Laying the right foundation: Be wary of construction defects and rejected insurance claims

Acquiring a home is often a major investment decision, yet ironically, sometimes also a decision resulting in great financial loss. Homeowners frequently experience loss through theft or damage to their home, with damage generally arising from accidents or natural causes. It is for these reasons that it is critical for a homeowner to protect his interests, principally through obtaining homeowner’s insurance policies. These insurance policies help reduce your risk by moving the risk of loss or damage to the insurer in exchange for the payment of a premium.

However, obtaining homeowner’s insurance does not mean you are covered for every eventuality. Is this protection absolute, or does it have exclusions and terms and conditions which may affect the extent of your protection? Knowing the terms of your insurance and understanding the implications thereof are important to ensuring that your primary asset is well protected against future loss or harm.

A homeowner who has a homeowner’s insurance policy is indemnified by his insurer in the event that he should suffer loss, up to the total value of the loss or the total value for which he is insured, whichever is the smaller. Payment of any insurance proceeds is however subject to the terms and conditions of the insurance policy and the approval of the insurance claim by the insurer.

Various factors are taken into account by the insurer when considering insurance claims, with the most significant factor being a determination as to whether the insured is actually covered for the loss which he is claiming for.

Certain events are specifically excluded by the insurer and, unbeknown to most people, this often includes poor design or construction as the main or most likely cause of the loss. 

Design or construction defects can include poorly damp-proofed building foundations, inadequate roof pitch preventing water from flowing freely off the roof, insufficient spacing of tiles and boundary walls not built according to applicable regulations. For example, if tiles in an insured’s home start cracking as a result of inadequate spacing which allows for normal contraction and expansion, the insured might not have a valid claim against his insurer.

This can be devastating for a homeowner who has already sustained damage to his home and does not have the funds to repair the damage himself and trusting that his insurer would cover him in the event of such loss.

It is thus vital for every homeowner to know exactly what his insurer will cover him for and what is excluded. But even more importantly, to be aware of any potential construction defects in your home which could result in damage.

When deciding to purchase a house, consider obtaining the help of a qualified professional to help inspect the property to ascertain whether or not the property has been built in accordance with relevant building regulations or similar legislation, to avoid your insurance claims being rejected in the event of loss due to structural or building defects.

In the event that you have already purchased your home and have taken out a homeowner’s insurance policy with an insurer who will not cover you for damage arising from construction defects, you can still avoid having your insurance claims rejected by rectifying (where possible) the construction defects before serious damage is done to your home.

However, for the individual who is of the opinion that the above measures are too challenging or costly for him a simpler remedy is available. Although insurance policies appear to be rigid agreements, an arrangement can always be made with the insurer to accommodate the insured’s specific needs. An insured can take out an extension of cover which will indemnify him for loss due to an event that is not typically covered by the insurer. This will generally result in an increase in the insurance premiums payable, a cost that must be weighed against the possibility of the event arising and the damage that may ensue should such event arise.

Insurers indicate in their policy documents that clients should read the agreements carefully. However, with homeowners often intimidated by the legal nature of the documents or pre-occupied with their sale transaction, this task if often disregarded. To ensure that you are aware of your insurance coverage and exclusions, make a point of reading your homeowners insurance policy and consider addressing any risk areas that may fall outside your policy with you insurer to avoid future disappointment.

May 20, 2013
Shining success in pivotal IT sector merger

Shining success in pivotal IT sector merger

In a landmark transaction that promises to redefine the landscape of South Africa’s information technology and telecommunications sector, the M&A Team of PH Attorneys played a crucial role in facilitating the acquisition of a leading cyber security software firm by a multinational enterprise software procurement company. This deal not only marks a significant milestone for both firms involved but also holds implications for the broader African market.

Leave to Appeal vs Special Leave to Appeal

Leave to Appeal vs Special Leave to Appeal

On 4 April 2024 in the matter of Savannah Country Estate Homeowners Association v Zero Plus Trading 194 (Pty) Ltd and Others (773/2022) [2024] ZASCA 40, our Supreme Court of Appeal (“SCA”) had to address the important difference between an application for leave to appeal and an application for special leave to appeal. In this article, we analyse the SCA’s views in this regard.

Sign up to our newsletter

Pin It on Pinterest