Festive Season: Be vigilant, be safe warn travel insurers

2017-12-20 07:49 - Unathi Nkanjeni
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Cape Town - With more holidaymakers in South Africa using the short-term vacation rental site, Airbnb, insurance implications for home-owners are now raising big concerns. 

Last year, South African Airbnb hosts welcomed almost 400 000 guests between 1 January and 31 December 2016

This year, with the number is expected to see an increase due to the peak tourism season. As a result, Marike van Niekerk, legal and compliance manager at MUA Insurance Acceptances, warns property owners should have adequate insurance in place.

“Home-owners need to be aware that the risk of short-term rentals are much higher for the insurer. Normal personal short-term insurance policies will, in these types of situations, either exclude or limit cover,” she says. 

Van Niekerk explains that it is also very important to have appropriate legal liability cover in place to avoid facing excessive claims for injuries to the guests who have rented your property.  

“Although Airbnb provides the host with a protection cover, this policy primarily covers the host and landlord against third party liability claims for guests that suffer injury or property damage during their stay.

"This cover is capped and there are exclusions applicable.  It is therefore crucial for the landlord to know exactly what is excluded under this protection cover.”

ALSO SEE: Cape Water Crisis: New initiative to help tourism sector reduce usage

While normal home contents policies cover malicious and accidental damages to property, Van Niekerk further advises that claims for theft or malicious damage of household contents can be rejected if there are no signs of forced entry. 

Added to that, she says when a host decides to rent out their property on Airbnb or the like, they need to inform their broker.

“In addition to legal liability and home contents insurance, your broker will be able to advise on any other or additional cover that you may need," she adds. 

Highlight the importance of complying with local authority requirements, Van Niekerk says some properties must be appropriately zoned for rental purposes and in some cases require consent from the local authority.  

In Cape Town, letting flats out is illegal without the proper approval processes in place

The City of Cape Town's mayoral committee member, Brett Herron told Traveller24 that the City, through its Municipal Planning By-law (MPBL), together with its policies and frameworks, will provide control over holiday accommodation within the city. 

"There are mechanisms for short-term rentals and bed-and-breakfasts in dwelling houses," says Herron. "Larger-scale holiday accommodation can take place in guest houses and in hotels."

SEE: Cape Town Airbnb hosts must adhere to municipal by-law and zone restrictions

Van Niekerk says screening guests by conducting thorough credit checks will help to further mitigate the risks associated with renting out one’s property to strangers.

“Refunds for reservations and cancellation fees payable by paying guests will not be covered in terms of your general personal insurance policy,” she says. 

Travel insurance for travellers

Travel insurance has also become more common for countries to require visitors to prove that they have adequate travel insurance just in case something goes wrong on their trip.

As fun and exciting as it is to travel, it can also come with its own set of risks and dangers.

By taking out travel insurance you are essentially covering yourself against travel risks such as lost or stolen luggage, cancellation cover (should you not be able to travel due to unexpected medical reasons) and most importantly, unexpected medical costs abroad.

SEE: #TravelEssentials: 4 Ways travel insurance can really save you from disaster

Here are ten tips for finding the best travel insurance before travelling

Get your travel dates right

It sounds simple, but it’s a mistake that people do make, and it’s very important to get it right because if you don’t you could invalidate your whole policy.

Check that you are eligible for cover and buy the policy before you travel

Most travel insurance policies sold in different countries require you to be a resident in order to be covered. - UK and SA for example.

The definitions of a resident may vary from policy to policy, a common requirement is how long have you been living in the country for at the time of purchase.

Don’t hang around – buy travel insurance as soon as you book your holiday

To get the full benefit of cancellation cover you should buy your travel insurance as soon as you book your trip. That way you’re covered if you need to cancel for various reasons such as illness or redundancy.

Get the start date on your annual travel insurance right

When you buy an annual policy you will usually be asked when you want the cover to start.

It might seem like a good idea to start the cover on the date you depart for your next holiday, but that might leave you financially exposed if you need to cancel the trip.

Kids may be covered free of charge, but don’t forget to mention them.

Many family policies will cover children under 18 free of charge. Even though there is no charge, you still need to list them when you buy a policy. If your insurer doesn’t know they exist they won’t be covered.

Declare any pre-existing medical conditions

No matter how minor a condition may seem, you need to declare it when you buy travel insurance. Anything and everything from mild asthma, to high blood pressure and heart disease needs to be declared, even if these are controlled by medication.

Tailor your policy to suit your budget and your holiday

It’s easy to tailor your policy to get the right cover for your holiday by adding additional options or making sure that you’re not paying for cover that you don’t need.

If you’re travelling to Europe get an EHIC

The European Health Insurance Card (EHIC) entitles you to low cost (and sometimes free) healthcare in the European Economic Area and Switzerland.

Get covered for sports and activities

Think about whether you’re going to take part in any sports or activities on holiday. If you are, check the policy details to see if they are covered as standard or whether you need to buy extra coverage.

Do your research before you travel

No matter where you’re going on holiday, it pays to do some research first. Strikes, civil unrest and health issues can all affect your travel insurance cover.

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