By: Ernest North
The risk landscape in South Africa has changed dramatically over the past few years. Many things that weren’t a big issue a few years ago are now significant threats to your property, including your car, your home, and the contents of your house. If you’re planning to go on holiday over the festive season, it’s worth checking that you have adequate protection for the things you value.
Extreme weather, load shedding, and deterioration of the roads mean that the occurrence and severity of many insurable risks are increasing. Before you pack your car and head off for the holidays, it’s worth checking that you’ve bought the right insurance cover for your needs and taken sensible precautions to safeguard your things
1. Severe weather risks
Over the past few years, insurers have recorded an increase in claims related to severe weather. Some examples of incidents that have led to a deluge of claims include recent hailstorms in Gauteng, flooding in Franschhoek and surrounds this year, and flooding in Mpumalanga and Kwa-Zulu Natal in 2022.
Weather patterns seem to be changing, and we can see the impact coming through in our actuarial data. Extreme weather can cause substantial damage to your car or home. Weather-related risks vary by region in South Africa, but severe hailstorms rank as the biggest seasonal weather risk for our customers.
To safeguard yourself, consider the following:
- Before you go on holiday, check that your car and home insurance covers hail damage since some insurance policies exclude hail cover unless specified.
- Park cars that you’re leaving at home or an airport undercover and out of harm’s way.
- Take steps to protect your property. Clean gutters to avoid blockages and facilitate drainage. Trim any trees that are at risk of falling over or damaging windows etc.
- Remember that with digital insurance, it’s easy to claim from an app wherever you are, 24/7. If your car gets pummelled by hail in the evening, you can claim on the app as soon as you notice the damage — no need to wait for a call centre to open in the morning. Also, getting claims in early means you can beat the rush to the panel beaters and be first in line to get damage to your car (or damage to your home) fixed.
- If you have to claim, document your damage. Walk around and inspect your property and valuables for any damage and take clear photos or videos. This can help to speed up the claims process.
2. Load shedding
We’ve noted a sharp increase in claims for electronic devices and appliances damaged by power surges after load shedding since early 2022. Insurance doesn’t cover the wear and tear that load shedding causes to electrical goods over time, but it may cover you if a device or appliance is damaged by a power surge.
There is, however, no cover for loss or damage caused as a direct result of a total electricity grid failure. Most insurers introduced an exclusion for grid failure earlier this year due to the high risk of significant power surges once the grid is restored. Such power surges could cause direct damage to appliances and property on an uninsurable scale.
To reduce the risks associated with load shedding power surges, I suggest that you follow these steps before you go on holiday:
- Turn off and unplug all non-crucial electrical appliances.
- Switch off geysers at the DB board when away from home for long periods of time.
- Consider investing in a surge protector on your main DB board, which will protect your appliances from external power surges like lightning as well as from a surge when power returns after load shedding.
- You can buy power surge protector plugs to protect appliances like TVs, fridges, and computers. They are cheap and effective.
- Consider a UPS (Uninterruptible Power Supply) for items like your fridge and deep freeze.
Worth knowing: A good insurance policy will include 24/7 emergency assistance. For example, your insurance provider can help the person watching your home while you’re away if your geyser bursts or they need a locksmith.
3. Deteriorating road conditions
Extreme weather and outages of streetlights and robots during load shedding can increase your risk of having an accident. In addition, the quality of South Africa’s roads is deteriorating due to a lack of maintenance. It’s important to drive carefully, especially at night or in unfamiliar areas, to avoid potholes and other dangers.
Checklist for road safety:
- Keep your insurer’s roadside emergency number on your phone so you can quickly get help if you have an accident or engine trouble. A digital insurance provider will also let you ask for emergency assistance from a mobile app.
- Be extra careful in the rain and assume that any puddles on the road could be disguising potholes.
- Watch other drivers — if they’re swerving, there might be a pothole ahead.
- Keep your tyres inflated at their correct pressure levels to minimise the damage to your vehicle from driving through a pothole.
- Minimise driving at night when visibility is limited.
- Stay within the speed limit so that you can better spot potential road hazards, and slow down or take evasive action if necessary.
- Avoid driving through known crime hotspot areas. If you can, use a safer alternate route, even if it’s a bit longer.
4. Seasonal crime
Crime isn’t a new danger. However, there is usually a spike in claims for theft over the festive season.
My advice to homeowners is as follows:
- Lock up valuables when you go on holiday. Consider getting a wall safe for valuables such as heirlooms, jewellery, and important documents.
- Double-check that windows and doors are secured when you leave. Draw your curtains before you go. Make sure your locks are all in good condition.
- If you recently got an expensive new couch or a big-screen TV during Black Friday, remember to update your cover before you go on holiday. Make sure your important things are insured for replacement value.
- Always activate your alarm before you go out. Check that you have a valid subscription with an armed response company.
- Travelling with precious items like your golf clubs, notebook, jewellery, or camera? Make sure they’re all insured for their full value by specifying them in your home contents policy.
* North is the co-founder of Naked insurance.