Image Credit: Gulf News Archives

Hundreds of people were left homeless after a major fire ripped through Tamweel Tower, a residential building in Jumeirah Lakes Towers (JLT) in November 2012. More than 80 families in the Al Tawun area of Sharjah were displaced after a fire raged through residential tower Al Hafeet Tower 2 last year. People lost thousands of dirhams worth of personal belongings in these ravaging fires, yet few people still choose to insure their homes and contents.

Low take-up

Zahir Sharif, Retail Director, Zurich Insurance Middle East, says, “The take-up of home contents insurance is much lower in the UAE than in other markets. We carried out a YouGov survey at the end of last year, which found that only 6 per cent of UAE residents have it compared to 76 per cent in the UK.”

The study also found that Emirati households are most likely to have home contents insurance (20 per cent) compared to the households of Western expats (19.5 per cent), Arabs (4.1 per cent) and Asians (3.8 per cent).

“Due to the transient nature of expats, they either forget to purchase insurance or don’t believe they accumulate enough possessions that require it. Sadly, it often takes an event like the Tamweel Tower fire for people to understand why they need it,” says Sharif.

Alexis de Beauregard, Chief Officer — Marketing and Retail Product Offering, AXA Insurance Gulf, says, “We saw an increase of 2,000 per cent in our quotes and a 1,000 per cent rise in sales in the week following the fire in JLT.”

Hasheer Kottal, Manager — Insurance, Mashreq Bank, says, “We encourage potential clients to buy home insurance as coverage is vast and relating premiums very low.”

A basic home insurance policy has three components: coverage for the building, which protects the structure of the residence; contents insurance for items inside the house such as furniture; and coverage for personal possessions, including items carried outside of the house such as mobile phones and jewellery.

Standard cover

Rakhee Anand, Head of Partner Propositions — UAE, RSA, says, “A standard home insurance policy covers against fire, natural calamities, accidental damage, and other unexpected events. One is also protected from liabilities to landlords, neighbours or other third parties up to a limit.”

Some policies also protect personal possessions when travelling overseas and cover liabilities if they or a family member causes an accident at home or abroad, or if someone is injured in their house. “And, if you are temporarily unable to live at home following a claim – such as a fire – then we will pay towards the cost of an alternative place to stay until the problem is fixed,” says Sharif.

Calculating values

Before buying home contents insurance, the value of possessions should be known in order to request accurate cover.

“The Zurich UAE Home Appraisal Study found that on average, people underestimate the value of their home contents by 44 per cent,” says Zahir.

Sharif says, “Take photographs and keep an electronic inventory stored in a web-based email account.”

There are plenty of insurance options available in the UAE, so shopping around for a policy that suits is advised.