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Flooding after a storm: who pays for the damage?

Flood water in the area of Zofingen: how are damages insured if houses or basements are flooded? What does the buildings insurance cover and how are my possessions insured?

11 July 2017, text: Fabian Weidmann, photo: iStock

Two people walk across a flooded road and try to protect themselves from the rain with an umbrella.
When water becomes a threat: a flooded street becomes a rushing river.

Heavy rainfall recently flooded the region of Zofingen (AG). Up to 80 litres of rain fell per square metre within two hours. The storm flooded entire houses and basements with mud and water, and in some places caused a lot of property damage. Some homeowners whose residences were affected by the results of the storm may ask themselves: “Who will pay for clearing out my flooded basement? And how are my possessions that perished in the masses of water insured?”

“Canton competitiveness” in building insurance

Basically, damage to the building is covered by buildings insurance, but furniture and items in the house are insured by household contents insurance. In most of the cantons, buildings insurance has a canton-wide monopoly, such as in Aargau, where the Aargauische Gebäudeversicherung covers the damage for the canton area. The canton buildings insurance covers damages caused by fire or the elements. This also includes flooding

Supplementary insurance necessary in certain cases

If the flooding was not caused by the elements, but by something like a plugged drain, it is possible that the buildings insurance will not cover the damages. This is the case if, because of a plugged drain, the water flows into a light well instead of the sewer system and floods the basement. In this case, besides the buildings insurance, supplementary insurance in the form of a private buildings-water insurance is necessary.

In some cantons, however, private insurance companies like Helvetia are responsible for fire and elements insurance. Specifically, these cantons include Geneva, Uri, Schwyz, Tessin, Appenzell Innerhoden, Wallis and Obwalden - they are grouped under the term “Gustawo”.

Do not underestimate the value of your household contents

Storm damage needs to be reported not only to the buildings insurance. Moveable items such as furniture, clothing, computers and other objects are covered by the household contents insurance. We recommend creating an inventory list when you take out a new household contents insurance. This guarantees that the sum insured can be accurately determined, and there are no unpleasant surprises due to underinsurance. Also, when you move or acquire new furniture, the sum insured should be checked to avoid underinsurance in the future as well.

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