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Sudden Damage Vs. Gradual Damage

While policy wording may differ between traditional buildings combined cover and assets all risk cover, the basic exclusions (what is not covered) remain the same.

The norm in respect of sectional title building policies is to provide cover for damage to buildings that occurs suddenly rather than having manifested gradually, over an extended period of time. For purposes of illustration, various examples will be used to differentiate between a valid claim and otherwise maintenance cost or expense for the owner of the building.

Typical claim events are those that are unforeseeable and that arise suddenly; examples include (but not limited to) storm wind, flood, hail damage, fire damage, damage caused by impact to building by vehicles or trees, damage to the buildings caused by thieves in the process of breaking into the building, water damage caused by burst pipes and/or burst or ruptured geysers or water tanks, earthquake, etc.

Typical damage circumstances that would not qualify for claim consideration are those that arise gradually and over a period of time; examples include (but not limited to) any form of corrosion, rust, damp, mildew, rot, erosion, settlement, pests or vermin, leaks, wear and tear or ageing. Therefore, a pipe in the wall that has corroded and developed pinholes that causes a fine spray, drip inside the wall that causes damp that results in flaking or bubbling paint and lime effervescent or black mildew/moss and perhaps even rotten wood or chipboard in fixtures, are certainly not valid insurance claims.

With resultant water damage events, one should always ask oneself: how quickly did the damage occur? If the ceilings were dry one minute and wet the next, you are bound to have a valid claim for the resultant water damages. If water streams down the wall and saturates your carpets and floods over the flooring, then you are bound to have a valid claim.

The converse would be damage caused by water ingress from a leak (gradually operating cause), albeit due to failed waterproofing to the exterior (leaking roof, worn membrane), pitted pipe, leaking waste trap or outlet pipe, rising damp and/or moisture. These events certainly don’t manifest suddenly but rather give rise to damages by way of bubbling paint, mildew/moss, lime deposit/scale, rotten wood and rotten carpet underlay, etc. There should be no expectation for these damage circumstances to be considered a claim by the insurers.

IMPORTANT TIP: when claiming for water damage to the buildings, always submit claim promptly. Also include digital photos of the damage.

In the case of failed pipes, always request the repairing plumbing contractor to provide a detailed report confirming both the condition of the pipe and the cause of failure. This will allow the insurer to make a correct decision as to claim outcome.


Author: Brian Addison

Contact Addsure – The Leaders in Sectional Title Insurance – to get fit and proper advice from advisors who understand sectional title. Contact us in Johannesburg on (011) 704-3858; in Durban on (031) 459-1795 and in Cape Town on (021) 551-5069