Storm damage: Which insurance pays for the consequences of a storm

Whether Kyrill, Lothar or Jeanett: Again and again heavy storms or hurricanes sweep over Germany. Devastating storm damage is the result: covered roofs, trees fallen into walls, flooded places, damage to buildings and household effects. Affected are homeowners and tenants.

The storm damage is regulated by various insurance policies – depending on the situation: household insurance, homeowners insurance, natural hazard insurance , vehicle comprehensive insurance and liability insurance.

Storm damage: when does the insurance pay?

Top speeds up to 225 kilometers per hour, property damage in the amount of two billion euros in Germany alone – Kyrill was a huge and heavy storm. More specifically, Cyril was a hurricane that easily reached the wind force 12 on the Beaufort scale. This is at 118 kilometers per hour. So Kyrill was almost twice as fast in the lead.

The limit, from which wind speed storm damages are taken over by the insurance, lies with wind force 8 . On the one hand, the insurers base their claims settlement on the information and observations of the German Weather Service. On the other hand, typical storm damage in the neighborhood is taken into account as an indicator for the assessment of storm strength.

Effects of winds of magnitude 8 to 12 on land

wind strength
designation wind speed Effect on land
8th Stormy wind 62-74 km / h Large trees move, shutters are opened, branches break from trees, pedestrians are severely handicapped.
9 Storm 75-88 km / h Branches break from trees, minor damage to houses possible, roof tiles and chimney covers are raised, garden furniture is overturned and blown away, pedestrians are significantly hampered.
10 Heavy storm 89-102 km / h Trees are overturned or uprooted, causing major damage to homes.
11 Hurricane storm 103-117 km / h Violent gusts, extensively uprooted or bent trees, heavy storm damage to houses, covered roofs, cars are thrown off the track, walking is no longer possible.
12 hurricane from 118 km / h Heaviest, long-range devastation in forests and on houses.
  • Source: Wikipedia / Deutscher Wetterdienst

Who pays for storm damage?

Storm damage can occur on and in buildings, as well as on cars. But which insurance is responsible and when? We explain who pays. In particular, three insurance policies (homeowners, household contents insurance and comprehensive insurance) apply in case of storm damage, but under certain circumstances extra protection through liability or supplementary insurance is necessary.

When the building is affected

The most and most expensive storm damage occurs on buildings: the roof is partially or completely covered, the chimney falls over, a nearby tree collapses and falls through the large windowpane in the living room. Such damage covers the homeowners insurance. Storm and hail damage is usually included in the insurance coverage. Outbuildings such as a garage or garden shed are also secured. If the storm causes hail damage to the house, it is also secured.

Floods and backwater are different: If water enters the building in heavy rain and floods the basement, the damage is not covered by the residential building insurance but by the natural disaster insurance. You can not take out this insurance separately; it is available as an add-on module to homeowners insurance and home contents insurance. In addition to landslides or avalanches, the loss event that is caused by heavy rainfall in the sewer system, which continues through the sewer pipe into your building, is also covered.

A shell-built building is particularly susceptible to storm damage. Walls, scaffolding or rafters can easily be knocked down by the wind, as well as any material that is stored on site and not properly secured. Damaged or destroyed components and building materials replace a bodyshell insurance . You can also take out this insurance as an additional component to the homeowners insurance.

When the car is affected

The comprehensive insurance is responsible for storm damage to the car and the motorcycle. However only at wind force 8 and higher. In fully comprehensive insurance , damage is often secured by lower wind speeds. Damage caused by flying branches or roof tiles. However, if you cause an accident during the storm, all-inclusive insurance will cover all damage to your car.

If you cause harm to others

As a tenant, you are also responsible: If a flower box is blown from your balcony and meets a pedestrian, you can be held liable for all damages that arise. This ranges from destroyed briefcases to treatment costs and life-long pensions – if the passer-by was miserably hit in the head and then can no longer work. Without private liability insurance you bear the costs in full – the financial ruin threatens.

For homeowners and terraced house owners, the conclusion of a homeowners liability insurance is strongly advised. This takes over the costs if, for example, during the storm, a roof tile hits a car parked next to the property. The same applies to personal injury caused by flying objects originating from your property.

Fallen Tree: What kind of insurance is available for the costs?

Heavy storms usually mean that many trees are overturned or uprooted. Roads are blocked, houses and gardens are damaged. Of course, those who are affected want to know who pays for the damage caused by a fallen tree. Which insurance is responsible, depends on whether it is the own tree or that of the neighbor and in which direction the tree is overturned.

  Own property Land of the neighbor
Own tree crashes
  • Own homeowners insurance
  • Own house and landowner’s liability
Strange tree crashes
  • Own homeowners insurance

or

  • Property and landowner’s liability of the neighbor
  • Residential property insurance of the neighbor

If a fallen tree causes damage to your own home, homeowners insurance usually covers the costs of repair and maintenance. However, the insurance cover also includes all expenses related to the removal and disposal of uprooted or folded trees. This means that you should inform the homeowners insurance even if the tree has left no direct damage to the residential building, but “only” devastated the front yard.

