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Latest News Home insurance and heatwaves; what are you covered for?

Home insurance and heatwaves; what are you covered for?

Home insurance and heatwaves; what are you covered for?

Heatwaves are on the increase. According to the Met Office, the ten warmest years since 1884 have taken place since 2002. In 2022, at least twenty weather stations recorded maximum temperatures of 34°C or higher on more than six days in a row. Moreover, they recorded five ‘tropical nights’ when temperatures didn’t drop below 20°C. Indeed, all years since the beginning of the century – bar three – have seen at least one tropical night.

Severe heatwaves are of particular concern to householders because of the damage they cause. One of the most expensive threats that heat causes to properties is subsidence. The record-breaking heatwave in 2022 led insurers to expect payouts of £219 million to settle some 23,000 subsidence claims.

Given the many problems heatwaves can cause, this article talks you through some of the most common issues, and ways of protecting your home, property, and wellbeing in extreme heat. We also explain how you can get the right insurance cover to meet your needs and give you maximum peace of mind.

What is classified as a heatwave in the UK?

The Met Office sets heatwave temperature thresholds in the UK for different counties, cities, and regions. These vary between 25°C and 28°C. Northern Ireland, Scotland, much of northern England, the western parts of Wales, plus Devon and Cornwall have a threshold of 25°C. Greater London and some neighbouring counties have a threshold of 28°C, with all the southeast and eastern England having a threshold of at least 27°C. You can see a map of the different thresholds here.

The minimum temperature must be met or exceeded for three consecutive days to be defined a heatwave.


The effects of heatwaves on buildings and homes

Heatwaves – especially prolonged ones – can lead to a variety of problems for your property and possessions. These are some of the most common problems homeowners experience when temperatures soar.

  • Subsidence. When there are high temperatures and little or no rainfall, soil dries out. This is particularly true of clay-rich soils. If this happens, it can cause the foundations of your home to move, resulting in subsidence. This problem can be exacerbated if you have large trees near your property as they’ll draw water from the soil and often extend their roots to find new supplies.
  • Garden fires. Dry grass and vegetation make your garden and grounds more susceptible to fire. This is a particular problem during a period when many people get outside to enjoy barbecues. If fire spreads, it can destroy trees, fences, garages, sheds, decking and even your home.
  • Broken roofs. When extreme heat is beating down on your roof, and moisture rises from inside your home, the structure of your roof can twist and crack.
  • Storm damage. Heatwaves can be punctuated by heavy rains and thunderstorms. This is a real problem when the ground is very dry and can’t absorb rainwater well. This can lead to flash flooding that can penetrate your home and damage vehicles.
  • Overheating. Some properties, particularly smaller flats in urban areas, are at risk of overheating during heatwaves. Excessive heat can be dangerous, especially for very young or older people or those with certain health conditions.
  • Crime. When it’s hot, people tend to leave windows and doors open. As the weather warms up there’s often a spike in burglaries. Many of these are made easier by homeowners leaving unsecured doors and windows when they’re not home.
  • Problems with electronics. You need to be careful with electrical and electronic equipment during extreme heat. Leaving devices like mobile phones and tablets in the sun can damage screens and batteries. Fridge freezers also have to work harder to keep food cool and can easily overheat if you don’t close their doors properly.


How to prepare your home for a heatwave

With heatwaves becoming more common in the UK, preparing your home is a good idea. These are some of our top tips:

  • Upgrade your insulation. Good insulation in your attic or roof space not only helps prevent heat from escaping during cold weather but also helps prevent your home from heating up when there are high temperatures outdoors.
  • Service your air conditioning. If you’re lucky enough to have an air conditioning system, get it serviced regularly and clean or replace air filters according to the manufacturer’s guidelines.
  • Maintain fans. If you have fixed or portable fans, ensure they are clean and working correctly. If you need additional fans, get them before temperatures rise – demand increases when there’s a heatwave, and they can become difficult to source.
  • Create shade in the garden. Plant trees or bushes in your garden to create pools of shade and potentially shade your windows during hot weather.
  • Create a cool zone. If you don’t have air conditioning throughout your home, get a portable air conditioner and use it to create a cool zone. Choose a room, ideally on a lower floor that doesn’t attract direct sunshine during the hottest parts of the day.
  • Seal windows and doors. Just as ill-fitting windows and doors let heat out in cold weather, they let heat in when temperatures soar. Check that yours are properly fitted and sealed and get them repaired if necessary.
  • Install heat-repelling window films. These can reflect heat from the sun and are especially helpful if you have a conservatory that gets hot during heatwaves.


