Insurance for natural catastrophes

Experts are certain: in the near future, we must expect more frequent storms, heavy precipitation, hail and floods. Even earthquakes can't be ruled out. When does it pay off to get which type of insurance, and what should you look out for?

by Gabi Hophan

Damage statistics show that building damage which is compensated for is caused by far most frequently by storms, hail and floods, whereas only a few cases are due to snow loads or earthquakes. Not only homeowners but also tenants should review their insurance cover.

Building insurance for homeowners

When damage to buildings is caused by gale force winds, hail, high water and floods, avalanches, snow loads, landslides, rock slides, fire, smoke, lightning strikes and explosions, then building insurance is responsible. In most cantons, this is mandatory and regulated by law.

Water-damage insurance

In cases where heavy precipitation dams up waste water in sewers and causes damage, or when rain, snow or melt-off is especially heavy and makes its way into the house or the roof begins to leak, you need water-damage insurance. Although this is optional, it is highly recommended (see the separate heading).

Household contents insurance

This includes furniture and objects which are located in the house or apartment, on a balcony or in a garden and as a rule are not permanently attached to the building. Depending on your agreement, this insurance also covers damage due to fire, water and natural forces. In addition, theft and glass breakage can also be insured. This type of insurance is recommended for both homeowners AND tenants.

Liability insurance

Whether with private liability or property owner's liability insurance, you cover yourself against damage caused to third parties and their property (also during storms). Special rules apply to condominiums.

Regarding storm damage

To qualify as storm damage as recognised by insurance companies, a prerequisite is a wind velocity exceeding 75 km/h. You can find details on the Swiss Portal of the federal government, the cantons and local authorities. In case of doubt, for a fee you can request information from Federal Office of Meteorology and Climatology concerning how strong the wind was in a certain region.

Insider tip for parties who suffered damage

If non-insurable damage due to natural forces occurs and the insurance companies thus are not obligated to compensate you, in cases of hardship there is the Swiss Natural Forces Damage Fund Foundation which provides assistance as a result of such events. In addition, you might also hope for some assistance from the Glückskette (Swiss Solidarity). Requests for support should be directed to the community in which you live.