AS thousands of home owners face another week of misery, the Dunkirk spirit has begun to wane. Or as one flooded-again victim puts it: “We’ve had enough now.” Sadly though, the battle to get a decent insurance payout has only just started.
The following piece was originally written in 2000 in for the UK newspaper, the Telegraph and is published on their website here.
Total overhaul: this post-flood kitchen in Kent has had all its appliances removed.
Alan Harris, president of the Institute of Public Loss Assessors, whose members help people make successful insurance claims, said:”Insurers are not just going to blindly write out cheques. And people don’t always realise that the loss adjusters sent out by insurance companies won’t help them with their claims.”
Estimates of the cost of the flood damage have already reached £500 million, with more than 5,000 properties severely affected. But it could be months before the full extent of the problem is known.
In the meantime, the important thing is to ensure that you make a watertight claim by using the following checklist:
Keep insurance documents upstairs: If your property is vulnerable to flooding, it makes sense to keep an emergency pack upstairs containing your insurance documents, passport and other important information. A torch and a radio may also come in handy.
Mitigate your loss: If you have prior warning of a flood, move everything you can upstairs. Once the water is inside the property, you need to minimise the damage. Contact your insurer as early as possible and keep all receipts for work carried out on damage limitation.
Call your insurer’s hotline for advice: Most insurers have 24-hour helplines to deal with inquiries and provide lists of approved carpenters, plumbers and electricians in your area.
Turn off your electricity and gas supply: Electricity and water don’t mix, so turn off all the power. Ask the relevant gas and electricity companies to check your connections before you turn them on again.
Photograph damage at its worst: Insurance companies have been inundated with calls and are taking days to get out to investigate losses – by which time items may have disintegrated or been washed away. Harris suggests that, assuming your camera is not among the damaged possessions, you should take photographs of all damage.
Don’t throw anything away: Your insurer or its loss adjuster may insist on inspecting water-damaged furniture before agreeing a claim.
Lock up and move to temporary accommodation: If your house is flooded, it really isn’t the best place to stay. Your health could suffer. But make sure you lock up properly as there have been reports of looting. Most buildings and contents polices pay out for alternative accommodation, whether in a hotel for a few nights or a rental property for several months.
Mr Harris said that even if it takes six months for your house to dry out, insurers should pay for alternative accommodation. They have an obligation to rehouse you if your home is unfit for habitation.
Keep receipts for any meals you have to buy: If you have to eat out because you have no means of cooking, keep all receipts. The insurer won’t meet all the costs of eating out, but it will pay a proportion. For example, if you normally spend £100 on a weekly shop and eating out has cost £200, the insurer should pay the difference.
Watch out for the “pairs and set” clause: This allows insurers to refuse to cover the cost of replacing a whole suite of furniture if, say, just the sofa is damaged. If you try to protect a chair by taking it upstairs, but the sofa is ruined by flood water, the insurer will pay out only for the sofa.
Record freezer contents: If you have to dispose of the contents of your freezer, keep a note of what you throw away so you can give your insurer an idea of its value.
Keep a piece of damaged carpet: There is no way any carpet cleaner is going to be able to get out the sewage and dirt brought in by flood water. In any case, the floor will not dry out until carpets have been removed. But, even if your insurer has given permission to throw away your carpet, take a small cutting to show style and quality.
Insist on all kitchen units being replaced: If the base units are damaged, but the wall units are unaffected, your insurer may try to force you to accept an odd-coloured kitchen by replacing only the base units. Don’t take this lying down. Mr Harris said: “Policies should be fair and equitable.
This means they should put you back to the position you were in preceding the date of the flood. So you can argue that you didn’t have an “odd kitchen” beforehand and you don’t want one now.”
Claim on the right policy: Generally, the structure of your house is covered by your buildings policy – but so is anything nailed to the floor such as fitted kitchen units or an integral cooker and hob. Therefore, even if you don’t have contents cover, you could still make a claim for damage to certain items. Contents insurance covers furniture, personal items and carpets.
Use Approved Suppliers
Use a builder approved by your insurer: Rogue builders will be on the lookout for flood victims. Don’t be tempted. Most insurers have a list of electricians, plumbers and builders whom they prefer you to use. Your insurer will also probably insist on two or three comparative quotes for major work.
Even if your insurer has given approval for work carried out, keep any receipts and copies of estimates. It is increasingly common for insurers to pay contractors direct or to ask you to send the bill on to them so you don’t end up out of pocket.
Have wiring and sockets checked: Your buildings insurance will cover the cost of an electrician to check your wiring or to rewire. A lot of new wiring is insulated, but it can still be affected by flood water. It is also worth arranging for an electrician to remove all your wall sockets to give the property a further chance to dry out.
Dry out woodwork slowly: Skirting boards, floorboards and plaster should be left to dry out gradually, so don’t be tempted to put the heating on full blast. Use dehumidifiers – and don’t forget to claim for the cost.
Keep a note of promises made by your insurer, including dates: Record names of people spoken to and log the time of the call. That way, if there are problems later, you can refer to your notes.
Use Reputable Loss Assessors
Consider using a loss assessor: Your insurer will probably use a loss adjuster to manage a large claim. Although he is independent, he is appointed by the insurance company and acts on its behalf. If you want help in preparing a large claim, say £10,000 upwards, consider using an independent firm of loss assessors Manchester attorneys recommend who will act on your behalf.
Loss assessors work on a no-win, no-fee basis. They receive a percentage of your payout (up to 10 per cent depending on the amount due).
Keep your insurer informed of further damage: If you are flooded again and have to make a further claim, let your insurer know immediately. You cannot claim for damage to the same item twice (unless you’ve had it repaired already) but your insurer should pay out for additional damage. Again, keep notes of conversations.