Legal Expenses Cover and Your Home Insurance

Most insurance claims are straightforward. If you’ve had a fire, your home’s been flooded or your roof has been blown off, there shouldn’t be a problem claiming — although the company’s Loss Adjuster may still find a flaw in your claim.

Sometimes, though, an insurance claim can be a lot more complex. You could find yourself having to seek legal advice, or even pursuing or defending a civil action.

This is a problem, since solicitors don’t come cheap. If you have legal expenses cover as part of your insurance policy, though, both legal advice and costs in a civil case would be covered.

How Does Legal Expenses Cover Protect You?

Having legal expenses cover can protect you against legal expenses in a wide range of situations, including:

  • Personal injury or death — If someone is claiming compensation for an injury sustained on your property, your legal expenses will usually be covered up to a specified amount.
  • Purchase or sale of property — You’re protected against expenses from contractual disputes during the sale of a property — with an estate agent or removal company, for instance.
  • Property disputes — The costs of a dispute over boundaries, noisy neighbours, damage to property and similar causes will be covered.
  • Consumer disputes — If you buy, sell or hire goods in your home, your expenses for disputes are covered.
  • Employment disputes — Legal expenses cover can pay the costs for an employment dispute, such as unfair dismissal, involving a tribunal.
  • Tax investigation — You can claim legal costs involved with HMRC investigating your tax affairs.

Legal expenses cover may already be included in your home insurance policy, but if you don’t know it’s there you could lose out. On the other hand, if you find your policy doesn’t include it, perhaps it’s time to rethink your home insurance cover.

Seven Things That Could Invalidate Your Building Insurance Claim

  1. Leaving Your Home Empty — If you leave your home unoccupied for more than thirty consecutive days, the insurer could refuse to pay on any insurance claim you might make, whether that’s fire, flood or burglary. Make sure you arrange cover for your home to be empty, whether as a one-off or ongoing.
  1. DIY Disasters — DIY can save you money, but it can be very expensive too. If your insurance policy doesn’t include accidental damage, you could end up having to foot the bill for drilling through the water pipes. Make sure you’re covered before starting.
  1. Wilful Damage — Whether it’s you or a visitor to your home that’s responsible, most insurance policies don’t cover wilful damage. That includes unruly guests at a party, for example. So make sure you trust the people you invite into your home.
  1. Neglect — There are always maintenance jobs to keep your home in good shape, whether that’s clearing your guttering or having your wiring checked regularly. If you don’t bother and it leads to a disaster, your insurer’s Loss Adjuster might refuse your claim, so make sure you keep your home in good repair.
  1. Home Improvement — It might seem odd that home improvement can be a problem, but you could end up being underinsured. If you haven’t informed your insurer about a new extension or loft conversion, they won’t be covered in any valuation for repairs, so get everything sorted out before you start the improvements.
  1. Vermin — Creatures like rats or mice can cause substantial damage, such as chewing through wires, and this may not be covered by your insurance policy. Check your policy for what’s covered, and deal with any sign of vermin promptly — most local councils have a pest control department.
  1. Not Informing About Regular Guests — If you regularly take in guests, for instance as an Airbnb host or short-term rentals, you must inform your insurer, or your insurance policy may be invalid under non-disclosure rules. Check with your insurer what implications any arrangements will have on your policy.

Top 5 Building Insurance Claims

Most people who own a property, whether it’s their home or a business premises, have building insurance for it. In fact, it’s normally compulsory if you have a mortgage on the building — otherwise, it’s just overwhelmingly sensible.

A normal building insurance policy covers a wide range of mishaps. Accidental damage is the most common insurance claim, but others are frequently found. Here are the top five:

  • Accidental Damage — this could be anything from the kids kicking a football through the window to cracking the wash-basin by dropping something into it.
  • Weather Damage — extreme weather can damage your property either directly, such as a storm blowing off tiles, or indirectly, such as a tree being blown onto your roof.
  • Water Escaping — the most common reason for this is pipes being allowed to freeze and burst.
  • Burglary — a break-in doesn’t only affect the stolen possessions, you may also need to claim to repair a smashed window or replace a door.
  • Malicious Damage — this may occur during a burglary, but you could also find yourself the victim of vandalism.

Prevention Is Better than Cure

Most building insurance policies allow you to claim for all these and more, from fire damage to the effects of freezing weather. However, the insurance company’s Loss Adjuster will be on the look-out for any negligence on your part that may invalidate your claim. The best solution is to give no reason for this, and here are few of the most common examples:

  • Improving the standard of your locks and installing a burglar alarm can significantly reduce the risk of being burgled, but if it does happen the Loss Adjuster would find it difficult to turn down your claim.
  • If you have a chimney, it’s vital to keep it swept. This will reduce the risk of fire, as well as satisfying your insurer.
  • Leaving your gutters blocked with dirt or leaves can cause water damage and could leave you at risk of your claim being rejected.
  • Freezing weather can cause a range of problems, from structural damage to burst water pipes. These may be covered by your building insurance, but it’s far better to prepare before the weather turns cold.

