Rain and property risk

Private Property South Africa
Anna-Marie Smith

Rising to the challenges of shifting weather patterns has become a far-too-regular challenge for residents in high rainfall areas.

While farming communities have their livelihoods ensured by deep soaking rains, stormy weather wreaks havoc elsewhere. As the pressure from torrential rain rises and causes damage to underground infrastructure systems, insurance claims flood in and premiums soar.

Peace of mind and a swift recovery to normality after flooding are possible through good insurance coverage. Executive Head of Risk Services at Santam John Melville says that incidents such as the recent bursting of the Klein Kariba Dam walls in Limpopo led to a sharp increase in insurance claims in the area.

Lifestyle over logic

When people choose lifestyle over flood risks, developing and maintaining properties with magnificent views across rivers, dams, beaches, and low-lying settlements can become a costly pastime.

Industry specialists advise residents to take preventative water damage measures that are permanent, as opposed to making short-term or temporary solutions. Good architectural planning, approved engineering and building practices, plus year-round maintenance plans in the case of existing houses minimises the risk of dame to properties. Vaal Dam Principal Agent Colin Scholtz, of Wisemen Properties Vaal Dam,

Keep it professional

Principal Agent Colin Scholtz of Wisemen Properties Vaal Dam, who often advises potential buyers on such matters, says that transparent processes prior to building, such as property level surveys, should be conducted by qualified professionals to determine water thresholds of both exterior and interior areas, entrances and exits. Early planning at initial design stages helps owners to prioritise outdoor views over the risks of potential flooding of low-lying locations during unexpected weather patterns.

Temporary measures, such as short-term flood plans and evacuation processes can increase the risk of permanent structural damage and costly building repairs. Excessive water flow, as recently seen in the Vaal Triangle, Gauteng and KZN regions, exacerbated the risk of damage to residential properties.

An awareness of dangers that could arise from high water tables and flooding when storm water drains burst, which frequently result in sewerage leaks damages properties and roads, is essential.

Back row may be better

Scholtz says that while water-frontage properties boast magnificent views, residents are at risk of greater damage in stormy weather conditions, compared to back-row neighbours who are well above waterlines. Another important aspect he says, is that although the majority of dam and river properties are located within municipal boundaries, residents rely on the efficient control and management of dam sluices and gate operators.

Principal Agent of Harcourts Properties Parys, Saal de Jager, who is also Chairman of the Ngwathe Water Forum, says that local communities keep a watchful eye on good water flow, broken pipes, and damage. This statutory forum was initiated for residents and owners within the Mid Vaal region by the Department of Water Affairs to enhance water management awareness in Parys, Vredefort, Koppies, Edenbijl and Heilbron.

De Jager says that although not all municipal guidelines specifying 50metre and 100 metre high-water marks are clearly stated, Harcourts provides potential owners and tenants with facts and figures based on engineering studies and historic weather patterns. Every precaution is taken to assist potential buyers in assessing properties prior to buying, for the prevention of flood damage.

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