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Possible problem with building insurance claim

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Possible problem with building insurance claim

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TichierTichier Forumite
3 posts
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MoneySaving Newbie
Hi - today we had builders round to start and fit a new kitchen. What should have been an exciting day has turned out to be a bit of a problem! I'll try and be brief...

We moved into our bungalow about 18 months ago, and have always had a small damp problem in the kitchen and the spare bedroom. So, we had a builder round who looked at everything, and gave us a quote to rip out the old kitchen, remove the old plaster from the walls, and damp proof the whole lot before installing the new kitchen. So they arrived this morning, and everything was going well until the sparky went down into the 'cellar' (we call it a cellar but it's only about 4' high with no access, so it's all wasted space). Here he found waste from the sewer on the floor, plus a couple of rotten joists, and when we ran the garden hose down the drain water seeped through the brickwork. We never noticed any bad smell as I'm guessing with the floor tiles being down, and these all sealed around the edges, there was no room for the smell to escape up.

So, we rang our insurers (LV) who were very quick to send out an assessor this evening, who is going to send a specialist company out to inspect the drains (with a camera, I'm guessing) to find out where and (more importantly) when the damage from the drains happened. She said that if it was before when our policy started (March 2020) then we would have to go back to our previous insurer (Halifax), and if it went back further we might have to go to the guy we brought the house from!

I'm sorry, but that sounds like 'passing the buck' to me! I've never heard of a claim going back to the previous insurer, or to the previous home owner. I've always been a bit sceptical of insurance companies, and this has just cemented that fear! Has anybody else ever come across anything like this? Is this common practice? Or, as I suspect, they are already trying to avoid paying out? If anyone has any advice I would really appreciate it.

Many thanks,

Replies

  • AretnapAretnap Forumite
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    I won't claim to be familiar with how this particular type of claim would be handled. But as a general rule insurance covers you for damage that is caused to your home during the life of the policy - not for damage that was already there when the policy started. The fact that you only became aware of the problem recently doesn't necessarily change this principle.

    So IF the damage was already present at the time you took the policy out, referring it back to the insurance company that was covering you at the time it did occur doesn't sound inherently unreasonable. If it was present when you bought the house then things could get quite messy - you could be looking at trying to claim from the seller or from the surveyor who didn't spot it, neither of which would be straightforward or certain to succeed.
  • lisyloolisyloo Forumite
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    It’s unlikely you’ll have any luck with the seller unless you can prove they lied, which would be very difficult as you say you were unaware yourself so it’s quite feasible they were unaware.
    its down to you (via your surveyor) to check out the property before you buy.
    you could theoretically Have a case against the surveyor if you can prove it was something covered by the survey and present at the time - again that may be difficult and surveys have a large number of disclaimers with them.
  • SandtreeSandtree Forumite
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    Buildings insurance also typically covers something that happens in an event (there are exceptions) so a storm ripping off tiles or a sudden flood rather than a gradual event over time like some poor grout in the shower that leaks a little each time you wash and eventually causes a problem. 

    Unfortunately too many mistake insurance as a maintenance contract. 

    As as others have said, this event must have occurred during the policies lifetime else it’s covered by the insurance in place at the time.
  • TichierTichier Forumite
    3 posts
    First Post
    MoneySaving Newbie
    Thank you all for taking the time to read and reply to my post. The assessor has been round, and sent an 'expert' round yesterday morning. They are saying that because of the algae in the cellar, they believe the leak happened before the policy was taken out. However, a guy from Northumbrian Water said it was impossible to give a time scale as (in his words) algae takes 2 to 4 days to develop. We're going to pay to have the work done ourselves (as we can't get our new kitchen fitted while this is going on - an we currently have No kitchen at all, not even a sink) and see if we can appeal or even take it further.

    Thanks again
  • edited 16 July at 10:30AM
    eddddyeddddy Forumite
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    edited 16 July at 10:30AM
    Tichier said:
    We're going to pay to have the work done ourselves (as we can't get our new kitchen fitted while this is going on - an we currently have No kitchen at all, not even a sink) and see if we can appeal or even take it further.


    In which case, you might want to get an expert report confirming that the damage occurred recently.

    And inform the insurer of your plans, to give them an opportunity to reconsider. You'll then need to follow their complaints process, and ultimately complain to the FOS (Financial Ombudsman).

    But the ombudsman might still decide that you've been unreasonable, if you don't give the insurer a chance to read and investigate your export report, before going ahead with your own repairs.

    (And I don't think saying "Somebody from Northumbrian water said algae can form in 2 to 4 days" would add any weight to your argument.)

  • SandtreeSandtree Forumite
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    eddddy said:
    (And I don't think saying "Somebody from Northumbrian water said algae can form in 2 to 4 days" would add any weight to your argument.)

    I was thinking very much the same... you would want to have something in writing from them that very clearly says in these explicit circumstances that algae can get to the level seen in 2-4 days. We all know a bucket of rainwater left on a hot sunny patio in summer can start showing signs of algae quickly but a cold, dark and enclosed cellar with potentially chlorinated water is a very different kettle of fish (or algae)
  • TichierTichier Forumite
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    MoneySaving Newbie
    Yes - thanks for the advice. Regarding the chap from Northumbrian Water, he was going to send his details and findings to us once he had finished his night-shift and was back in the office (which was going to be the end of this week). We've rang LV and told them that we need to get the work done, and that we don't agree with their decision - the guy I spoke to was unaware of any decision that had been made, and hadn't received the report from the assessor. We also spoke to our previous insurer, and they were very surprised at the decision and had not heard of anything like that before (they also said that if we were still with them they would have to honor our claim - but I'm guessing they would say that, wouldn't they). I've requested a copy from the assessor. Is it unreasonable to ask for the qualifications of the men that did the original inspection (I'm thinking if he has anything that would help regarding his assessment of the length of time the algae has been there)?

    Once again, thank you all for your assistance 
  • SandtreeSandtree Forumite
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    Tichier said:
    We also spoke to our previous insurer, and they were very surprised at the decision and had not heard of anything like that before (they also said that if we were still with them they would have to honor our claim - but I'm guessing they would say that, wouldn't they). I've requested a copy from the assessor. Is it unreasonable to ask for the qualifications of the men that did the original inspection (I'm thinking if he has anything that would help regarding his assessment of the length of time the algae has been there)?
    Well you may well get to test their statement... if the claim predates your current insurance it could fall to your previous insurers. I would also question who it was you were speaking to, as a former technical claims handler there is a real pecking order in level of knowledge (others will disagree)… random guy in the pub -> Sales & Service Advisor -> S&S Team Leader -> Cleaner -> Receptionist -> First Notification of Loss Handler -> FNOL Team Leader -> Claim Handlers -> Claim Handler Team Leader -> Technical Claims/Adjusters (-> Me ;) )

    You can certainly ask their qualifications, though they are under no obligation to disclose them. Ours however often email customers directly and their email signature includes the letters after their name from the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjusters - probably 50/40 between Associates and Fellows (based on my recent file reviews rather than any HR records) with the remain 10% being trainees who will do "Inspector" work unaccompanied and assist on large/complex loss cases with a Fellow adjuster.
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