Home insurance cover ‘rarely’ sought in Qatar

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“Your home is the biggest investment you will ever make. Imagine suddenly losing your home or the furniture inside to fire, burglary or a natural disaster”.

Sounds like a sales pitch off a home insurance brochure? It actually is. But is it working? About a dozen insurance firms that operate in Qatar say, no!
They blame it on lack of awareness and a general assumption in public that it’s something very expensive.
“People in Qatar are not insurance-conscious at all. Take the example of car insurance, for instance. We are now doing good business solely because it’s mandatory to have your vehicle covered under a policy,” an official of Qatar Insurance Company (QIC) said on condition of anonymity.

When a residential property is indeed insured, it is usually the European or neighbourhood compounds, where the protection is sought as part of the contract between the property owner and the property management only.

“Rarely, there will be a local homeowner seeking a policy based on his/her past experience. In that case, it is usually the fire protection policy, often for homes, occasionally for both the property and the contents,” Al Khaleej Insurance and Reinsurance official explained the process of signing up usually takes a day while filing for claim takes anywhere from three days to three weeks, depending on whether an insurance firm has further re-insured the property with another firm or processes it in-house.
“For a villa worth QR1mn the annual fire policy premium should not be more than QR1,000. Is it not worth it?” he questioned.
In case of a building comprehensively insured, protected against the loss of or damage to it, to its contents, to servants property among other things, the rate is 0.150% premium, while it’s QR500 for fixed content sum of QR50,000 and so on, as per QIC’s website
“The insurance companies in Qatar were a bit slow to recognise the potential of home insurance products,” experts admitted, while adding, “Steps are being taken to create awareness and come out with improvised services.”

Recent reports in the local media have suggested that the influx of expatriates is causing an increase in property theft and rising crime and, due to the reliance on cheaper electrical wirings, an increase in the number of residential fires.

An affected party yesterday told Gulf Times: “I never thought about insuring my house. It just never struck me. The Qatari homeowner, whose one-year-old house in Bin Omran, along with his brother’s home, burnt down in September due to fire. The total loss ran into millions after the three-hour carnage was put out.

“As soon as the repair work is done (will take six months), that’s the first thing we will be doing. Taking out a homecare insurance policy,” he added.

Another long-time expatriate whose house in Old Airport was burgled two years while felons took away jewellery and cash worth hundreds of thousands said he was still not insured against theft and did not know that insurance firms were offering theft protection policies in the country at all.

Other residents say the overall security situation in the country is very good and they feel no need to part with extra cash in the already cash-strapped monthly home budgets.

“Then there is the weather-related damage that never happens in Qatar or the region. Even residents of Oman signed up in droves during the 1992 hurricane but never bothered to renew the contracts, resulting in huge losses in the recent disaster,” an official of Doha Insurance Company told Gulf Times.

“Out of close to 10,000 villas that are protected by us, only two ever came for claims. The pay out was QR8,000 and QR2,000 for them,” said the official.

The reason was a non-functioning garage shutter damaging the vehicles.
“One of the biggest grievance insurance holders in Qatar have is that they are not told everything when signing up. We try to tell them to read the fine print though,” the official at Al Khaleej remarked, while handing a massive four-page policy document.

Itemised insurance is another segment, where the companies said they get no business, although they are willing to ‘package’ expensive items such as a camera or a set of jewellery with other policy services, based on the ‘moral character’ and ‘risk hazard’ of the client.