Every time a veld fire comes within metres of residential properties, homeowners are reminded of the very real danger of a runaway fire to their homes and belongings. The devastating Knysna fires of 2017 was a vivid reminder of just how quickly a fire can rage out of control and cause millions of rands of damages. Coupled with domestic risks such as faulty wiring or appliances, it’s a good idea for all homeowners to review their building and house content insurance cover to see if they are adequately covered against fire risk.
Types of fires to watch out for
A veld fire might be out of your control but there are still some steps you can take to be more fire savvy – especially if you own a house with a thatched roof or if your home is situated in a mountainous area. During fire season – in the summer and autumn months for the Western Cape, and spring months for the northern provinces – keep an eye on weather reports for extreme wind conditions and fire warnings. Wild fires can spread very quickly so you may want to discuss evacuation routines with your neighbours or neighbourhood watch.
Electrical fires are another common fire risk, such as faulty wiring in older homes or, in the case of load shedding or a power failure, when you’ve forgotten to switch an appliance off and it causes a fire. During winter months, heaters, fireplaces and indoor braais should also be carefully monitored. Take a look at our tips for fire-proofing your home.
Damages to watch out for
If a fire starts in your home and you contain it quickly, it may only cause some structural damage and destroy a few personal belongings. But in a severe case, your entire home might be damaged, including your garden, vehicles, outbuildings, your neighbour’s home, etc. It’s not just flames causing damages – there could also be smoke and heat damage, water damage if a geyser bursts, damage to your garden etc. Therefore you must have adequate building and home contents insurance in place to cover every eventuality.
Home contents vs. building insurance: what’s the difference?
If you are a homeowner, you will need to have both home and contents insurance in place. Insurance for home contents covers all the belongings inside your home, while building insurance covers any structures like your walls, roof and floors.
Do you have adequate insurance cover?
With one out of three homes in South Africa being under-insured, it’s so important for homeowners to regularly assess their level of cover but also ensure that cover is always in place. For example, if you are busy building a house, is it insured during the building process? If you own a holiday home, is it insured for its full replacement value – including consequential loss of rental income should you have to rebuild it after a fire? If you have paid off the mortgage on your home and closed the account that your insurance policy was linked to, did you take out new comprehensive insurance cover for the replacement value of the building? If you’ve done any renovations or built onto your house, have you accounted for this with an increase in building cover? These are the types of questions to ask in assessing your cover.
It’s also important to be aware of the pitfalls of under-insurance. Homeowners often make the mistake of thinking that a home should be insured for its market value however it should be insured for what it would cost to rebuild it to its original condition – not what it would cost to buy it.
For example, say you bought your home for R1.5 million in 2008 and you’ve insured it for that amount and not increased it over the years. With the escalating costs of building materials, it may now cost R3 million to rebuild it. That means that the building is underinsured by 50% and that you will be responsible for 50% of every claim, partial and total loss, that you may have.
Fire-specific extras with Santam building insurance
With 100 years of experience, Santam will help you ensure that your home cover matches its true building replacement value. Our building insurance automatically covers any fire extinguishing as well as any fire-fighting costs incurred and alternative accommodation if your house is damaged and not suitable to live in.
If you need any help in working out the true value of your home structures and belongings, speak to your broker or use Santam’s handy building calculator tool. If you want to switch to Santam, call us on 0860 444 444 for a free quote. Remember: if you’re an existing Santam client, you can add policies and make changes to your cover right here on the Santam client site.