Hurricane “Laura” recently claimed several lives and destroyed numerous homes in the US state of Louisiana. More hurricanes are likely to follow. In this country too, the weather is becoming more and more extreme: heavy rain, scorching heat and increasingly violent storms are increasingly bothering Germans. It is not uncommon to hear complaints about full cellars, covered roofs or fallen trees.
Extreme weather events caused damage totaling 3.2 billion euros in Germany last year, figures from the Association of the German Insurance Industry (GDV) show. It is no longer just people in risk areas who are affected, such as those who live close to a river. “Climate change means that no one is safe from damage caused by natural hazards,” says Bianca Boss, spokeswoman for the consumer protection organization Bund der Versicherung (BDV). A certain amount of precaution is therefore worthwhile for everyone.
Two policies are suitable for homeowners: home and home insurance. Both usually pay for damage from storms, fire, tap water and hail. For example, if a storm tears the roof off the house, homeowners insurance takes over. If the storm also destroys armchairs and televisions, household insurance takes effect. This also applies if, for example, lightning strikes and causes a fire that devastates the house or garden.
In the event of water damage, it is important to determine the cause of the damage in order to settle the claim. Residential building and household contents insurance only takes effect if broken pipes or lines are to blame for the water damage. If, on the other hand, heavy rain has caused the basement to fill up or the walls to go moldy, an additional policy is required: the natural hazard insurance. It covers damage caused by natural disasters. These include floods, avalanches, volcanic eruptions or landslides, as well as storms from wind force 8.
Whether a natural hazard insurance is worthwhile depends on how much a house is at risk of being damaged by the forces of nature. A study by Stiftung Warentest has shown that around 93 percent of the houses in Germany are in the so-called hazard class 1. That means: You are not affected by floods and can therefore be insured against natural disasters relatively cheaply. It becomes problematic in cities like Cologne, where, thanks to the Rhine, there is a flood at least once every ten years. “Insurers often don’t even offer natural hazard insurance for residents in these locations,” says BDV’s Boss. And the offers that are available are sometimes several hundred euros more expensive than for homeowners in non-risk areas.
Forces of nature can cause not only direct damage, but also indirect damage. For example, a storm can uproot a tree, which then falls on a car. “If the storm had a speed of at least 62 kilometers per hour – that is, wind force 8 – partial comprehensive insurance helps,” says Boss. Only fully comprehensive insurance offers protection regardless of the wind strength. “If a consumer has not taken out one and still wants compensation, he must investigate whether someone else is at fault,” says Boss. That could be the neighbor on whose property the fallen tree was. In order to get money, the injured party has to prove that the neighbor actually made a mistake – for example ignoring the fact that the tree was rotten. “That can lead to endless arguments,” warns Boss.
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