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Flooded again! Should I claim when bad weather hits?

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Flooding in Kerry earlier this year

Flooding in Kerry earlier this year

Flooding in Kerry earlier this year

Flood chaos returned to this country just over a week ago, with homes destroyed and roads impassable.

Floods have become a regular sight in Ireland over the last few years. So, as we approach another winter, you should ensure that your home is properly protected from whatever this season throws at you.

When bad weather hits, we receive an influx of calls from homeowners wanting to know what impact flood and storm claims could have on their home insurance policies. For example, during floods, people often want to know whether they would be better off incurring the cost of some small home repairs so they can hold on to their flood cover - and prevent their premiums going up when they renew.

Although you could lose your flood cover if you make a large flood claim, not all claims result in the loss of cover.

Loss of flood cover can happen for a number of reasons. One of the main reasons is if you make several flood claims over a few years. Another is if you are living in an area where large-scale flooding occurs and the insurer decides to withdraw cover in the area - even if you have never made a flood claim. Some insurers who withdraw cover from an area will only do so for new customers. Existing customers may be able to continue to hold onto their flood cover - but they will usually have to pay higher premiums to do so.

Flood claims tend to be quite large, so there would really be no economic reason for not making a claim. However, if the claim is small you should consider the excess that you will have to pay and the loss of your no-claims bonus, which would take a few years to build up again. The excess - which is the first part of a claim which you must pay for yourself - could be as high as €1,000 or more, so if the cost of the damage is less than that there will no point making a claim.

Those living in flood-prone areas are often unable to shop around insurers - and must therefore stay with the same insurer for years, regardless of how expensive that insurer is. The reason for this is that when shopping around for insurance, you will usually be asked if you live in an area which has a history of flooding. Answering 'Yes' to this question inevitably leads to the new insurer declining to quote.

Don't be tempted to lie and tell an insurer that you don't live in a flood-prone area if you do. Doing so could invalidate your insurance policy - and see your insurer refuse to pay out for a claim. Even more damaging would be difficulties encountered in getting cover from an insurance company going forward because you failed to disclose the flood history in your area to a previous insurer.

Storm damage is treated differently to flood damage. If you are wondering whether or not to make a claim to cover the cost of storm damage, it is highly unlikely that your insurer would remove storm cover after you make a claim. This is because many of the claims that arise from storm damage are not that large.

The volume of claims received by insurers has a direct impact on insurance premiums - so if Ireland experiences severe weather this winter, this may have a knock-on effect on premiums. For this reason, it is always important to shop around for home insurance. You could be surprised how much you can save.

  • Finbarr Crotty is managing director of www.getcover.ie

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