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How water shedding and outages will affect your home insurance 

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As if load shedding isn’t enough to deal with, residents across Gauteng are also contending with a range of problems with their municipal water supply. These include Stage 2 water restrictions, intermittent low water pressure in some areas and increasingly frequent water outages. Residents should take care to avoid damage or loss to their homes and personal property related to the water crisis.

Dry, hot weather and a shortage of water brings with it a range of risks. While some of these risks will be covered by a buildings and home contents policy, maintenance-related issues and incidents related directly to extreme weather are often excluded.

Consumers should consider the following steps to reduce their risks of loss or damage to their homes and property:

Limit damage to your geyser

Water outages may increase the possibility of you experiencing a geyser failure or breakdown. Leaving the heating element on while the tank is empty will likely increase the speed at which the geyser deteriorates.

If you know you’re not going to have water, you should turn the geyser off at the distribution board (DB board) and only turn it on once there is full water flow.

Your buildings policy will usually cover the replacement or repair of your geyser if it breaks due to an event like a fire or a storm. In some policies, geyser cover is an optional extra—so check that you’re covered. Most policies will also pay out if the geyser leaks or bursts due to wear and tear. Your home contents policy will reimburse you if a burst geyser causes damage or loss of your household items.

Remember to close taps to avoid flooding  

It’s easy to forget that you had the taps running to wash the dishes or run a bath if the water supply is cut without warning. If you pop out of the house for a few hours, and the water supply is restored, it could mean you return to a flooded home. Your buildings policy will cover damage to your carpets, ceilings, wooden flooring and other structural parts of your home.

Again, your home contents policy will cover items such as your furniture, appliances and electronics. The owner of the home is responsible for the building cover to make sure the building and its fixtures are covered in case something bad happens. The contents cover is the responsibility of the person renting the place; your landlord’s insurance won’t cover the damage caused to your personal belongings.

If you live in an apartment block, your neighbours might hold you or your landlord liable for any damages they suffer due to you leaving your taps running. You may have to cover the costs of any repairs or replacements — so it’s good to have an insurer in your corner, specifically liability cover. If you own a flat, the body corporate or managing agent will usually buy buildings insurance on behalf of all owners.

Minimise fire risks  

Although fire isn’t quite as much of a fear for Gauteng residents as it is for people in the Western Cape, dry weather does substantially increase risk for homeowners across the country.

Building insurance covers the risk of fire. Bear in mind that your insurance contract requires you to take reasonable steps to avoid or minimise loss. For example, storing combustible materials near building structures might be seen as negligent. If there is a fire warning and you have time to safely evacuate, you should pack any especially valuable items like expensive jewellery to take with you.

And if the main municipal water supply is down, and your fire prevention system can run off your Jojo tank, be sure to switch on the pump if there is a serious danger of a fire.

Ernest North is co-founder of digital insurance platform Naked.

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