We noticed you're blocking ads.

Keep supporting great journalism by turning off your ad blocker.

Questions about why you are seeing this? Contact us

Font Size

- Aa +

Sun 22 Mar 2020 08:41 AM

Font Size

- Aa +

Who's liable? Everything you need to know about insurance and rain damage

Insurance can cover damage as a result of heavy rain, but it is important to read the small print

Who's liable? Everything you need to know about insurance and rain damage

Following the thunderstorms across the UAE over the weekend, some businesses, tenants or homeowners may be faced with flooding issues this morning.


Following the thunderstorms and rain across the UAE over the weekend, some businesses, tenants or homeowners may be faced with flooding issues this morning.

Mark Bachayani, chief operating officer at BuyAnyInsurance.com, who has more than 15 years of experience in the UAE insurance market, answers our questions in relation to insurance and bad weather.

Q: And what is covered and what isn’t when bad weather impacts retailers, tenants, and landlords?

Retailers

Retailers will have to either insure their inventory or buy home contents insurance to protect what they have in their stores. If bad weather strikes then your goods and products are protected, only if you insured them against water damage due to heavy rains and floods. If you didn’t insure them for such damage then you can’t make a claim, or it will be rejected.

Tenants

Tenants are responsible for their personal belongings and the home contents they bring into the rented apartment or building. Home content will include any electronics, furniture, appliances, decorations, and art. Personal belongings cover things you usually take out of the home and are more mobile like clothes, jewellery, laptops, mobile phones, and watches etc. It is imperative that they are covered for flood and water damage due to heavy rain fall or any other specific bad weather calamity (hail, lightning, sandstorm, hurricane etc.). If they aren’t you can’t make claims on any damages.

Landlords

Landlords are only responsible for the structure of the building and the property. They are advised to buy Building Insurance which covers the damages to the building, roofs, gardens, yards, gates, porch, boundary wall etc. Again their policy must state unequivocally that it is covered for all kinds of natural calamities and should detail them in writing.

Q: If someone suffers flooding of their apartment, who is responsible?

Flooding in the apartment is unfortunate but we need to determine a few things before assigning responsibility of damages from an insurance point of view.

Who owns the apartment?

Building insurance covers the damages to the structure itself. So if the walls, electric sockets, and other physical features of the apartment have been damaged then the owner of the apartment will have to file for claims. However, building insurance does not cover the contents of the house. For this you need to have content and Home Content and Personal Belongings cover. These types of covers are encouraged for those renting and not buying property in the UAE. In this way, if the contents of the apartment are damaged then the renter can file for coverage.

How was the flooding caused?

If it was due to a natural calamity like heavy rain then both the building insurance and home content insurance can be claimed without much hesitation. However, if the flood was caused due to malicious intent, or by accident due to negligence of the property, then it will be hard to make a claim on any insurance policy.

What exactly got damaged?

For damage to the structure you need to see if you have building insurance. For damage to the contents of the apartment you need to have home content and personal belongings cover.

Q: Should the landlord compensate for the damage to the tenants goods?

The landlord is only responsible for the building and the structure. This includes the structure of the building, the porch, yard, backyard, gardens, boundary walls, and any other features to the property. Any items belonging to the tenant, be it personal belongings or home content will not be covered in building insurance. The tenant must insure their personal belongings that they see fit to furnish the house with.

Q: If a retailer owns a store in a mall and there is flooding, who is responsible from an insurance point of view?

Again we must make a few things clear. When it comes to your retail space, retailers usually go for renting because it makes more business sense. That being said, there are still people who buy their retail space. If you own the store you have to make a claim against your insurance.

This will include damage to any contents the store held (though that is a different policy from the structural property insurance). If you are renting the space then you can only make claims against the stock damaged if you have insured your inventory.

Q: For landlords of real estate properties, what insurance do you recommend?

For landlords and real estate properties we would recommend Building Insurance. This includes the physical structure of the land, property, building – roofs, walls, porch, car park, yards, gardens, boundary walls, gates, garages, pools – basically whatever is part of the permanent property. This way you’re covered for a large space without having to worry about each and every tiny detail of your property. Building insurance covers against damage be it natural or malicious, fire, and natural calamity. It is imperative that the landlord conduct regular upkeep and repair according to insurance policies to be able to claim damages in the future.

Q: For car insurance, what is the situation in terms of insurance cover? Do most people have cover? If a car park is flooded who can you claim from?

There are two car insurance policies available in the UAE – Third-party liability, and Comprehensive coverage. Third-party liability covers the damage done to others by the policyholder’s negligence. But for this claim to be approved the police report has to confirm that the policyholder was indeed responsible for the damage. Comprehensive coverage covers the insurance needs of the policyholder as well. More expensive of the two, comprehensive coverage provides protection to the policyholder’s vehicle in case of accidental damage, fire, theft, and natural calamities.

Yes, every vehicle owner in the UAE has car insurance coverage. This is due to the fact that car insurance is mandatory by law. Those found driving without insurance are charged a heavy fine, and their vehicles are impounded for seven days as punishment.

Due to its mandatory nature car insurance is bought reluctantly, and then mostly third-party insurance because it’s cheaper. This means most vehicle owners in the UAE are covered but not sufficiently.

Third-party insurance does not offer coverage against natural calamities. Only comprehensive coverage provides protection against it but you have to read the fine print to see what is actually included in the vague term. You need to make sure that water damage due to heavy rain and floods are both included in the policy because in insurance terms water damage and flood damage are two very different things. In the event that your insurance policy provides for damage caused by heavy rains certain conditions will apply:

  • The flooding or heavy rain must be declared a natural calamity and not due to intentional seeding.
  • The insured vehicle must be parked and not driven during the heavy rains and flooding.

In the specific circumstance where a car park is flooded the vehicle owners will claim coverage from their car insurance provider because a) the flood was a natural calamity, and b) the cars were parked. The car park owner will claim for water damage to the car park from their property insurance provider. The only way the car park owner will be held liable for any damage would be in cases where the damage was caused by negligent upkeep of the property. If flooding was caused due to a leaked pipe, or a collapsed roof due to the property being mismanaged then the onus of damage restitution would lie with the car park owner.

Q: What sort of cover do you recommend for tenants depending on where they live, to keep them covered in the event of bad weather? Such as high res apartment or a villa?

It won’t matter where they live. The only kind of insurance that a tenant can buy is either home contents insurance or personal belongings insurance. They can’t by building insurance because they don’t own the building or the apartment. In either situation their personal belongings and the contents of their home will be protected in case of bad weather.

They just need to make sure that all forms of damage due to bad weather is included in their policy. A lot of policyholders aren’t sure what exactly is covered and end up losing claims due to this. This is why it is important to be sure.

Any other comments in relation to insurance and bad weather?

Bad weather and other natural disasters are exactly the kind of unexpected event we buy insurance for. So it’s frustrating to find that they aren’t usually included in our insurance policies. This is not done with malicious intent. We as buyers insist on cheaper premiums not realising that cutting premium costs mean slashing certain coverage.

And we don’t really read the fine print. This is why more than 60 percent of the motorists affected by the floods in Dubai in 2018 weren’t covered for flooding and water damage due to heavy rain. This is why it is very important to know exactly what your insurance policy covers, and to include coverage for flood and water damage for future claims.

Arabian Business digital magazine: read the latest edition online

For all the latest banking and finance news from the UAE and Gulf countries, follow us on Twitter and Linkedin, like us on Facebook and subscribe to our YouTube page, which is updated daily.