Protect Your Home and its Contents
No one likes to imagine losing their home and possessions to a fire, natural disaster, crime, or other misfortune. But you can mitigate the financial and personal damage of these worst case scenarios with a good home insurance policy. These policies offer payouts to cover the rebuilding of your home and replacement of your lost or damaged possessions following a tragedy or mishap.
In South Africa there are two types of home insurance: buildings and contents. They’re both wise financial choices for everyone, especially those living in high crime areas or places prone to severe weather or disasters like wildfires or floods.
What is home and buildings insurance?
Home and buildings insurance covers the property you reside in and the possessions you keep within it. It pays out if the home or its contents suffers damage or is destroyed or lost due to fire, storms, floods, burst pipes, burglary and vandalism, and other covered events.
Your insurance should cover up to the total rebuild value of your home—which will be different from the price you paid for it or the market value and should also account for inflation on building materials and costs —and the value of all your possessions, including valuables.
You pay for home insurance with annual or monthly premiums and make claims for compensation to your insurer in the event of a disaster or accident. Generally, however, you’ll have to make a contribution toward any claim — a charge called an excess. Excesses are assessed either as fixed flat fee or a percentage of the total claim. Typically, the higher your excess, the lower your premiums.
What does home insurance cover?
There are two types of home insurance: buildings and contents, covering the physical permanent structures of the property and the possessions you store within it, respectively. These structures and items are covered against damage, destruction and loss through fires, natural disasters, crime and other misfortunes. You’ll receive payouts, up to the agreed sum insured on your policy, to cover the repair of structures—or rebuilding, in the event of total destruction—and the replacement of possessions.
Home insurance policies may also include extras, such as personal liability, provision for emergency callouts, and some cover for items you take outside of the home, such as jewellery or devices.
What is it & what does it cover?
Buildings insurance, also called homeowner insurance, covers the physical structure of the home and all things that are permanent and immovable within in it, including kitchen and bathroom fittings and flooring.
In South Africa, buildings insurance policies also generally cover everything permanent within the property boundaries, not just the walls of the home. This can include perimeter walls, garages, outbuildings, gates and the motors that power them, swimming pools, and borehole pumps. But you’ll need to read the fine print of any policy before purchasing it to see exactly what’s covered and against what eventualities.
Policies typically pay out to cover the repair and rebuilding of these structures if they damaged by accidents and acts of nature. Insured perils typically include: fires, explosions, malicious damage, burglary or attempted burglary, vandalism, storms, floods, lightning, hail, snow, earthquakes, collisions and impacts, subsidence and landslip, burst or leaking pipes, damage by wild monkeys or baboons.
All policies will also have exclusions: things or events which aren’t covered and for which claims will be repudiated. These can include theft not caused by forcible entry; damage caused by roots or weeds or vermin or rot; and accidental damage caused by your or your pets. Claims can also be repudiated if you fail to properly secure your home and carry out routine maintenance.
When seeking out buildings insurance, you should be making provisions for the worst case scenario and thus seek to cover the total rebuild, or replacement, value of the home. Note that this is different the amount you paid for the property or the amount you could sell it for. The sum insured should account for building materials and labour (costs which should be linked to inflation, to account for year on year rises) professional and municipal fees and demolition and plot clearance. Calculating this figure can be complex, however, and insurers rarely provide for valuations of homes, so most homeowners in South Africa end up over-insuring their property. But you can seek out an external valuation from an assessor to make sure you’re only paying for as much cover as you need.
Many buildings insurance policies will also include personal liability cover, covering the homeowner against legal costs and claims for compensation in the event another person suffers an injury or is killed or has possessions damaged or lost on the property.
Do I need to take out buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance isn’t a legal requirement in South Africa. However, most mortgage providers require you take out buildings insurance as a condition of your home loan. This is to protect their own investment in the property.
The lender may offer you a home insurance policy bundled with your home loan, paid alongside your monthly mortgage payment. However, you’re not obligated to take up this policy and can seek out coverage from another provider. In fact, you might find a better deal by shopping around.
Buildings Insurance During Renovations
Renovating your home can add substantial value to it. But a home under renovation is exposed to unique risks, particularly if it’s unoccupied during the work. Theft and vandalism are more common in empty, possibly not completely secured properties and damage from storms and fires can be even greater. There’s also risk to the existing structures and fittings of your home caused by the building work itself. Therefore you need to inform your insurer of any work you intend to carry out. Your insurer may amend your policy and restrict cover during the works. They may also require you continue occupying the property during the work, if possible, for your policy to remain valid.
