Are you insured against fire?
Why fire prevention can save you money4th Apr 2022
Fire damage has destroyed several key buildings in South Africa, including Parliament and the University of Cape Town (UCT). While there’s always the threat of arson, it’s not uncommon for veld fires to destroy the surrounding fauna and flora in the summer months.
‘Fires caused by unattended braais and other open flames usually dominate during this period. Wildfires are also prevalent during the dry summer months in SA’s wildfire hotspots in the Cape,’ points out Lizo Mnguni, spokesperson at Old Mutual Insure.
Fire damage – whether it’s a result of arson or accident – is a real and ever president danger for households in South Africa. Insurance can help by paying for any damage but, as we found out, not all claims are awarded.
Here’s what you need to know to ensure that your family is protected and you get a payout from your insurer, should the worst happen.
Fires can be the result of some basic or even intentional mistakes, but these actions or errors can be costly as they’re not always covered by insurers.
Wynand van Vuuren, client experience partner at King Price Insurance, says that arson carried out by the insured or a member of a household is a common cause. ‘This happens more often than you would think,’ he says.
Other common fire causes include non-compliance with conditions of cover, like the maintenance of lighting conductors, thatch roof treatment and defective construction. He explains: ‘This includes fireplaces and braai areas that catch fire. We see a high frequency of fire damage claims due to this.’
In some instances, an insurance payout may not cover the cost of all the damage and losses. Underinsurance is a common problem, so make sure you’re covered adequately by consulting your insurer or broker.
These are common causes of fire, but if your electricity was professionally installed and signed off by an approved electrician, you will be covered by your insurer.
Van Vuuren cautions: ‘Be careful with generators, battery and solar systems that you have self-installed, or those installed by someone not qualified to do so. Fire damage due to installation mistakes will not be covered by your insurer. Always ensure that any contractor has liability cover before allowing them to work at your property.’
Make sure you read the fine print of your cover too, as there may be exclusions that apply. Jonathan Lindeque, head of business and personal loan insurance, GIB, points out:
‘These days some insurers are limiting power surge claims due to the current situation with Eskom, and some may insist on clients installing power surge devices.
‘When you purchase a new home, you will generally be given an electrical compliance certificate. In a newly purchased home, if there was a major fire, insurers may call to see the compliance certificate. However, if it turns out that a plug point was overloaded, this could end up being a problematic claim.’
Fire prevention is key
While you may be covered in the event of a fire, it’s important to mitigate as far as possible the risk of a fire gutting your home. Your efforts could also be rewarded in a discount on your premium. Here are insurers’ top tips in fire prevention:
- Get electrical installation done properly. ‘Make sure that the electrical circuits are all maintained and that a qualified electrician gives you an electrical compliance certificate,’ says Lindeque.
- Don’t leave things like open fires, heaters, electrical appliances and stoves unsupervised. ‘Hair-styling tools such as flat irons also pose a risk. Always make sure that you unplug these devices once done, and use a heat-proof mat,’ advises Mnguni.
- Reduce the possibility of fires being able to spread. ‘Create fire breaks from neighbouring premises (where applicable), and clear bushes and trees around thatched housing or lapas,’ recommends Lindeque.
- Maintain chimneys. ‘Keep all chimneys in a good state of repair and have all chimneys cleaned annually prior to winter use,’ says Lindeque.
- Do not overload plug points. By overloading plug points or extension leads, you run the risk of them overheating and causing a fire.
- It’s common to have generators nowadays, given how unreliable Eskom is, but these need to be maintained too. ‘Generators are to be kept away from the premises, and make sure that they are serviced when required.
Too often people will buy generators and then never get them checked or serviced,’ says Lindeque.