You can claim for many things on your building insurance, but it’s even better to reduce your chances of needing to claim. And, in any case, your precautions mean the Loss Adjuster will have no ammunition for rejecting your claim.

Legal Expenses Cover and Your Home Insurance

Most insurance claims are straightforward. If you’ve had a fire, your home’s been flooded or your roof has been blown off, there shouldn’t be a problem claiming — although the company’s Loss Adjuster may still find a flaw in your claim.

Sometimes, though, an insurance claim can be a lot more complex. You could find yourself having to seek legal advice, or even pursuing or defending a civil action.

This is a problem, since solicitors don’t come cheap. If you have legal expenses cover as part of your insurance policy, though, both legal advice and costs in a civil case would be covered.

How Does Legal Expenses Cover Protect You?

Having legal expenses cover can protect you against legal expenses in a wide range of situations, including:

  • Personal injury or death — If someone is claiming compensation for an injury sustained on your property, your legal expenses will usually be covered up to a specified amount.
  • Purchase or sale of property — You’re protected against expenses from contractual disputes during the sale of a property — with an estate agent or removal company, for instance.
  • Property disputes — The costs of a dispute over boundaries, noisy neighbours, damage to property and similar causes will be covered.
  • Consumer disputes — If you buy, sell or hire goods in your home, your expenses for disputes are covered.
  • Employment disputes — Legal expenses cover can pay the costs for an employment dispute, such as unfair dismissal, involving a tribunal.
  • Tax investigation — You can claim legal costs involved with HMRC investigating your tax affairs.

Legal expenses cover may already be included in your home insurance policy, but if you don’t know it’s there you could lose out. On the other hand, if you find your policy doesn’t include it, perhaps it’s time to rethink your home insurance cover.

 

What Is Non-Standard Risk?

In some circumstances, a normal home insurance policy may not be enough to cover your property. Reasons for this might include a history of flooding or subsidence, or that you’ve been declared bankrupt at some point.

These are defined as a non-standard risk, and the company’s Loss Adjuster may refuse your insurance claim if you only have a standard policy.

Examples of Non-Standard Risk

  • Properties with a history of flooding or in areas affected by extreme weather. You can get help from the government’s Flood Re scheme.
  • Properties that have been monitored for subsidence, landslip or heave, or had their foundations underpinned or reinforced.
  • If your home is used as a business property, as opposed to informal working from home.
  • If your home is going to be left unoccupied for a long period — usually over 30 days, but it’s important to check this.
  • If any occupant has ever been declared bankrupt, has unspent or pending criminal convictions, or has ever been refused insurance or had terms imposed.
  • A property whose roof is made of materials including asbestos, corrugated iron, felt on timber, fibreglass, glass, metal, plastic, shingle or thatch.
  • A property whose exterior walls are made from materials including timber, asbestos, metal, fibreglass, glass, plastic or prefabricated materials. If any part of your property is built from less usual materials, check with your insurance company.

Note that this isn’t an exhaustive list. Always make sure you check your policy carefully and declare any circumstance which could be relevant, or the Loss Adjuster might turn you down if you need to make an insurance claim.

Does Your Home Insurance Cover Neighbour Damage?

Whether it’s cutting off utility lines, damaging garden walls and ornaments, smashing windows or causing leaks, homeowners often suffer damage to their property at the hands of their neighbours. You might think their insurance policy is bound to cover this — but that’s not always true.

It seems quite straightforward. If your neighbour is responsible for damage to your property, they should be liable for putting it right. In fact, this depends entirely on the circumstances.

Just as the loss adjuster could refuse to pay out on your insurance claim if there’s something wrong with it, the same can happen with your neighbour’s policy, even if the damage is to your property. For instance, their loss adjuster could decide a leak was caused by poor maintenance to their home and refuse to pay.

That will leave you with the choice of trying to get your neighbour to pay out of their own pocket or trying to claim on your own home insurance policy — assuming, that is, that neighbour damage is covered. The key here is “insured perils”. Home insurance policies generally include these, referring to certain events such as fire and flood. If the cause of the damage can be attributed to an “insured peril”, then you may be in luck.

It’s also worth checking whether your policy has accidental damage cover, which may cover this sort of situation. Some policies have it as standard, but if not you can usually add it on for a premium.

Neighbour Negligence and Record Keeping

Even assuming your neighbour’s insurance policy does cover the damage, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate that they were responsible for it, whether through negligence or simply because the fault began on their property.

