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30 Jan 2019

Beast from the East returns in 2019: is your home protected?

Met Office issues weather warning for snow and ice across UK

Homes across the UK could be at risk of damage as a result of the heavy snowfall and ice predicted across the UK, but will home insurance companies cover the cost?

The Met Office issued a yellow weather warning for heavy snow, which could turn icy over Tuesday 29 January and Wednesday 30 January 2019.

Similar weather patterns were seen last year when the UK was hit by a cold wave - dubbed the Beast from the East - on three separate occasions.

Here, we take a look at whether your home insurance will cover the cost of damage from storms and adverse weather, and how to find the best home insurance policy.

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The Beast from the East returns

Around 10cm (4in) of snow is expected to fall across the UK over coming days and flurries have already been reported in the North of England, Scotland and Wales.

The Met Office has issued four separate weather warnings for snow and ice, which is expected to cause travel disruption.

These extreme conditions, caused by asudden stratospheric warming, are similar to those seen when the Beast from the East struck the UK.

Many households experienced damage to their homes during the adverse conditions and home insurance companies saw a significant rise in the number of claims for snow and water-related damage.

Halifax home insurance alone received 1,258 claims for storm damage in January 2018 - a 169% increase from the year before, when they only received 467.

Overall, damage from last year's Beast from the East, as well as Storm Emma, meant thathome insurance premiums rose by 7.6%.

Does home insurance cover storm damage?

Most home insurers will cover damage caused by a storm or extreme weather conditions.

In some cases, however, insurers may refuse to pay for a weather-related claim if they find that you haven't maintained your home to a sufficient standard.

For example, if your roof suffered damage due to heavy snowfall, your insurer may reject your claim if they have reason to believe that the tiles on your roof were already damaged or if poor maintenance contributed to the amount of damage.

It's really important to make sure that your home is well-maintained, especially if you live in an area that is prone to adverse weather or the extreme conditions that are forecast to hit.

Preparing your home for extreme cold

The following tips can help protect your home during extremely cold weather.

1. Set your thermostat

It's really important to set your thermostat to the minimum temperature, specified in your home insurance policy, during cold weather. Damage caused by failing to do so could result in your claim being rejected. The minimum temperature is usually around 12°C but may vary depending on your provider so it's best to check with them if you're unsure.

2. Check your pipes

You should try and disconnect and drain any hosepipes, sprinkler systems and water features that to help stop residual water freezing and causing damage to your property.

3. Get insulating

It's vital to make sure that any exposed pipes in or around your home are well insulated. You'll often find them in places like your basement, attic or loft, garage, in kitchen cabinets or even on the outside of your property. Making sure these pipes are insulated with heat tape or rubber will prevent damage from cold moving air.

4. Locate your stopcock

Knowing where your stopcock is will help ensure that you can turn it off quickly in an emergency and prevent a potential flood. The stopcock is a valve that controls the cold water system in your home and can usually be found in the kitchen under the sink.

5. Have your home insurance details ready

Make sure you have your home insurance details ready in case the worst the happens. This will make it easier for you if you have to make a claim for damage. Most insurers have an emergency helpline so keep this number close to hand as well.

Finding the best home insurance

If you're looking for your first home insurance policy or it's time to renew, following these tips can help you find the best home insurance deal.

Using a valuation calculator before you start looking for deals can help you get a more accurate idea of how much cover you'll need for your belongings. People often miscalculate the value of their possessions, which can result in them either taking out too much or too little home insurance protection.

Once you have an idea of how much cover you need, price comparison websites can help you compare hundreds of deals easily.

Don't be blindsided by the cheapest prices,though, as they may not offer you the right level of protection.

Finally read the terms and conditions of potential policies carefully and get clarification about anything you're unsure about.

Once you've agreed to the terms of a policy, making a home insurance claim for things that are expressly excluded will be impossible.

To help you find the best insurer, our experts have analysts the standard contents insurance and buildings insurance policies of over 30 providers and combined it with feedback from thousands of customers to produce impartial home insurance provider reviews.