While having insurance to protect your personal belongings is standard in many countries around the world, just over one in ten UAE residents have a home contents policy in place, a new survey has found.
According to the price comparison website, yallacompare.com, only 11 per cent of UAE consumers are subscribed to a policy. This is far lower than developed markets, such as the UK, which global insurer Zurich says has a penetration rate of 75 per cent.
The yallacompare poll, which surveyed just under 400 residents, found a quarter of consumers have no protection because they believe policies are too expensive. A similar number stated there was no point in having it while 12 per cent assumed it was covered by their landlords.
Jonathan Rawling, the chief financial officer of yallcompare, says more work needs to be done to ensure consumers are aware of the importance of home insurance.
“Our answer to those who think home insurance is too expensive would be that, actually, it’s a bargain compared to the alternative of losing all of your belongings and having to replace them yourself," he says.
A 2016 study carried out by the company found it would cost at least Dh28,000 to refurnish an average one bedroom apartment in the UAE.
“That’s a lot compared to cost of the average home insurance policy sold on yallacompare – about Dh220," Mr Rawling says.
The low penetration rate for home contents insurance in the UAE has hovered around the 10 per cent mark for several years, which is surprising considering a spate of high-profile fires in Dubai saw some residents lose the entire contents of their homes.
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Last August some residents of Dubai Marina’s Torch Tower lost out when the second fire in two years damaged parts of the building. The second blaze that raced up the southwest corner of the building erupted just weeks after authorities approved repairs to damage from the first fire that broke out in 2015.
Residents of Tamweel Tower in Dubai’s Jumeirah Lake Towers, which was gutted by a fire in November 2012, also know the ramifications of not protecting their belongings. Repairs to the 34-storey building in Jumeirah Lakes Towers took five years to complete, with residents, many of whom lost the entire contents of their homes, only moving back in September last year.
While skyscraper fires generally trigger an increase in policy sales as stories of residents caught out by not having coverage in place abound, experts say this rarely translates into long-term buying of protective cover.
Bana Shomali, co-founder of the online marketplace ServiceMarket, says it experienced a 200 per cent increase in home insurance enquiries following the 2016 Sulafa Tower fire in Dubai Marina.
In the aftermath of the first Torch Tower fire, RSA Insurance experienced a 400 per cent increase in enquiries and a 90 per cent rise in policy purchases, the company told The National. But the insurer stressed that it is often only in the immediate aftermath of an event of this nature that residents are inclined to purchase policies.
As well as fire, the most common issues affecting UAE residents' homes, include electrical malfunction, with 27 per cent of those polled by the yallacompare study revealing this had threatened their belongings, while 11 per cent reported incidents of flood damage. Only 4 per cent of those polled said they had been burgled.
One issue that often arises after big fires is that affected tenants wrongly assume their home contents are covered under the landlord’s or building’s policies.
According to yallacompare’s recent study, 12 per cent of those polled believed that home insurance was the landlord's responsibility.
Mr Rawling says there are three types of insurance involved in an apartment. While a landlord should have buildings insurance in place to protect the structure of their villa or apartment as well as its fixtures and fittings, the owners of the actual building, or the management association looking after it, should insure the building itself to cover the exterior of the building and the communal areas.
"The third part is the contents, which are generally owned by the tenant. None of the other two types of insurance will help you as a tenant - even a tiny bit - in the event of a claim," says Mr Rawling.
Ms Shomali says tenants can buy cover that costs as little as Dh17 a day.
However, according to yallacompare's study, three in 10 believe Dh100 a year would constitute a reasonable price to pay for cover.
"Home insurance has serious benefits to both homeowners and tenants," says Ms Shomali. "You may not consider your belongings to be valuable, however replacing them after such an event would cost thousands, and you could potentially need to pay for replacement accommodation. Furthermore, home insurance protects you against accidental damage to the property and any liability to your landlord."