Prevention is better than cure, and assuming you have reasonable neighbours, they may be quite willing to fix the problem but simply not have noticed. So let your neighbours know about any damage you spot, and you could not only save yourself a lot of hassle in trying to get the repairs paid for, but also avoid the bad feelings that arise from a dispute over money.

However, it’s also vital to start keeping records of any damage as soon as it starts to develop, including notes and photographic evidence, all carefully dated. That way, if your neighbour still fails to take action after you’ve warned them, this will help you demonstrate that they were negligent.

And, just in case none of this works, check your own insurance policy.

Building Insurance and Subsidence

Subsidence doesn’t only involve spectacular holes that make the news. Any building in an area where the soil has a high clay content could be at risk of subsidence.

Of course, insurance companies know all about this, and if your home is at higher than normal risk of subsidence, your insurance policy will include a higher excess than normal. In fact, most policies specify a higher excess for subsidence than other risks.

Avoiding Subsidence

If you live in an area like this, the best way to avoid having to negotiate with the Loss Adjuster for a subsidence insurance claim is not to plant large trees or shrubs near the building. However, if there are already trees when you move in, you may need the Council’s permission to cut them down, so you’ll need to talk to them first.

It’s not always just a matter of cutting down the obvious trees, though. Allied Claims have encountered cases when repairs have been made only for other trees to cause more subsidence. In any case, trees aren’t the only reason for subsidence. Leaking drains beneath or near the house can also be a cause.

After subsidence has occurred and been confirmed, the first thing is for the cause to be determined. This is likely to involve a period of monitoring, which can be for as long as eighteen months, before any repairs are made. Only when you know all the facts can Allied Claims present your case to the Loss Adjuster.

Building Insurance for New Builds

It’s important at any time to be sure about what you’re insuring your home against, but it becomes even more complex if you’re moving into a new build. At Allied Claims, we sometimes come across policy-holders who’ve lost out on insurance claims for new builds because they’ve confused NHBC with building insurance.

If you’re buying a new build, it’s vital to ensure that the builder is registered with the National Building Council (NHBC). This will mean your home is covered by Buildmark, a ten-year warranty.

Any structural damage will be covered by Buildmark for the full ten years, although other damages and defects have to be claimed within two years of buying the property. Buildmark is a warranty on the building itself, and can be transferred to a new owner if it’s sold within the first ten years.

The problem is that many owners of new builds seem to assume that their NHBC warranty is equivalent to a full building insurance. It’s not. The warranty is only valid against damage and defects that stem, directly or indirectly, from the builder’s errors. Anything external that happens to your property, from subsidence to being hit by a lorry, is outside the NHBC terms.

For any incidents of this kind, you need a regular building insurance policy. You’ll still have to convince the insurance company’s Loss Adjuster to pay up (that never changes) but without building insurance you could be left to pay for the full repairs yourself.

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.

High-Value Possessions — How to Make Sure They’re Covered by Your Insurance

Our last newsletter, on setting the right level of contents cover, seems to have sparked a lot of interest, judging from the questions we’ve received. Many of these have been about the thorny issue of high-value possessions.

What Are High-Value Possessions?

Put simply, a high-value item is any possession valued at above the allowed level specified in your insurance policy. Most people think in terms of jewellery and watches, but it could be books, art, collections, equipment or even clothing. And they’re not only at risk of burglary. Fire or flood can destroy possessions of high monetary or sentimental value.

You may have some idea of the value if you’ve bought the item yourself, though it may still be higher than you thought, but if you’ve received it as a gift the chances are you won’t know the value. If you’re in any doubt at all, it’s best to get items valued, and they should be specified in the policy if they’re above the value — otherwise, the Insurer’s loss adjuster is likely to refuse payment for them.

In almost every case Allied Claims comes across, the policy-holder assumed it would never happen to them. In one recent case, for instance, the claimant lost out on an entire £91,000 claim because they were under-insured and hadn’t specified several high-value items.

How Do I Make Sure I’m Covered?

It would be easier if there were a one-size-fits-all procedure, but the reality is that each Insurer has different criteria for what constitutes high value and what kind of proof you need for claiming. It’s up to you to check this, but the basic steps that are usually needed are:

  1. Identify the high-value amount per item set by the Insurance Company.
  2. Disclose and itemise each relevant piece in the policy.
  3. Photograph each item and keep all the photos in a safe place.
  4. Keep the original invoices if you’ve bought the item yourself.
  5. Have valuations done every few years for each item by a reputable dealer who knows what they are doing.

This won’t necessarily be all, though. The Insurer may well impose extra conditions, such as burglar alarms and safes, or they could require particular items to be kept in a safe depository. They need to be aware of the value to determine what’s necessary, though, and if you don’t inform them your insurance claim could be invalid.