you

The most important thing to remember is to keep informed. Flooding claims can be complex and may take a while to resolve fully. So, speak to the insurer, get them to explain to you what they’re doing, and changes to timescales and if your property needs to be ‘future proofed’ to prevent problems happing again.

What can go wrong? 

The biggest challenge with storm and flood complaints is the time it can take to sort things out. If your property has been structurally damaged, it can take a long time – on some occasion’s years – before the property is habitable. During that time, you may find yourself in alternative accommodation for a prolonged period.

One of the more common areas of complaint that I hear about is problems with contractors, from loss adjusters to builders and specialist tradespeople. Don’t forget, your contract is with the insurance company, so if you’re unhappy with a contractor, speak to the insurer.

What to do if you’re unhappy

If you don’t feel the work of the contractors is up to an appropriate standard, make a note of all your objections and see if you can get some free quotes from other specialists in the area. Don’t authorise them to go ahead with the work though. Speak to the insurance underwriter and see if they are willing to replace the contractor based on your quote.

If you’re unhappy with the way your complaint has been handled, then make a formal complaint. You don’t need to wait until the work is complete to do this. In fact, you can complain about an insurance issue at any point during the claim. This should have no bearing on how you are treated.

If the insurance company doesn’t sort things out, you can take your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) who has the power to tell the insurer to make things right if they agree with your complaint. You can go to the Ombudsman after eight weeks even if the complaint isn’t resolved. But given the complexity of storm and flood claims, you might want to hold fire until you’ve made a bit more progress. Sometimes the threat of the Ombudsman can prompt better service.

Wear and tear

Though less common than contractor disputes, claims rejected due to ‘wear and tear’ are a close second. This is where the insurer concedes that damage has occurred but argues that the storm or flooding is not directly responsible or is merely the catalyst for something that would have happened anyway.

Both insurers and the Financial Ombudsman will look at the weather in your local area from official sources, which usually clears up the whole ‘was it storm or flood damage’ debate. Wear and tear can be subjective though. If your fence is rotten, then realistically, it was going to fall down at some point. But tiles falling off the roof aren’t necessarily grounds for a claim rejection even if there was some wear. The key here is ‘what should you/could you have known?’ If you don’t think you’ve been treated fairly, make a complaint.

What about power cuts?

Of course, it’s not just damage to your property that you can complain about. Many people have found themselves without power for extended periods of time.

Firstly, if you’re local area is affected, make sure you check in on older or more vulnerable neighbours to see if they’re okay. There are lots of local support services available through your local council and power company that you can call on to help them.

Anyone affected by a ‘prolonged’ loss of service may be entitled to compensation, according to regulator OFGEM. This is known as the ‘Guaranteed Standards of Service’ – rules that govern when compensation kicks in. The compensation increases depending on how long the power is out and is capped at £700 per household and comes from your energy network supplier, not your energy provider. If you’re not sure who this is, speak to the firm that supplies your energy. Regardless, the energy network supplier should contact you about compensation. Keep this guide handy though, in case you don’t hear anything.

Please share me around

Share useful info with your friends