Tag Archives: Property Insurance Claims Management

Clear Your Blockages — In Your Gutters and Pipes

You can’t have missed that it’s well and truly autumn now, with winter on the skyline. We’ve had a touch of wild weather, and the one thing we can be sure of is there’s more to come.

That’s OK — you’re probably stocked up enough that you won’t have to venture out into the storm. But what about your roof? And particularly your gutters and downpipes? They can get blocked up easily, especially in autumn when leaves and debris are flying about in the wind, and that means the gallons of rain the storms dump on your roof will have nowhere safe to run off.

This leaves your home vulnerable from two directions. The pooling water on your roof could find its way in through cracks, creating damp and mould inside, while water pouring over the edge of the guttering can get into your foundations and damage them.

The worst thing of all is that your insurer’s loss adjuster could well turn you down if you make an insurance claim for the damage, leaving you to foot a hefty bill yourself. That’s because they’ll judge that you were negligent  by not attending to the upkeep of your guttering.

Pay Attention to Your Roof

Before the winter storms set in, you’re going to need your guttering and downpipes cleared out and repaired. In the case of the guttering, this can be quite straightforward, but you’ll need to rod all your downpipes to make sure they’re not blocked. At the same time, you need to check that nothing’s damaged in the guttering system, since this too could cause flooding of your property.

But these aren’t the only parts of your roof that need checking. If you have a pitched roof, it has an average lifespan of around twenty years, and it’s vital to have your tiles checked at least every five years. A flat roof, on the other hand, may not last longer than ten years, and it can be seriously degraded when water pools on it during heavy rain. Allied Claims would advise you at least to have a look over your whole roof while your guttering is being sorted, and have it checked professionally on a regular basis.

Safeguarding your home is reason enough to be vigilant, but if a particularly bad storm leaves you needing to make an insurance claim, you’ll need evidence to give the loss adjuster to prove the work has been done. If you hire a contractor, make sure you get fully itemised receipts. If you’re going to do it yourself, get someone to take photos or video footage of you at work.

Subsidence — Will Your Insurer Still Penalise You if It Was Caused by Noah’s Flood?

There’s a basic insurance principle that evidence of increased risk will mean an increase in your premium, as well as possibly a tougher time getting insured at all. For instance, if you’ve made an insurance claim for an accident in your car that was your fault, your motor insurer will see you as high risk. However, if you then drive for several years without incident, that assessment of higher risk will be wiped out.

This is true of almost all types of risk, except for one — subsidence.

Subsidence currently has no statute of limitations in insurance terms. This means that, even if the subsidence has occurred ten years ago and was fully dealt with then, you still have to declare it to your insurer, not to mention any new purchaser of the property. That creates the double whammy of making your property difficult and expensive to insure and making it harder to sell.

This might seem reasonable if there’s a very real risk of the subsidence recurring. Not all subsidence is like this, though. It can be caused, for example, by tree roots too close to the building or by faulty drains, and if these issues have been fully resolved, your home is in no greater danger than the average property.

Nevertheless, in this situation the property will still be assessed as being at risk of subsidence. So what does this mean, and is there any way around it?

Insuring a Building with a History of Subsidence

In general, if subsidence has occurred within the past five years, whether or not an insurance claim has been made, most regular insurers will refuse to take it on as a new policy. On the other hand, they’ll probably continue an existing policy, but at a much higher premium. They may accept your application after five years, but again at a higher premium.

The alternative is to go to one of the specialist insurance firms that deal with higher-risk cases. One of these should be able to arrange a policy for you, even if the subsidence has been recent — but you’ll still have to pay over the odds for it.

So can you avoid being penalised for past subsidence, even if it goes back as far as Noah’s flood? There’s no guarantee, but Allied Claims would recommend going through a good insurance broker, especially one who has experience dealing with this kind of case. If there is a chance of finding an insurer willing to give a more reasonable quote, they’ll be your best bet for finding it.

So What Have Loss Assessors Ever Done for Us?

If you’re not familiar with the convoluted world of insurance, you might be tempted to ask (with apologies to Monty Python) “What have loss assessors ever done for us?”

And, as John Cleese found, the answer’s quite long.

Most obviously, of course, we’ll handle your whole insurance claim on your behalf. That’s invaluable to you for a number of reasons. In the first place, it can be a very time-consuming process that involves arranging endless appointments, not only with the insurance company’s representatives, but also with contractors you need to provide quotes — and most of these will have to be within working hours.

The other major problem of handling your claim yourself is that you’ll have to deal with the insurer’s loss adjuster. Now, any reputable loss adjuster will treat you professionally and legally, but part of their job is to find ways of legitimately reducing their employer’s liability.

