Insurer refuses storm damage claim – our investigation shows wind was indeed the cause

Buildings insurance Insurance

Iris got in touch with us because she felt that her insurer's reason for turning down her claim after storm damage was unfair.

What happened

Iris called her insurer after a storm and reported damage to the roof tiles on the front of her house. But her insurer refused to pay her claim. They said that hadn't been any reports of storm conditions in her town at the time she said the damage happened.

Her insurer said that they would only consider claims for storm damage if there were wind speeds of level 10 and above. The wind level would was from the Beaufort scale (with level 10 meaning 55 to 63 miles per hour). The recorded wind speeds for the period Iris was talking about hadn't been as strong.

Iris thought that this was unfair. She said the wind had been strong enough to cause the damage regardless of its exact speed. So she believed her claim should be covered under the policy.

The insurer still would not pay the claim, telling her that their investigations had shown that the damage came from gradual deterioration and wear and tear. These weren't covered under any section of her policy.

Iris contacted us and asked us to investigate to make sure that this was the right decision from the insurer.

What we said

When we checked the policy we found no definition of storm damage, or any mention of wind speeds. We told the insurer that we don’t consider the recorded wind speed it mentioned (as measured on the Beaufort scale) to be the deciding factor in cases involving storm damage

We also took into account the wind speeds as well as local reports from weather stations nearby. It was reasonable to us that the period Iris was talking about did have storm conditions. We also noted that there’d been reports of significant wind and rain in the area covering Iris's postcode on the day she said the damage had occurred

Our general view is that damage can occur even when the wind speed is lower than level 10 on the Beaufort scale. Sometimes, for example, there can be strong localised gusts of wind in areas that are some distance from the weather station. This can also happen where the particular layout of buildings has creates unusual wind conditions.

We looked at photos of the damage and the comments of the insurer’s surveyor. We felt the main reason for the tiles coming off the roof was the impact of the wind.

We also noted that exclusions for wear and tear and gradual deterioration only applied to claims for accidental damage. Iris’ insurer had told her that they were unable to consider her claim under any section of the policy.

We upheld the complaint and told the insurer to deal with the claim under the section of the policy that covered storm damage.