By Paul Maccoy
Contrary to popular opinion, insurance adjusters are not fiends looking to slice a percentage off every claim you make. We would prefer to be sunbathing in a deckchair next to a pile of money, inviting policy holders to help themselves to whatever they feel is fair settlement. However, there are certain problems with this approach. Here, we sift through the claims to try to determine fair settlement under the policy terms and conditions.
The hurricane has come and gone and what have we learned today?
We have learned that trampolines, patio furniture, and aluminium sheds can all fly! The question, “What did you actually think was going to happen when you left it out in the garden?”will be there, hovering, unasked, by the insurer out of deference to your delicate sensibilities. Anything that is moveable, even if you have to dismantle, should be put safely away before a storm hits. So you thought the insurance would pay for it. No. It won’t.
With regard to ‘Sheds’; if they are to be insured, need to be built of bricks, with a proper roof. Sticks and straw will not cut the mustard, and nor for that matter will aluminium or plastic. For those clients with a plywood structure, please consider this, ‘Sticks’. Underwriters don’t mind taking a sporting chance, but they won’t bet against the inevitable flying shed.
Gates and Fences? Generally these are not insured because these terms are applied to steel poled fences set in concrete and flimsy palings alike. If your fence seemingly offers more stability, then ask your Insurer if they will consider it on a one-off basis.
Retaining walls? Sooner or later the wall will fall over. Ask the emperor Hadrian. The insurance company will not automatically cover it when, similarly to my waistline, it succumbs to a combination of gravity and anno domini.
Exclusions in policies exist so that Insurers have the option of considering each risk on it’s own merits. Typically this is true of docks and waterside structures, the risk of collapsing retaining walls, windstorm cover on gates and fences and similar risks. Insurers quite reasonably would wish to consider such risks on an individual basis.
Loathe as I am to invoke so trendy a term as ‘proactive’, that is what we should be. It is no use worrying about the 80 foot Norfolk pine outside your bedroom when the wind is already getting up. If you have a wall with hedge or tree roots impingeing on it, cut it back, or fell the tree. Sooner or later the vegetation is going to catch that sixty mile an hour breeze above ground, and the roots will lever the wall into the street. It could all have been avoided with a little preventative maintenance. Take a critical look at your property from time to time, and fix that blind, trim those branches.
The insurance adjuster is happiest when he is presented with a claim for property that despite the owner’s best efforts, has been damaged by the storm. We would much rather be Santa than Scrooge, and if you do your part, we will leap with alacrity to do ours.