That’s a problem, because the loss adjuster is an expert in insurance and will be able to spot any slight error you’ve made in putting forward your claim — and that could lose you some or all of your pay-out. Fortunately, a loss assessor is just as expert and will ensure there’s nothing in how your claim is presented for the loss adjuster to pick apart.

A Loss Assessor Can Oversee the Repairs Too

As if managing your insurance claim and negotiating with the loss adjuster weren’t enough, many loss assessors (including Allied Claims) will project manage the repair works as well. That’s not always easy for you to do yourself since, just like those appointments when making the claim, the contractors will probably need to carry out the repairs while you should be at work. You have the choice between leaving them to it or take a lot of time off.

The chances are, too, that just as you may not speak insurance, you also may not speak builder, painter or decorator, and you’re unlikely to know whether they’re doing the work as you need it done. We do. Loss assessors like Allied Claims will project manage the work, deliver your property back to you fully repaired and send all the bills to the insurance company.

So, apart from handling your insurance claim, negotiating with the loss adjuster, ensuring you get everything due to you, arranging for quotes, project managing the repairs, billing the insurance company and delivering your property back to you as good as new — what have loss assessors ever done for you?

Well, we’re very nice people, too. Why not get in touch to find out?

Cover for Whizz-Kids — Electric Bikes and Insurance

One of the big success stories of the lockdown has been electric bikes, with sales tripling during last summer. If you’ve joined the trend of whizzing along on a powered bike, you might not have much information — including what you need to do about insurance.

The legal definition of an EAPC (electrically assisted pedal cycle) is that its electric motor can’t have an output more than 250 watts and must cap assistance at the speed of 15.5mph. If it meets this requirement, anyone aged fourteen or over can ride it in public without needing a licence.

There’s also no legal obligation to insure an EAPC, as there is for a car or motorbike — but that doesn’t mean you should ignore insurance. After all, electric bikes can cost anything up to £5,000, so it makes sense to give yourself the peace of mind that you can make an insurance claim if it’s stolen or damaged.

In fact, you may be able to cover an electric bike under your home insurance, if you declare it as a single item. This process is normal for ordinary bicycles, but there’s likely to be a limit for an item’s value under your general policy. If you’ve gone for that top-of-the-range £5,000 model, you’ll almost certainly have to take out a separate policy.

What’s Covered by Electric Bike Insurance?

Although different policies vary a little, most will cover your electric bike for theft, personal accident and accidental or malicious damage. In general, if you bought your EAPC new, replacement will be on the basis of an equivalent new bike, while a second-hand bike will be compensated according to market value.

The insurer may offer additional cover, such as for third-party liability (in case of a claim made against you for an accident), accessories or roadside breakdown assistance. On the other hand, there are various situations where the loss adjuster is likely to turn down your insurance claim, including:

  • Wear and tear or damage not caused maliciously or through accident.
  • Theft of a bike that’s inadequately secured.
  • Any incident occurring while you were under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
  • Any claim where you’re unable to prove your ownership of the bike.

As in the case of any insurance policy, Allied Claims would strongly advise you to go through a reputable insurance broker, who can explain exactly how to make sure you’re covered for what you’re likely to need.

Ensure You Have Correct Cover for Your Building Insurance

There are many reasons for clients calling us in to act as Loss Assessor for their insurance claim. All too often, it’s because the Loss Adjuster has told them they’re under insured and has invoked the Average clause, meaning they’ll be paid less than expected.

This most often results from using an old valuation in the insurance policy. It’s not unknown for a 30-year-old valuation to be used, though in today’s volatile property market even a two-year-old one could be worthless. This will mean the building is under insured, and the Loss Adjuster will only allow a proportion of the insurance claim.

When you’re establishing how much to insure a building for, first find out the current building costs that would be required, either by speaking to a local contractor or by checking the RICS (Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors) website.

Then add a few percentage points — we all know this figure will have increased by your next renewal date.

You also need to take account of any additions or alterations. In any case, the policy holder is obliged to inform the Insurer if any alterations are about to be made. It could help you, too, if you need to take legal action against a contractor for causing damage through bad workmanship.

And finally, remember not to include the value of the ground in your building insurance. You’re insuring the building, not the ground it’s built on, and you’ll be paying extra premium for nothing.

Ignorance of the Law is No Excuse — Nor Is Ignorance of Non-Disclosure

We come across people every now and then who get insurance by lying on their form and think they’re deceiving the insurer. In fact, it’s very difficult to deceive an insurance company, and (quite apart from the morality of the issue) it’s dangerous to try it.

