Large numbers of genuine claims are settled by insurers every day of the week and the amounts paid out are quite staggering. So why do most of us moan and grumble when the subject of home insurance is brought up in conversation?...
One of the things, which is often mentioned to me (usually away from the office and when I am forced to mention my occupation) is the opinion by many people that insurance companies, in general don’t want to pay claims. More often than not, these remarks simply pass over my head, after all, who wants to talk about work in their spare time. On occasion and depending on how vociferous the person is becoming, I will engage in lively debate as to how my lengthy experience arranging ( mainly buildings Insurance ) covers leads me to believe that on the whole insurance companies offer a good and fair service.
I had an episode occur over the weekend, where a friend of a friend asked me to help him obtain claims settlement from his insurers. Well basically he wasn’t covered and he became quite irate when I told him he wasn’t covered and I tried to explain why they had refused to deal with his loss. It ended up with him against me and the insurance industry, on my day off, un paid and on the receiving end of any angry person who wasn’t even a client. “You lot just don’t want to pay do you, you’re all the same” was his final remark. I think he took umbrage with me pointing out, that you can’t make the circumstance fit the claim, either it’s happened one way or it didn’t and it’s a slippery slope to start misleading an insurance company as to how a loss occurred. From his point of view, I can see why he was upset, he’s going to be several thousands of pounds out of pocket for something which is not his fault. Incidentally, believe every insurance company (including ones we represent ) would have treated him in exactly the same way.
Most of the “slates of the roof in a storm” type claims will do little to harm the family budget, but I’ve come across many, many incidents where if it wasn’t for insurance, a homeowner would have faced disastrous financial consequences. Of course, it’s only the stories of non-payment that do the rounds, there’s not much mileage in spreading good news relating to claims settlement. “ Insurance company settles claim in acceptable time period”.
Certainly when I began my career, it was not un heard of to have a back log of claims to deal with, this often became more severe in the winter months and in those days the level of computer sophistication was just not available. Often claims would take a while to settle and to be honest, it was sometimes down to the person shouting the loudest who would have their claim settled the quickest. Now with better computer networks, the internet and the Financial Service Authority imposing time scales with dealing with matters, I believe that most claims are dealt with in a reasonable time scale. I can honestly say, I don’t think I’ve seen too many genuine claims that have not been dealt with in a fair and equitable manner.
One of the problems when dealing with buildings insurance claims, (from a policyholders point of view) is understanding if an event is covered under the policy wording or not, this can often lead to confusion and upset. Basically, a buildings insurance policy is a “perils” contract, that is to say, the policy document will list a series of events for which cover will be provided such as a fire or a flood. The insurers expect the events to be “sudden and unforeseen” such as the roof blowing off in a storm or if you like, a massive truck missing a bend and coming crashing through your garden wall.
Number one thing to remember, buildings insurance policies are not maintenance contracts, they are not designed to provide a fund for the up keep of your property, which of course you will be expected to do, to comply with the policy conditions. If something in your home fails as a lack of maintenance then that’s usually down to you to replace or repair the item although that said, often the resulting damage caused may well be covered by your policy.
Secondly, if something does happen which may give rise to a claim, tell the insurers as soon as possible, it’s no good waiting six months for that leak to get worse and expect the insurance company to pay for all the damages, most polices contain a condition that all events which may give rise to a claim are reported within a reasonable amount of time. If you are letting your property, it’s a good idea to point this out to the tenant, too many landlords discover damage to their property only when the tenancy agreement comes to an end.
Lastly, always remember the principle of insurance is to leave you in the same position after an event has happened as you were in before it, insurance is not compensation as such and you certainly shouldn’t expect to make a profit on a claim, entering false or exaggerated claims is basically fraud and will be dealt with accordingly by the insurance company. If I had to offer any advice to anyone with regards to claims it would simply be: Report possible claims as quickly as possible, obtain sensible accurate estimates if requested to do so and only have works ( other than temporary emergency work) carried out once your insurance company have agreed to it.