Whether for landlords or tenants, our homes are our largest financial investment. Amazingly, we leave them exposed to so many disasters including burglary, vandalism, and fire yet there are affordable and accessible insurance policies.
Michael Mpanga, an insurance agent with Gold Star Insurance Company describes homeowners insurance as a form of property insurance designed to protect an individual’s home against damages to the house itself, or to possessions in the home. Homeowners insurance also provides liability coverage against accidents in the home or on the property.
In simple terms, you pay 0.25 per cent of the value of your property to be sure that your most valuable item is insured against any risk. By appearance this should be a simple thing to do; go to someone who owns or lives in a home/block or flat, tell him why they should buy the policy and sign the paperwork. Yet the picture is totally different for Mpanga who has to work hard to undo years of entrenched misconceptions and suspicion.
“Most people are suspicious of home insurance. It is hard to introduce a new policy because people look at you as someone who is trying to defraud them. Most people’s minds just close at the mention of the word insurance,” Mpanga narrates.
With two apartment blocks in a prominent Kampala suburb, a shopping mall in Namugongo, and several semi-detached rentals, Jamil Katongole is a property mogul by Ugandan standards. Who more than him to need this insurance? Yet Katongole believes that insurance coverage is a complete waste of money. “What if I never need it?” He asks me. Because he travels a lot, Katongole has health insurance and, of course, his 2016 Range Rover is fully insured. Probed as to why he has those two covers but cannot consider homeowners insurance, Katongole responds by invoking the name of Allah as if to ward off any future bad luck this discussion could have summoned adding that he trusts God to keep his lifetime investments from any such risk.
“For most people, insurance is largely out of sight and out of mind. From my interactions with many Ugandans, I know that insurance is the lowest-ranked financial priority along with saving for retirement and sticking to a budget,” says Donato Laboke, the marketing and strategy manager at Lion Assurance.
Laboke says as an industry, they have their job cut out for them but they are making considerable progress in sensitising the population about insurance through advertising and training sessions.
According to Mpanga, currently the only people who are aware of this insurance policy and actually take it out are the elite and expatriates. The other group is those who have taken out bank mortgages because some banks require you to buy homeowners insurance to cover the amount of your mortgage.
Who should take out a homeowner’s insurance policy?
Laboke suggests that everyone who lives in a home is legible for an insurance policy. Because there are different covers, everyone from the owner of the home to the tenant can buy a policy.
There are covers for the structure of your home, personal possessions and liability to others.
This policy pays to repair or rebuild your home if it is damaged or destroyed by fire, flood or earthquake. When purchasing coverage for the structure of your home, remember this simple guideline; purchase enough coverage to rebuild your home.
With a personal belongings policy, your furniture, clothes, sports equipment and other personal items are covered if they are stolen or destroyed by fire, flood or other insured disasters. And you can take it independent of the structure that you call home. It extends to portable items such as laptops and phones too, even if they are stolen or damaged away from home.
Liability covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage that you or family members cause to other people. It also pays for damage caused by your pets. So, if your son, daughter or dog accidentally ruins a neighbour’s expensive house, you are covered.
The liability portion of your policy pays for both the cost of defending you in court and any court awards up to the limit stated in your policy documents. Your policy also provides no-fault medical coverage, so if a friend or neighbour is injured in your home, he or she can simply submit medical bills to your insurance company. This way, expenses are paid without a liability claim being filed against you. It does not, however, pay the medical bills for your own family or your pet.
Laboke says insurance premiums are similar and are regulated by the Insurance Regulatory Authority of Uganda (IRA) 2000(Insurance Act). “No insurance company should pretend to offer better premiums,” he emphasises. Therefore, premium rates are determined by the value of your home or property. Basic premium for home is 0.125 per cent of the property value. Therefore, if one’s property is valued at Shs300m, they will be expected to pay Shs375,000 annually before taxes.
Basic premium for furniture is 0.75 per cent, 1 per cent for non-movables (refridgerator), and three per cent for portable items ( such as mobile phones). Going by this percentage, an individual who wants to insure their mobile phone which is for instance valued at Shs1.5M will pay Shs45,000 for a year.
Choosing the right agent
An insurance agent makes all the difference as their level of expertise can make or break you at claim time. All agents work on commission. A knowledgeable and capable agent is paid exactly the same percentage as an agent with little or no expertise so why not choose the best?
Before selecting an agent, research about them as well as the firm they are associated with. Your first step is to do an online search of the agent’s name and firm. Are there any news articles about them? Have they faced any lawsuits? Are there any reviews? Have a look at their website. Is it professional? Are there any testimonials? You may also want to look at their social media pages for reviews and educational content.
Next, ask them directly about their experience before trusting them as your insurance advisor. Find one that is honest and trustworthy. They also should be passionate and enthusiastic about what they do, and of course, you should like your agent. It’s much easier to do business with people we like than people we don’t.