At least 35 of the 676 apartments in The Torch had contents insurance. Image Credit: Zarina Fernandes/ Gulf News

Dubai: Insurance companies say insuring home contents is easier and cheaper than most of us think, but only very few do it and, often, only after tragedy has already struck.

UAE laws require buildings to be insured – this includes the structure itself and common areas.

But contents of individual homes, in cases of residential buildings, are not covered, a fact most residents are not aware of.

Only six per cent of UAE residents have home contents insurance based on a Zurich-commissioned survey in 2013, compared with 76 per cent in the UK.

Interest in home insurance peaked again days after The Torch tower fire on February 21 but insurers are unsure if this will translate into actual sales.

“While we all understand the necessity, it appears that a large proportion of this market cannot connect with the concept. In fact, we have noticed that it is only in the period following unfortunate events that people rush to purchase these policies,” David Harris, Director – Affinity and Direct, UAE and Bahrain at RSA Insurance, told Gulf News.

Getting an insurance policy can be done online, personally, or facilitated by an agent through the phone and can be done within at least five minutes.

The average premium per year is Dh700, with the minimum starting at Dh225 for a coverage of Dh75,000 (prices vary). Some premiums, depending on the coverage, are below Dh2,000 but for high net-worth individuals, there is no limit.

Most residents accumulate belongings in their homes, which, if taken collectively, could be very costly to replace.

“Some events, such as a fire, are not always in our control and could happen at any time. Couple that with the fact that contents insurance could cost in one year as little as you’d pay for Salik or petrol in one month and the proposition becomes very reasonable,” Ramsey Chami, Head of Personal Property and Private Client Group – MENA at AIG, told Gulf News.

Residential fires make up the majority of fires reported in 2014. Some 220 fires took place in residential buildings, including apartments and villas, followed by skyscrapers, statistics from the Dubai Civil Defence show.

In The Torch tower case, at least 35 out of the 676 apartments have home or contents insurance, companies that Gulf News spoke to said.

More than half of the insured homes did not sustain any damages, while some residents’ homes were devastated by the fire. Those affected have already received the first instalments of their claims from their insurance company to help them start life anew.

Others whose homes are uninhabitable and have insurance with Zurich have been provided paid alternative accommodation for up to one year until they can return to their apartments.

But it’s not only fires that should ring alarm bells for residents.

“While incidents of crime are very low, we see many accidents within homes, including leaky air conditioning units, burst pipes, electrical fires and sometimes major incidents, such as the fire at The Torch tower. The losses resulting from these incidents can be devastating for individuals and families. But if you have home contents insurance then at least you can make a claim to help you replace your lost items and start rebuilding your lives,” Zahir Sharif, General Manager UAE, Zurich Insurance Middle East, said.