With a number of provinces in South Africa still facing extreme drought conditions, it is important for all homeowners to be aware of the impact of the drought on their home and therefore their insurance. There are a number of areas of the home that can be impacted by water restrictions, including water pipes, swimming pools and gardens.
This is according to Dawie Loots, CEO of MUA Insurance Acceptances, who states that damage caused by drought is not a peril that is typically covered by insurance policies because normally insurance policies cover sudden and unforeseen events, but a drought is a gradually operation cause.
The general principle in insurance is that policyholders should take all reasonable care to safeguard and protect their assets, he says. "In fact, people should act as though they are not insured. This premise also applies in a drought situation - policyholders need to do whatever is reasonably practical to minimise damage when they have known about a situation like this."
The current water rationings that are taking place, which involves the complete cutting off the water supply for short periods, can have detrimental effects on water pipes, says Loots. "The turning on and off of water can cause pipes to burst, with subsequent risk of flooding and therefore excessive water bills. Clients would have to be aware of this fact and should be more observant in and around their properties to ensure there are no burst or leaking pipes."
With reports that the water is evaporating quicker than it is raining, homeowners should cover their swimming pools to minimise water evaporation as they are not able to fill the pool due to the water restrictions, says Loots. "Swimming pools are designed to have water in them, so the system, walls and tiling of pools are more susceptible to damage if they are left exposed to the sunlight with no water. Fibreglass pools in particular specifically need water weight from the inside to prevent them from popping out of the ground."
Homeowners should switch off the pump if the water level drops to below the weir, this will prevent the pump from sucking in air and in turn burn out, he says. "It is also a good idea to open the cover when it is raining to get as much water in the pool as possible."
Due to the fact that drought is not a peril, no insurance policy will cover the reinstatement of gardens due to not being able to water the plants, says Loots. "Even though homeowners are prohibited by law and water restriction limitations to water their garden, they can still try to catch rainwater, use grey water or even get a borehole installed - therefore there are certain measurers one can take to save their garden if they want to."
In order to find out exactly what is and is not covered by the insurance policy, it is best for homeowners to speak to their broker who will be able to guide them through the complexities of the impact of drought on their insurance, concludes Loots.