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Natural Disasters and Home Insurance

By: Jane Sandwood, Independent Writer
In October 2011, two tornadoes tore through South Africa, striking Duduza, a township on Gauteng’s East Rand, and Ficksburg in the Free State. Hundreds of people were injured, and one child died. 
Although there have been small instances of natural disasters in South Africa in the past, in recent years these have become more common: the severe drought in the Cape and fires in Knysna are excellent examples. As mentioned in COVER before, insurance companies speak about climate change threats, but their solution is often to increase insurance premiums. There are important things consumers need to know about home insurance in the face of natural disasters. 
When South Africans insure their homes, they tend to think about insurance against theft or break-ins because of the high crime in the country. In fact, nearly 70 percent of people feel unsafe in their homes at night, according to Stats SA.
When it comes to protecting one’s home and possessions against natural disasters, however, they might not even consider it – even though these disasters are becoming more common. Luckily, natural disasters like strong winds, water, hailstorms, and fire are covered by insurance companies’ comprehensive policies. But it’s up to homeowners to check that they are sufficiently covered. Here are some things every homeowner should know about home insurance and natural disasters. 
WHAT IS NOT COVERED BY YOUR INSURANCE
Subsidence is known as land movement, but it’s often not covered sufficiently by insurance companies even though it can totally destroy your home. Subsidence can occur from natural disasters such as earthquakes, but can also occur in a home due to cracks in the walls. Subsidence can be included in the natural disaster cover of insurance policies, so it’s worth checking out, especially if you live in an area that’s been prone to subsidence. 
An example is areas outside of Johannesburg where dolomite formations underground have led to subsidence issues as well as sink holes. Many insurance policies will offer limited cover when it comes to subsidence, though, which would exclude things like boreholes, boundary walls between properties, parking areas, septic tanks, and swimming pools. Treating subsidence can lead to huge costs and losses, such as the loss of your property, so getting insurance against it is important. 
DON’T FORGET TO INSURE YOUR VALUABLES
Some possessions that you can carry around, such as jewelry or laptops, need to be insured separately. This is because they have a high value. You need to ask your insurance company which possessions fall under the “all risks” section of your insurance policy. If certain items aren’t clearly specified, you won’t be paid out if they get lost, stolen, or damaged by a natural disaster. 
THE RISKS OF UNDER-INSURING YOUR PROPERTY
Home insurance can be expensive, but just think how much more expensive it could be to repair or replace your home after a natural disaster. That’s why it’s so important to get enough home insurance to protect your home from damage. If you insure less than your full home value and your home is destroyed by a natural disaster, you will only be paid for the value of the amount you insured. 
It’s also important to remember that there will be other payments that come up after a home is ravaged by a natural disaster. For instance, if your home is destroyed by a fire, you’ll need to have the debris removed, you’ll need to live elsewhere for a while, and so on. These possibilities need to be considered and properly covered. 
Having home insurance is a must to protect you against various problems, such as theft. However, having strong protection against natural disasters is important, especially if you consider how instances of natural disasters have been increasing in South Africa. 
By knowing how your insurance policy should cover you, such as by taking the above advice into account, you can better protect your property and money should the worst happen. 







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