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Does household or fire insurance cover any loss caused by lack of maintenance or gradual deterioration?

Many housing estate windows were damaged when Typhoon Vicente passed close to Hong Kong in 2012. Generally speaking, most home insurance policies cover any loss caused by a typhoon. However, if the damage comes about as a result of lack of maintenance or through gradual deterioration, will it still be covered by home insurance policy?

During the night that Typhoon Vicente affected Hong Kong, Ms. Lai discovered water seepage at the base of the walls inside her bedroom which, in turn, caused water damage to the timber skirting and her bed. Ms. Lai subsequently lodged a claim with her insurance company as her premises were already protected by home and building insurance. After assessment, Ms. Lai’s insurer reimbursed her for the cost of a new bed, new timber skirting as well as the cost of repainting the affected areas of her bedroom walls.

However, Ms. Lai’s insurer declined her claim for the repair of concrete walls, rusted steel bars and waterproofing work. Why was Ms. Lai’s claim for the expense of maintenance work rejected?

This part of Ms. Lai’s claim was declined because the underlying cause of the problem occurred in external walls in which no easily visible or obvious damage caused by the typhoon was identified. Her insurer concluded that the water had seeped through a crack which had come about through natural wear and tear.

As wear and tear is excluded by the majority of home insurance policies, Ms. Lai’s claim for repair and maintenance work was rejected. Apart from the extent of the cover provided by the insurance policy, customers should also understand the excluded items to avoid dispute.

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