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Batten down the hatches!

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It's that time of year to change up your wardrobe into warmer clothes and keep the home cosy during the cold weather and storms that autumn and winter will bring.

But how ready is your home for that seasonal onslaught? What can you do to minimise the risk of damage as you batten down the hatches?

Naming names

The UK, Ireland, France, Spain and Portugal all now give names to the extratropical cyclones that usher in the high impact windstorm seasons of the year, according to an entry in Wikipedia.

Not only do they now have names, but they are also getting worse. The 2017-2018 season was the deadliest since they were first given names in 2015 – and included the freezing blast known in the UK as “the Beast from the East”, which appeared again at the start of 2019, according to the Sun newspaper on the 4th of February.

So far this year, there have already been warnings from the Met Office of powerful winds to reach the UK including the former hurricane Lorenzo.

Protecting your property

With recent records and events pointing to the likelihood of more frequent and potentially fiercer winter storms, how might you best protect your property?

It is something you certainly need to consider doing as any home insurer has a right to expect you to take all reasonable precautions to mitigate against loss or damage from known risks. If you don't, your insurer may rule your contributory negligence in the losses incurred – and reduce the value of any home insurance settlement accordingly.

Given your home insurance company's expectation that you keep your property in a good state of repair and, by doing so, help mitigate the risk of loss or damage, there are precautions you need to take before the onset of any adverse weather – as winter draws on, in particular:

  • visually inspect your property for any signs of disrepair or need for maintenance before winter sets in;
  • if strong winds are forecast, of course, one of the most vulnerable areas is the roof of your property and the risk of dislodged tiles or slates being blown around to cause even further damage;
  • to inspect the roof, you may need to go to the bottom of the garden or stand across the street and use a pair of binoculars to spot and suspect tiles or slates;
  • if you notice any that are need of securing, remember that it is going to be much cheaper to call in a roofer and get the problem fixed now rather than wait until the winter’s storms have done their worst and caused still more damage to your property – or a neighbour’s;
  • if the property is let, ask your tenants whether they are aware of any maintenance problems that need to be addressed before winter sets in.

If the worst comes to the worst, and you need to make an insurance claim for the cost of any repairs following a storm make sure to take photographs of the damage in the immediate aftermath; and note the time and date on which the loss/damage happened.

This will support your claim, for when your insurance company is then able to double-check on the prevailing weather conditions at the time.

As the days grow shorter and the storm clouds thicken, it makes sense to focus on the maintenance jobs and repairs that need to be done to your property before you finally batten down the hatches.