The fire that destroyed the Houses of Parliament in Cape Town last month sadly highlighted the fact that certain basic, and very necessary, steps had not been taken to ensure that the property was well-maintained and covered for any potential disaster. This is a cautionary tale that also applies to property owners, who must ensure that their private residential homes are kept in good order and covered comprehensively to mitigate any potential financial losses.
According to Ynnis Wilson, Branch Manager at Jawitz Properties Randburg, there are some basic steps that homeowners can take.
1. Ensure you have adequate Building Insurance
Building insurance covers homeowners from structural damage caused by fire, extreme weather or burst geysers and pipes. Interestingly, it also covers the replacement of keys, locks and remote control units, and accidental breakage to fixed glass and sanitaryware.
A building’s market value isn’t the same as its insured value and the amount insured should cover the cost to rebuild your home if you had to. Buildings insurance should cover what it would cost to rebuild your property from the foundations up, including your boundary walls, solar panels, swimming pool, taps and tiles. And if you’ve made major improvements to your home, such as adding a new room, tell your insurer, or risk being underinsured.
2. Check your Home Contents Insurance
With up to 60% of South Africans being underinsured, make it a priority to check that your home contents policy covers the current replacement value of your household goods, and not what you paid for them. High-value items that are only kept in the house should be covered, but the moment you take any high-value items outside the house, they must be included under your portable possessions cover (specified all risks), or they’re effectively uninsured. This includes phones, laptops, jewellery, watches, sunglasses, clothing, your gym bag and its contents, and luggage, for example.
The best advice would be to review your contents insurance annually to ensure you remain market price related and to ensure that if you buy any big-ticket items that you account for them. Another tip is to keep all your receipts and take photos of your very expensive items.
3. Have Fire Prevention Measures in Place
The first and best defence against a fire is an effective early warning system and although smoke detectors are not legally required in private homes in South Africa, it is still a worthwhile investment to make. At the very least, ensure you have a maintained and working fire extinguisher on hand. It is also advisable to make sure your electrical system is maintained and in good order, that it is not overloaded, and take care with portable heat generating appliances such as irons, kettles and heaters.
4. Maintenance is Key
Your home is your greatest investment and it only makes sense to keep it maintained. This may sound like a chore but if you keep on top of the small stuff, the property should run like clockwork. For example, little things like clearing out your gutters, keeping your woodwork and decking in good order, patching cracks and painting where necessary, keeping your garden and plants trimmed and neat, and checking out the condition of your roof, will alleviate future problems and major expenses down the line.
Home security is essential and the installation of an alarm system linked to armed response will not only give you peace of mind, but will also save you money on your Home Contents insurance policy. Additional features such as burglar bars, security cameras, gates and walls, and good lighting work together to prevent a burglary but most important of all, is to be aware of your surroundings and get to know your neighbours. An effective Neighbourhood Watch programme is always an added bonus.
Writer: Jawitz Properties