Tag Archives: Property Insurance Claims Management

Remember to Have Your Chimneys Swept Before Winter Sets In

How long is it since you last cleaned your chimneys?

As winter draws in, there’s nothing like a roaring fire in the grate to make you warm and cosy in your home. It comes with a price, though, and that includes have the chimney swept on a regular basis. A blocked or dirty chimney can cause serious damage — perhaps even a fire that destroys your home.

This is because any soot left in the flue can ignite when it heats up, not to mention other debris, such as birds’ nests or spider webs, that might have found its way into the chimney. At best, that could damage your flue, and at worst it could burn your house down — and, if you try to make an insurance claim when you’ve neglected your chimney, the loss adjuster could turn you down.

A blocked flue can also release deadly carbon monoxide into your home, from the gases coming back down the chimney.

How Often Should a Chimney Be Swept?

The fuel used in the fireplace dictates how often your chimney needs to be swept. A coal-fire chimney should be swept at least twice a year and a wood-fire chimney quarterly when the fireplace is in use. If you’re using smokeless, gas or oil fuels, you’re usually safe keeping it to once a year — but remember that all gas-related work should be done by a Gas Safe engineer. Always be safe with your gas appliances.

A few basic safeguards will help you enjoy your fire securely and make certain that, if you do suffer a fire, the loss adjuster will have no reason to refuse your claim:

  • Have your chimney swept before you start using the fireplace.
  • Keep the grate clean, making sure it’s free from ash and soot.
  • Avoid using damp wood, as cooler smoke creates more ash.
  • Using a fireguard in front of an open fire can prevent sparks flying out from the embers.
  • Don’t leave a fire burning unattended — extinguish it before you leave the house or go to bed.
  • If you’re using wood, don’t leave your supply too close to the fire, as it could ignite.
  • And — invest in a carbon monoxide alarm. Your life and your family’s lives might depend on it.

Chimney sweeps used to be considered very lucky. Maybe that’s because people back then realised that their job could save lives.

Are Your Rodding? Your Downpipes, That Is

It happens every Autumn. The falling leaves and twigs get blown about and end up in your gutters and downpipes, stopping the rainwater flowing away as it’s meant to. If the debris isn’t cleared, you could end up with an over-flowing pipe and flooding, and it could even damage the structure of your house.

You need to get your downpipes rodded.

This isn’t just because it’s a hassle to repair the damage, though. It’s actually a condition of many insurance policies that you have your gutters cleared and your downpipes rodded at least once a year, and your insurance claim may be refused otherwise.

The catch is that you have to be able to prove to the insurance company’s loss adjuster that it’s been done. If you’re doing it yourself, take pictures of yourself rodding — though be sure you stay safe if you’re taking selfies up on a ladder.

If you’re hiring a roofer, a receipt is essential. All too often, clients tell me they’ve had their pipes rodded, but they paid cash in hand with nothing written down. It may be tempting to save money that way, but it could end up costing you far more if you have to make an insurance claim.

Look After Your Roof

The guttering and downpipes need annual attention, at a minimum, but that’s not the limit to the attention your roof requires. A leaking roof can do untold damage to your home and, again, the loss adjuster is likely to refuse your claim if you can’t demonstrate that you’ve looked after your roof.

If you have a flat roof, in particular, there’s likely to be a clause in your insurance policy that you must have it maintained every ten years. Whatever type of roof you have, though, it’s vital to keep it in good condition and hang onto the proof. Otherwise, you may end up having to pay for the total cost of repairing your flooded home.

 

The Causes, Symptoms and Cures for Subsidence

Any suspicion of subsidence strikes fear into the heart of homeowners, and for good reason, as it can mean a substantial repair bill. As long as you don’t neglect the problem, it should be covered by your insurance policy, but it’s important not to give the Loss Adjuster any chance to refuse your claim.

Subsidence is when the building’s foundations slowly sink, and is most often caused by nearby trees and shrubs sucking moisture from the soil, leaking drains softening the ground, or old mine-workings beneath the house.

Although subsidence could happen to any building, the biggest risk is for Victorian and Edwardian homes, which tend to have very shallow foundations.  There’s also a particular risk if the house is built on clay-rich soil — which accounts for a good deal of the South-East.

Unless there’s a specific cause, such as a leaking drain or mine-workings, it usually starts with trees or shrubs sucking up the moisture from the soil. As the clay dries, a “shrink-swell” effect hardens and cracks it, and the foundations start to sink.

Subsidence is usually combined in your insurance policy with heave, a separate but related problem. This is caused by the ground becoming saturated, lifting up and sometimes sideways, and can result in symptoms similar to subsidence.

Identifying, Preventing and Fixing Subsidence

The most obvious signs of subsidence are:

  • Cracks appearing in brickwork and plaster, especially if they’re wider at the top.
  • Doors and windows sticking with no obvious reason.
  • Ripples in the wallpaper when there’s no sign of damp.

Cracks can also be caused by the house settling, especially if it’s new, but if they keep widening the chances are it’s subsidence. If you notice any of these issues, it’s important to inform your insurer at once.

It’s also advisable to have it looked at by a qualified surveyor. If there is subsidence, it may be possible to solve it by removing tree roots or repairing a leaking drain, but it’s likely your home will have to be underpinned, which involves adding extra support for your foundations. This should normally be covered by your insurance policy, but it may involve an excess up to £1,000.

In addition, insurers often regard an underpinned house to be at greater risk, so you’ll face higher premiums. It makes sense, therefore, to prevent subsidence from happening and avoid having to make an insurance claim. Precautions to take include:

  • Before you buy a house, check the surveyor’s report for any signs of subsidence.
  • Don’t have trees or shrubs closer than 5-10 metres to the house.
  • Prune the branches of any trees regularly.
  • Make sure your pipes and drainage systems are well maintained, so they don’t leak into the ground.

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.