Heavy rain and floods: what does the insurance pay?

15. June 2020, 14:03

Since not everything is covered by the building and household contents insurance in the event of the forces of nature, additional insurance cover is required in the case of heavy rain and floods through an elementary damage insurance. Legal experts at Arag explain which insurance comes into play when, how you can protect your house with simple means and what options tenants have to secure their belongings and reduce the rent in the event of damage.

What is heavy rain?
The German Weather Service (DWD) speaks of heavy rain when large amounts of water fall in a short time. It issues warnings when certain threshold values ​​are exceeded, namely rain amounts of 15 to 25 liters per square meter (l / m²) in one hour or 20 to 35 l / m² in six hours. A severe weather warning applies to amounts of rain of more than 25 l / m² in one hour or 35 l / m² in six hours.

What does household insurance pay for?
In addition to standard services such as the replacement of burglary, fire and tap water damage to furnishings, it also replaces storm damage to everything in the house or apartment. The consequential damage to household items is also insured if the roof was damaged or covered by a storm.

The glass insurance covers breakage to windows, door panes and glass roofs – including the costs of any emergency glazing that may be required. Construction insurance is required for buildings that are still under construction. Household contents are only covered in the event of flooding after heavy rain only in combination with natural hazard insurance.

What does a residential building insurance do?
Residential building insurance commonly used today covers damage to the building. It includes fire, tap water, storm and hail damage. Consequential damage is also insured – if, for example, rainwater penetrates the house through a storm-covered roof and walls or ceilings are damaged.

The insurance covers the costs that the owner needs to repair the house. ARAG experts point out that every homeowner needs such insurance. Building insurance for condominiums is usually taken out by the property manager.

The amount of the insurance premiums depends on the region in which you live. The Federal Republic of Germany is divided into different danger zones: In areas where there are frequent storms and stormy rains, it is more expensive to take out insurance against weather-related damage. But the Düsseldorf insurer warns against lulling yourself into safety too early, because especially in the event of heavy rain and the resulting floods, homeowners insurance only applies if it includes elementary insurance.

Important in heavy rain: natural hazard insurance
For example, if your cellar is full after a violent thunderstorm, you have bad cards with household and residential building insurance alone. In this case, neither of the two insurances will apply.

The only thing that helps there is what is known as additional insurance against natural hazards. It protects against damage that goes beyond storms and hail. It pays for damage caused by heavy rain, lightning strikes, floods, snow pressure, landslides, subsidence or earthquakes.

The buildings are then drained, for example. If, in the worst case, they have to be torn down, this pays for the natural hazard insurance as well as the construction of an equivalent property. If you have to live somewhere else during the repair phase, the insurance pays for it and also if landlords incur rental losses. The so-called backwater is also a big issue.

The sewage system cannot remove the masses of water and, if no or poor precautions have been taken, the water finds its own way – in the most unsavory case into the house and gushes out of toilets and sinks. If it causes damage, the natural hazard insurance will cover it if so-called backwater damage is explicitly included.

Prevention for homeowners: small tips with a big impact
If the municipal sewers can no longer absorb the water in heavy rain, deep house entrances, cellars and basement rooms can fill up. Another problem: Cities and municipalities that operate the public sewer system are not liable for damage to private houses. Here’s what owners can do to protect their building and its contents:

• Close the window! If there is a threat of rain, hail or snow, it is better to close the windows, otherwise insurance may not pay or only to a limited extent.
• Floor and door thresholds repel water.

• Canopies secure entrance areas.
• If possible, retrofit basement windows waterproof and pressure-proof.

• If there is no backflow preventer or lifting system, the municipal drainage system will give you information about where these can best be installed. A specialist plumbing company is the right contact for this. A backflow prevention device can be installed very easily in the siphon of a basement washbasin, for example. It is also important to know that backflow protection is a prerequisite for insurance protection against backflow in natural hazard insurance.

• If you are absent for a longer period of time, all backflow flaps should always be locked.
• The drain at the basement entrance is often neglected. Check often whether it is free and can absorb water quickly.

• Particularly in autumn it is important to have a look into the rain gutter and the downpipes so that no leaves become clogged. Also check the drains from balconies regularly!
• Chemicals and other dangerous substances as well as technical devices should be stored in a water-proof manner.

• The heating oil tank should be anchored or weighted down.
• Is the gully in front of the house free? If it looks blocked, this must be reported to the municipal drainage company. Some cities and municipalities have deficiency reports on the Internet for this purpose.

Tips for tenants
• If the cellar is under water, the damage should first be reduced. So: take out objects, move them and let them dry. Secure your belongings if there is still increased humidity in the room. Then inform the landlord.
• If common rooms such as the laundry room are affected, the landlord must also be informed immediately. If he cannot be reached or if he does nothing, the fire brigade should be called so that they can pump out the water.

• If furniture or items stored in the basement are damaged, the damage will be covered by the household contents insurance, provided it includes elementary insurance.
• If the apartment or basement was flooded by a sewer backwater because the landlord did not have the backflow valve serviced sufficiently, tenants can claim damages from him. This also applies when water pushes up through the toilet. Because the landlord is responsible for the smooth use of pumps and lifting systems.

• A rent reduction may be considered if the basement and apartment cannot be used or can only be used to a limited extent. The amount of rent that tenants may withhold temporarily depends on the individual case.
• In an emergency, the employer must release affected tenants. You can stay at home to help repair damage caused by heavy rain in your own apartment or in the basement. Unfortunately, this does not apply to neighborhood help. However, employees may have to rework the time or take unpaid leave.

Deduct the water damage for tax purposes
According to the ARAG experts, anyone who has to repair water damage or storm damage in the house or garden can deduct costs for service providers up to a certain amount from the tax. Reimbursement is made for what falls under the household-related services category.

These are all services that you could do yourself in the household without a service provider. In the case of water damage, this can be done e.g. B. the cleaner who cleans the apartment from the inside, or the gardener who puts the flooded garden back in order. In addition, the working hours of the contracted craftsman can be claimed from the tax office.

First the appraiser, then the reparatur

Conclusion: Damage must be reported to the insurance company as soon as possible, emphasize the insurance experts at Arag. In order to avoid consequential damage, makeshift repairs are allowed before the insurance appraiser was there. To be on the safe side, photos should be taken of the damaged area before the repair.

Photo: Shutterstock



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