As well as preparing your home for a heatwave, it’s a good idea to be informed if hot weather is predicted. In addition to keeping an eye on the weather forecast, people in England can sign up for the ‘Heat-health’ alert service. While aimed at health and social care professionals, anyone can sign up for it. You can find more information here.

You could also consider putting together a heatwave emergency kit. This could include fresh water, handheld fans, cooling gels, sunscreen, and a first aid kit. It’s also sensible to include your insurance documents and a list of emergency contact numbers, such as those for your doctor and vet.


How to protect your home during a heatwave

Once a heatwave strikes, you need to take measures to protect your home, belongings, and health. These could include:

  • Close curtains and blinds. Block out direct sunlight, helping to keep your home cooler.
  • Keep windows and doors closed during the day. This helps keep cool air in and hot air out. You can open them to let cooler air in early in the morning or when temperatures cool at night. Always be sure to lock doors and windows if you leave your home.
  • Switch off unnecessary appliances. Turn off any unused electrical equipment that emits heat, including laptops, PCs, and chargers.
  • Run ceiling fans anticlockwise. If you have a ceiling fan, it may give you the option to run it anticlockwise. This creates a breeze rather than pushing warm air down in your room.
  • Don’t use your oven or hob. Eat cold food rather than heat your home further with your cooker. If you choose to cook outdoors, be sure not to ignite dry grass or vegetation. When using a barbecue, keep water and/or a fire extinguisher close in case you need to put out a blaze.
  • Use ice. Putting a bowl or bottle of ice in front of a portable fan can help cool your home.
  • Keep devices out of the heat. This will help avoid damage.
  • Move mirrors out of sunlight. These can amplify heat and even cause fires if they are in direct sunlight.
  • Check on pets. Make sure pets keep out of extreme temperatures and have access to shade and plenty of water.


Common hot weather home insurance claims

Every year, hotter weather results in a variety of home insurance claims. The most common include subsidence, fires, roof damage, storm damage, and theft. If you notice signs of subsidence, it’s important to take action quickly by contacting your insurer or broker – the longer subsidence is left, the more costly it will be to fix.

If you are a landlord, you would normally claim under your landlords building insurance. It’s also important to make sure you are covered against malicious damage. In the summer months, levels of vandalism and antisocial behaviour spike, so it’s important to protect your property from potential problems.



What does home insurance cover you for during a heatwave?

Home insurance (or landlord insurance) is vital to protect your home during a heatwave. While heatwaves aren’t an insured peril, many problems they cause are. These include things like fires, explosions, lightning damage, and smoke.

Both home insurance and landlord building insurance will normally protect you against subsidence. However, this generally depends on there being no previous history of subsidence at your property or in the local area. Because this is an expensive problem to put right, there’s likely to be a high excess on your policy – often in the region of £1,000.

If your property hasn’t been directly affected by subsidence, but you’re in a high-risk area, you will likely face higher premiums, a refusal of cover, or having to take out a policy that excludes subsidence.

While some policies will provide limited cover for damage to gardens, you’ll need a policy with ‘contents in the open’ cover to protect items such as garden furniture. This will normally cover a limited sum, typically up to £1,000. If you need extra cover, you may be able to increase this limit.

Does home insurance cover a garden fire?

Yes, home insurance and landlord buildings insurance policies cover garden fires that get out of control and spread. However, this will depend on whether you took reasonable precautions to control the fire.

Fire damage to property will usually be covered, whereas burning your lawn may not.  Starting any fire in your garden should be taken with caution. Ideally, it should be contained, such as in a fire bin, and it should be lit well away from property and anything that may be flammable.

Does home insurance cover wildfire damage?

Yes, wildfire damage is covered under home insurance and landlord buildings insurance.

As you’ve seen, recent years have seen an uptick in both the frequency and intensity of heatwaves. While there are many sensible precautions you can take to protect your property, belongings, and wellbeing during periods of extreme heat, it’s also essential to have the right home insurance or landlords building insurance cover.

Alan Boswell Group is highly experienced at giving you the cover you need to deal with the unexpected. To make sure you’re covered against the risks posed by heatwaves, speak to a member of our specialist team on 01603 216399.