Protection against storms: elementary insurance and renovations

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Weather protection has become a priority for many homeowners in light of the changing climate and catastrophic weather conditions. There is still no obligation to take out elementary damage insurance.

Protection against storms: elementary damage insurance as a rescue

The images of the Ahrweiler flood disaster from 2021 are still present and every homeowner fears such a disaster. Without being able to do anything about it, you have to watch helplessly as houses and yards sink into the floods. Blessed are those who had household contents insurance with protection against natural hazards! Unfortunately, too few homeowners still recognize the danger or many assume that it would not affect them and their house. But the weather is unpredictable, and even experts agree that the potential risk of such disasters is increasing.

This includes natural hazard insurance

Natural hazard insurance does not provide protection against storms. Rather, it covers the damage that can result from such a storm. Among other things, damage caused by avalanches and snow, earthquakes and landslides as well as floods are recorded. The latter includes not only rivers that have burst their banks as the cause but also heavy rain.

The protection against storms, therefore, refers to the damage and its rehabilitation. If you don’t have such insurance and have lost all your belongings, you start again from scratch. Without financial support and often with only a few savings because the property might even still have a debt. In the worst case, the house is gone and the loan for it still has to be paid off at the bank. Elementary insurance protects against the financial consequences that can mean ruin.

Common elemental damage

Elemental damage from a volcanic eruption is rather unlikely in this country, and an earthquake is hardly expected. But storms and hail can cause devastating catastrophes, as can heavy rain. In the last three years, insurers have recorded increasing inquiries about natural hazard insurance as protection against storms, but the number of homeowners with such insurance has climbed to just over 20 percent.

The risk of suffering such elemental damage varies depending on where you live. In the coastal areas, storms and hail are much more likely to cause severe damage, while these natural forces are less severe in the peripheral zones of Germany. Those who live near large rivers are more likely to face flooding in winter and spring, while those who live in buildings in the mountains may have to deal with avalanches or snow damage in winter.

Are the damages already covered?

You may have household contents insurance that already covers elementary damage. Separate insurance as protection against storms does not have to be taken out. You may already have storm insurance that was taken out as part of the building insurance. Fire insurance can also already be in place through building insurance, which covers damage caused by lightning strikes.

If this damage has already been recorded, no further insurance is required, which after all also demands premiums. However, according to experts, it is a catastrophe to be left without elementary damage insurance, because the damage can be in the five to six-digit range. Even small incidents can cause serious damage, just think of the lightning strike and the fire brigade that was called: What the fire did not destroy by the lightning strike is now destroyed by the fire brigade’s water. The damage is enormous!

Recommendation as protection against storms: elementary insurance

The elementary insurance does not protect the building from the actual elementary damage but from the consequences. This also includes elemental damage restoration, which is unavoidable after the damage event. The insurance takes over the protection that is not already provided by the contents insurance. It can be agreed upon optionally and specially adapted to the needs of the homeowner or his building. If an insurance contract already exists, it can usually be extended. Supplementary insurance is always easy to take out.

However, there are increasing rumors that in certain areas insurers no longer offer or want to offer elementary insurance as protection against storms. The reason is that the risk there is too high that the dreaded damaging events will actually occur and that large amounts of damage are involved. Even very high premiums can only marginally reduce the risk for the insurance company. A planned obligation to take out natural hazard insurance is currently under discussion, and the government is to examine by the end of 2022 whether such an obligation makes sense in particularly endangered areas or not.

Video: If the elementary insurance does not pay | Market Check SWR

Elementary insurance in detail

If you want to regulate the protection against storms or against elementary renovation under insurance law, you have to know that the providers offer different services. Various services can be excluded, while others are offered by one insurance company and not by another.

The following natural hazards are usually included with all insurers:

  • Floods caused by rain or overflowing rivers
  • Backwater in pipelines due to flooding
  • Earthquakes, subsidence, and landslides
  • snow pressure and avalanches

As a rule, the costs for draining the building and for its renovation are covered. Repairs on and in the building and necessary demolition work are also covered in terms of costs. Added to this are the costs of constructing an equivalent replacement building. Anyone who is a landlord and had to accept a loss of earnings as a result of the damage event can usually also claim the costs for accommodation and loss of rent from the insurance company.

What is the cost of elementary insurance?

Many homeowners shy away from elementary insurance as protection against bad weather because they fear the premiums. You’re already paying enough for home insurance! But if you keep in mind the costs that the homeowner will incur in the event of damage, you will quickly decide to take out insurance. After a detailed insurance comparison, the candidate with the best price-performance ratio should be chosen, not necessarily the cheapest insurer.

The costs are not easy to name. The insurers from Germany have published a classification for defining insurance zones, according to which individual areas can be divided into risk classes:

  • Floods less than every 200 years: Zone 1
  • Flood every 50 to 200 years: Zone 2
  • Flood every 10 to 50 years: Zone 3
  • Floods more frequent than every 10 years: Zone 4

If two properties are taken that are exactly the same in terms of design, plot size, and value, but which are in different zones, very different premiums can result. The objects in zone 4 are usually provided with high surcharges for the higher risk, and protective measures may also be required in some cases. These are imposed as conditions by the insurer on the homeowner.

But not only the flood but also the earthquake risk is assessed regionally and can vary. While the earthquake risk is zero in some parts of the country, earthquakes with corresponding damage can definitely occur in the south and southwest of Germany. All other natural hazards are classified similarly by the insurer, there is no division into zones and associated premium adjustments.

How important is elementary insurance to protect against bad weather?

As with all insurance, the question arises as to whether the premiums are well invested and whether elementary insurance is really necessary. The answer must be weighed carefully. Even with low risk, a damaging event can occur and cause major damage. The costs for this exceed the premiums to be paid many times over. Conversely, even experts admit that it is annoying when premiums are paid for years for a risk that hardly exists. Ultimately, every homeowner has to decide for themselves how expensive protection against storms can be and what financial security is necessary in the event of damage.

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