One year after the devastating flood disaster in Rhineland-Palatinate and North Rhine-Westphalia, German insurers have closed almost three quarters of all insurance claims. “Overall, we draw a positive balance for claims settlement, but now regulation depends on the pace of reconstruction,” said Jörg Asmussen, general manager of the German Insurance Association (GDV), on Wednesday in Berlin.
The coming week marks the anniversary of the “Bernd” flood disaster. On July 13, the floods on the Ahr and Erft began. Villages were destroyed, people became homeless. The total damage is estimated at 33 billion euros, of which 8.5 billion are attributable to insurers. Asmussen emphasized that it was the “biggest natural catastrophe” for the German insurance industry since records began. So far, insurers have paid out five billion euros. Almost a quarter of the cases have not yet been settled because there are no tradesmen’s invoices or the reconstruction is not yet complete.
The insurers recorded a total of 213,000 claims, in the disaster areas more than 2,000 single-family homes with insured damage of more than 100,000 euros had to be repaired. In the district of Ahrweiler, the average damage was 210,000 euros per residential building. This is the highest average damage ever measured for residential buildings. Every fourth house in the Euskirchen district was damaged.
“The flood disaster was also an enormous challenge for us insurers,” said Sabine Krummenerl, Chairwoman of the GDV Private Customers Committee. “The flood catastrophe caused a particularly large number of particularly expensive and particularly complex damages.”
However, many of those affected were not even insured against the natural disaster. In Germany, only around half of residential buildings are covered by natural hazard insurance against flooding or heavy rain. In order to also support those who are not insured, the federal and state governments have set up an aid fund of 30 billion euros. However, the prime ministers of the federal states have now asked the Federal Ministry of Justice to submit proposals for compulsory insurance for all homeowners by the end of the year.
The Federal Environment Ministry generally approves of this idea. “I definitely have sympathy for compulsory insurance,” said State Secretary Christiane Rohleder (Greens) to the Tagesspiegel. However, the devil is in the details. In order for compulsory insurance to really help, the deductible should not be too high. At the same time, the burden of the contributions should also be not be too high. In this respect, one will have to examine carefully how a corresponding compulsory insurance could be designed. “In any case, it is important that more buildings are insured against natural hazards. Since extreme weather conditions are increasing as a result of the climate crisis, damage to buildings can occur anywhere in Germany,” emphasized Rohleder
The insurance association, on the other hand, rejects such compulsory insurance, but calls for greater efforts to avoid damage: “Compulsory insurance alone does not prevent damage. If we neglect prevention and climate change adaptation, climate change will set in motion a spiral of increasing damage and rising premiums,” said Asmussen.
In October of last year, the insurers presented an overall concept that, in addition to supplementing all building insurance contracts with so-called elementary damage insurance, proposes a ban on new construction in locations at risk of flooding, better structural adjustments and less sealing. “Sometimes it’s enough if buildings are not built at ground level, but on a small base. People only benefit in the long term if prevention is consistently considered,” said Asmussen.
As far as insurance protection is concerned, the insurers are in favor of all new contracts having protection against natural hazards. Existing contracts are to be converted on a specific day. Insurance customers should be given the opportunity to object to the changeover.