x Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 27 July 2017

Tower fire's lesson is: get insurance

Living without insurance on your home amounts to gambling with it, and yet many people simply do not seem to understand the importance of this kind of insurance.

Being burned out of your home would be traumatic at any time of year, but doubly difficult as year-end holiday visits and parties approach. But that, as The National reported yesterday, is the plight of hundreds of families who lost their homes and possessions in the November 18 Tamweel Tower fire in Dubai.

That case, with all the uncertainty the families still face, is a dramatic reminder of a reality that strikes many families across the country each year, often too late but normally not in wholesale batches: you really should have tenant's insurance.

This is a lesson not just for these victims, but for everyone in the UAE, where landlords and municipalities do not require people to have property insurance on building contents.

Experts estimate that only 5 to 10 per cent of UAE residents have insurance on their homes, if they are owners, or on the contents. The chief executive of the country's biggest insurance company, Oman Insurance, reportedly estimated that 80 per cent of buildings in Dubai are not adequately insured. And even when landlords have insurance, it covers the building but not residents' possessions.

This is a serious problem; living without insurance on your goods amounts to gambling with them, and yet many people simply do not seem to undertsand the importance of this kind of insurance. Do a quick mental inventory: how much would it cost you to replace your appliances, electronics, furniture, and clothing?

As a result of the low rate of burglary and other property crime in the UAE, and the sense of security in the country, many see no serious need for insurance. In general home insurance may be less a part of the culture in the Middle East than it is in Europe or the United States, where a large majority have either homeowner's or tenant's coverage.

But as victims know all too well, accidents do happen, and when they do, property insurance can greatly soften the blow.

Indeed, insurance of this type may be more important to low- and middle-income people than to those with greater resources.

Recognising that danger can threaten your home is the first step, finding suitable insurance at a tolerable price is the second.

Ideally, you will never have to make a claim against your tenant's insurance. But it's certainly better to have it and not need it than to need it and not have it.