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The recent Knysna fires caused billions of rand of damage. How can you make certain that your property is adequately insured in case of such a disaster?

"Fire is a standard insured risk in any policy that insures assets. Most building insurance policies also cover additional costs related to fire extinguishing, debris removal, demolition, professional fees as well as temporary alternative accommodation," says Johan Potgieter, director of Helderberg Insurance Brokers (HiB).

"The claims process does not change in such a disaster. Clients must notify their brokers as soon as possible. In a situation where so many properties are simultaneously damaged in a specific area, the local insurance industry is obviously placed under immense pressure. The insurers would then summon assessors from all over the country to assist with the assessment of all the damaged properties in order to settle claims as soon as possible."

According to Johan, the insurance industry faces a total claims bill of up to R5 billion as a result of the fires. "On the other hand, however, the settlements paid by insurers will be reinvested in the Knysna area, which in turn means an economic injection for the region. We are proud to be part of an industry that will help rebuild the area.

"If a property was sufficiently insured at the time of these fires, people will be able to replace their property and other possessions with the settlements they receive from their insurers."

But what does it mean to be sufficiently insured? "Buildings must be insured for the correct replacement value or rebuilding costs, which include VAT, fixtures, fencing, paving, swimming pool, outbuildings, and so forth. Additional provision must also be made in the insured amount for costs relating to fire extinguishing, debris removal, demolition and professional fees."

Do not forget about the contents of your property. Your home contents such as furniture, clothing, linen, jewellery, tools, electrical and electronic equipment, crockery, artwork, collections and sports equipment must be insured – in other words, everything you would take with you when you move. "It is also vital that such possessions are insured for the new replacement value," adds Johan.