In fact, the false information doesn’t need to have anything to do with the insurance claim. With motor insurance, for example, your claim for an accident on the road will be refused if you’ve given false information about where you keep the vehicle overnight.

The same thing applies to the insurance for your home, whether building or contents. If the insurer’s loss adjuster discovers any discrepancy in your declarations when you took out the insurance policy, you’ll find yourself footing the bill for any repairs or replacement needed.

But What if It’s Not Your Fault?

It’s easy to say that it would serve anyone right to be left in that position if they’ve lied or deliberately withheld information. In fact, a recent case shows that it’s possible to be stung even if you’ve done nothing wrong.

A family who were having a loft extension built for their home faced disaster when the chimney collapsed during the work, leaving the house having to be rebuilt. The contractor was fully covered and made an insurance claim on his policy — only to have it turned down on the basis of three outstanding CCJs he hadn’t declared.

The contractor has claimed that he didn’t know about the CCJs at the time (a plausible claim, in fact) and paid them off as soon as he found out, but this made no difference. Not only did the loss adjuster refuse the claim, but the policy itself was voided.

The really disturbing part of this is that the family had done everything right (including checking the contractor’s insurance) but still ended up having to fork out over £250,000 to rebuild their home.

It’s hard to see what they could have done differently, but it does underline the vital importance of answering every question with complete honesty when you set up your own insurance policy. Allied Claims would strongly advise you to go through a good insurance broker, who’ll help you ensure all information is correct. Then, if you do have to make a claim, we’ll be able to get you what you’re due.

Don’t Let Your Phone Be the Insider on the Job

Scammers have always used whatever means are available to part you from your money, but the latest trick is to use your phone as the insider on the job. The type of fraud known as “sim-swap” (also sometimes called sim splitting, simjacking and port-out scamming) has mushroomed from 144 cases in 2015 to 483 in just the first half of 2020.

Sim-swap works by criminals collecting data about you in more familiar ways, such as exploiting data breaches of companies that hold details or stalking you on social media. This is then used to convince your phone provider to change your account to a phone they hold, allowing them to intercept messages from your bank and other sources, in particular those sent for two-step authentication.

In one recent sim-swap fraud, the scammers managed to clear £5,000 out of a victim’s accounts. If you identify the theft and contact your bank, they may refund the stolen money. It’s important to remember, though, that just like an insurer’s loss adjuster when you’re making an insurance claim, the banks may refuse to pay if they conclude that your own negligence has contributed to the problem.

How to Avoid Being the Victim of Sim-Swap

As with most types of scam, the best cure for sim-swap fraud is prevention. It only works if the scammers manage to get hold of information about you that will convince the phone company, so don’t make it easy for them:

  • Avoid replying to emails, phone calls or texts unless you’re confident about who they’re from.
  • Don’t be too free on social media with the kind of personal information often used for identification (e.g. date of birth, your first pet or your first school).
  • Use long passwords that combine letters, numbers and symbols and are difficult to guess.
  • Use a one-step app like Google Authenticator or a password vault such as LastPass.

If your phone stops working or you can’t access your bank or credit card accounts, the first thing to do is to contact your phone provider and bank to alert them of possible problems. You may not be in time to stop the loss of money, but taking prompt action makes it more likely that it will be refunded.

While this issue doesn’t directly involve insurance, it’s vital for your security to do everything possible to avoid being caught by the sim-swap scam. We at Allied Claims hope this warning will help with that.

Is the West Wing Covered by Your Building Insurance?

In theory, if you have building insurance, the insurer should pay for the cost of repairs in the event of damage. Unfortunately, it’s not always that simple in practice. While insurers won’t refuse an insurance claim you can prove you’re legally entitled to, there are many reasons why the claim may be considered invalid.

One of the most common is that the property is under-insured. This could be because the valuation is out of date, or it could be because you’ve added an extension. After all, that new west wing isn’t going to insure itself.

Of course, it doesn’t have to be anything as grand as that — a new conservatory can change the value of the property. On the other hand, just leaving a valuation in place for too long could be just as bad. In a volatile market, it’s possible that even a two-year-old valuation will be out of date.

If it turns out your home is under-insured, the loss adjuster will apply the Average Clause to calculate how much to pay. This means that if, for example, your home is only insured for half its actual value, then any pay-out made under that policy will also be half its actual value.

This applies for any size of pay-out. For example, if your home is worth £400,000 but is only insured for £200.000, then if you try to claim £50,000 for damage, you’ll only be paid £25,000.

How Much to Insure Your Home For?

What you’re insuring your home for is the total cost of rebuilding it in the event of catastrophic damage. To find this out, you could speak to a local contractor, or check the website of the Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors. Then add a few percentage points, to allow for increases before the next renewal date.