If you’re using a contractor, they’ll generally have a Contractors All Risk (CAR) policy in place, covering the work to be done, employers liability and public liability. These policies, rather than your home insurance, will often cover damage to the property or harm to others caused by the renovation. If you’re doing the work yourself, speak to your home insurance provider to see what’s covered during renovations and under what conditions.
After renovation, the value of the property will likely have increased, and you’ll need to increase the sum insured of your policy to reflect this.
Finding Cheap Home and Buildings Insurance
No one wants to overpay for their home and buildings cover. Here’s how to limit your premiums and overall costs:
Consider your excess
Typically, the more you’re willing to contribute to any claim, the less you’ll pay in premiums. Some of the cheapest policies have excesses assessed as a percentage of your claim amount, rather than a flat fee. However, this isn’t necessarily the best choice and can make excess payments unaffordable.
Get an excess free policy, if you qualify
Occasionally, customers over 55 can insure their home without an excess, and some policies waive excesses for claims related to fires, natural disasters, and malicious damage.
The larger your sum insured, the higher your premiums, so don’t arrange for more cover than you need. For buildings insurance, it could be worth seeking out an independent valuation of your property, from an assessor, and insuring only the sum they arrive at. For contents insurance, take a careful inventory of your home rather than make a rough estimate or opt for a huge sum.
There are a range of insurers offering home and buildings insurance in South Africa, with various levels of cover and at various price points. To find the policy that best suits your needs, at the best price, you should compare as many quotes as possible. Money Expert lets you shop around, all on one site, with one form. Simply input information about your property, including its type, size, security and value (or the value of the items in it) and we’ll fetch as many quotes as possible for your coverage, within minutes.
Insuring Your Holiday Home
You can sometimes extend the buildings insurance policy of your main home to cover your second, or holiday, home. Otherwise, you should seek out specialist holiday home insurance policies, for the building itself and its contents.
Empty properties are particularly vulnerable to burglary, so make sure your policies, particularly your contents policies, are up to scratch. Many owners of holiday homes underestimate the value of the possessions they leave in the property—including electrical appliances and furniture—and can be left underinsured and out of pocket in the event of a break-in.
If you’re renting out your holiday home, you should consider also getting property owners liability insurance, which can cover you if guests or tenants suffer injuries or property loss due to a fault with the home.
Insurance for Homeowners
If you have a mortgage on your home, your lender will usually require you have buildings insurance in place. These policies are sometimes known as “homeowners’ insurance” in South Africa. This might sound like catch-all coverage, but in fact, homeowner’s insurance is just buildings insurance, only covering the physical structure of the property and not the things that make it inhabitable and comfortable, including appliances, furniture and your personal possessions. And the cost of replacing these following an unfortunate event can be high.
So, as a homeowner you should also seek out a contents insurance policy, alongside your buildings insurance. It’s not mandatory, but it is a sensible precaution and one that will give you peace of mind.
Insurance for Landlords
It’s important to inform your insurer if you’re renting a property out and not living in it as an owner-occupier and see what coverage they can offer and under what terms. Sometimes your insurer will place restrictions on the type of tenant you can rent to, excluding students or multiple single tenants.
The best homeowner’s policies for landlords include coverage for lost rent if the property is made uninhabitable due an insured event, such as a fire or natural disaster. You can also seek out a specialist landlord’s insurance policy which includes cover for loss of rent and utility payments due to a tenant defaulting and the legal costs of getting a tenant evicted.
If you’re renting out the property furnished, don’t forget to take out a contents insurance policy to cover those items, such as appliances and furniture. Note that possessions kept by the tenant in the property won’t be covered by this policy.
Insurance for Renters
Renters don’t need buildings insurance for the property they’re living in, but they will want to insure the personal possessions they bring into the property. Their possessions will not be covered by any policy the landlord has in place, including the landlord’s contents insurance policy.
Renters insurance is effectively contents insurance, covering your possessions against damage or loss due to theft, natural disaster or other calamity. You’ll have to ensure you’re properly securing the home, however, including locking all windows and doors. Insurers will reject claims for theft if there’s no sign of forced entry—for example if the burglar simply walked through the door you or one of your roommates failed to lock.