The liability insurance , however, jumps in when the homeowner has caused a storm damage to others – so if the tree has fallen on the neighboring property and there, for example, tore down part of the roof. But before she pays, the insurance first checks whether the tree owner can really be held liable. Storms are considered to be “force majeure”, which means that the tree owner does not have to pay, provided that he has fulfilled his legal duty of public safety.

Example: If the landowner has not secured or felled a rotten tree and this damages the neighboring building during a storm, this is a case for liability insurance. If it is a healthy tree that did not give rise to safety measures, the tree owner can not be held responsible.

The legal duty of public safety

Homeowners are subject to a legal duty of care. In the legal sense, this is understood as an obligation. This means you have to make sure that your house and property are in a safe condition . Structural deficiencies that could endanger pedestrians must be remedied immediately. Therefore, all trees on the property should also be checked regularly. The GDV recommends carrying out a tree inspection twice a year: once in leafy, once in non-leafy state.

At visual inspection you should be aware of suspicious clues: Is the strain infested with rot? Have roots lifted? Are there branches that protrude too far over the property? Do you need to remove dry branches from the tree crown? Even if a tree gets too old, safety may not be there anymore. Then the tree has to be felled. If you as a homeowner can not assess the condition yourself, you should consult a professional arborist or another specialist.

Avoid storm damage: What homeowners can do before a hurricane

If the German Weather Service issues a severe weather or hurricane warning, homeowners should take it seriously. This means in particular to properly prepare the house for the storm and eliminate potential sources of danger that can cause a storm damage . Therefore, you should fix all loose items in the garden and on the terrace in good time before the storm. Chairs and tables should be safely placed or tethered. Flower pots and decorative elements – for example, lanterns in summer or fairy lights in winter – belong in the house.

Close all windows in the house . This is the only way to avoid sudden draft, which can cause damage to the windows and the living spaces. Temporarily you should also close cellar and roof windows. This is especially important in winter: In heavy storms, temperatures can drop abruptly. If the basement window is still open, there is a risk that lines freeze and burst.

Your awnings are best used completely. For roller shutters, the rule is: completely or not at all. Either lower them completely or pull them up high. But if the shutters are halfway up, the wind can easily reach underneath and push the roller shutter out of the guide. The same applies to folding shutters: These too should either be completely closed or completely opened and then fastened properly.

You should definitely do that before a storm:

  • Fix loose objects
  • Close the window
  • Shutters up or down completely
  • Check downpipes and gutters
  • Check the backflow flap

Storm damage on or in the house: What should I do?

Once the storm has cleared, tidying up begins: An inspection tour over the terrain shows you whether the storm has caused any damage. If you notice storm damage, be sure to act. You then expect several tasks:

  • Report damage: You must report storm damage to your insurance immediately: by telephone, e-mail or contact form. You do not have to enter detailed information yet, this will happen later.
  • Keep damage low: You are subject to a loss reduction obligation. That means you have to keep the damage as small as possible. If the storm has destroyed a window, you must cover it with a tarpaulin to prevent the ingress of moisture. Otherwise, the insurance may not cover the costs of consequential damage. Even the household items that are in the affected areas, you should bring to safety. You must clear away any surrounding branches or broken gutters in order to reduce the risk of injury to yourself and others. However, your safety has priority: you do not take too risky actions – even for the sake of your health.
  • Documenting Damage: In the event of a storm, your insurance company will usually send a surveyor to assess the extent and extent of the damage. Until then you should not change the location of the damage. If this is not possible, keep everything on photos, if possible from different perspectives. This way, your insurance company can later come up with its own image. Damaged items should also be stored until the damage has been regulated – or the insurance company has no objection to disposal.
  • Damage repaired: But not without consultation with the insurer. Only after receiving a written approval should you assign repair orders to craftsmen or other service providers or buy new damaged items. Should a comprehensive assessment be necessary, the storm damage will not be immediately replaced by the insurance. First, it checks the obligation and damage amount. But four weeks after the claim, you can claim a discount – for all storm damage, which is beyond dispute.

Conclusion: Insurance against storm damage will become more important in the future

The GDV warns against the serious consequences of climate change in a study that was developed in cooperation with climate researchers. Thus, not only the damage caused by floods, comparable to the “flood of the century” of 1997, 2002 or 2013, will increase. The number and impact of extreme storms will also increase . So far, every 50 years, hurricanes such as Christian, Xaver or Felix threaten every 10 years in Germany. Therefore, it is even more important in the future to hedge against storm damage with the right insurance . Already in advance you should take a closer look at your insurance policy: Is the insurance coverage sufficient? In older policies, for example, garden sheds or garages are not necessarily secured. Votes price and performance? Compare your insurance with other providers: There may be an insurer offering the same (or more) services at the same (or lower) price.