You’ll also need to take account of any alterations or improvements you may have made. These need not be extensions —anything that’s increased the property’s valuation will affect your policy. This will ensure the loss adjuster won’t have any cause to use the Average Clause.

Finally, remember that your building insurance doesn’t include the land, only the structure itself. If you add the value of the grounds, you’ll be paying extra premium and getting nothing if you do try to make an insurance claim on the land.

It’s best to update the valuation of your home every time you have to renew your policy. That will mean that, if you do have to make a claim, Allied Claims will be able to get a full pay-out for you.

Do You Speak Gobbledygook? The Proximate Clause in Your Insurance Claim

Insurance policies aren’t best known for being easily understood, and the Proximate Clause is one of the harder aspects to get your head round. However, it could determine whether your insurance claim is paid or rejected.

The Proximate Clause is used by the insurer’s loss adjuster “to assess the exact cause of the damage or loss and determine whether that particular cause is covered by the policy.”

This isn’t always clear, as can be seen by two court judgements*. In both cases, a wall was blown down in a gale after having been previously damaged. In the case of a wall being blown down shortly after a lightning strike, the lightning was ruled to have been the cause. In the other case, the wall was damaged by fire a few days before being blown down, but the fire wasn’t considered the cause.

So what was the difference? In the second case, the wall stood for several days after the fire, and possibly wouldn’t have collapsed without the gale. In the first, however, the assumption was that the gale might not have been enough to make the wall collapse without the lightning damage.

How Might You Be Affected by the Proximate Clause?

When you’re taking out insurance for your home or business premises, you obviously don’t want to pay out more in premiums than you need to. The problem is that it’s very easy to leave something uncovered that could lead to the loss adjuster turning down a claim.

Suppose, for instance, you have an upper-floor office in a building and want to insure it to cover any business interruption. You might assume your office is safe from flooding and not include that in your policy.

However, if the whole building has to be closed because the ground floor has been flooded, then flooding will be judged to have been the cause of the business interruption. This will result in your insurance claim being turned down.

It’s essential that you look at all possibilities when taking out an insurance policy to make sure the Proximate Clause isn’t going to work against you. The best way of achieving that is to use an insurance broker when drawing up your policy — and then Allied Claims will be able to make sure you receive what’s due to you.

* Roth v South Easthope Farmers’ Mutual Insurance Co. (1918) and Gasgarth v Law Union Insurance Co. (1876)

Adding a New Wing to Your Mansion? Are You Insured for It?

Renovations and building work in your home can come in all shapes and sizes. If you’re having a new kitchen or bathroom, or landscaping your garden, it shouldn’t affect your home insurance — though it’s always worth checking your policy. Major works, though, like an extension (or even a new wing) are likely to be a different matter.

This is especially important because any building work increases the risk of damage to your home, as well temporary removal of doors and windows making it more vulnerable to burglary. Even if you’ve chosen a high-quality builder, accidents can happen, and of course that risk increases if you try to cut costs and hire someone who’s not up to scratch.

Making an insurance claim in these circumstances can result in the insurer’s loss adjuster turning you down if you haven’t informed them and made any necessary adjustments to your policy.

What Might Affect Your Policy During Building Work?

Your insurer will need to have a number of pieces of information in order to determine whether your policy will still cover you. Most are fairly basic, such as the cost of the work and how long it will take, as well as details of the contractor and whether they have public liability insurance.

However, they’ll also want to know whether or not the property will be empty during the work. Most home insurance policies specify that you must tell your insurer if the property is going to be unoccupied for over thirty days, and they may specify conditions (such as regular visits) in order to maintain cover and ensure any insurance claim you make will succeed.

Your insurer may ask for an extra premium on your existing policy, or you could have to take out specialist renovation insurance. You should also make sure your policy includes legal expenses cover, which you could need, for instance, if you have to sue the contractor for faulty work.

Your contractor should have insurance, including all-risk cover, public liability insurance and employer’s liability insurance. However, in our experience you can’t always count on this being adequate, so you should verify the policy with their insurer. While many are honest, all too often, builders have been known to present papers that are invalid, or even fraudulent. In any case, Allied Claims would recommend making sure your own insurance covers everything.

Finally, it’s important to be aware that any renovations or rebuilding could affect your home’s “rebuild cost”, which the insurer’s loss adjuster will use as the basis to calculate what you’re awarded for a claim. Make sure you give your insurer details of the work that’s been done, so that they can adjust the rebuild cost Then Allied Claims will be able to get you the right amount if you do have to make a claim.