In recent years, there’s been a distinct increase in significant weather events – storms and flooding to you and me – not only on our lives, but on the places where we live and work too.
In the last week alone, Dudley, Eunice and Franklin have swept across every corner of the UK, causing chaos all round. It’s clear that for many, many people storms and the impact of flooding are a huge concern.
In the past, the government has announced that people affected by ‘serious’ storm damage would receive some financial assistance. However, those who are already affected need help right now. And that will usually involve an insurance claim.
Insurance claims for storm and flooding
First things first, here’s a bit of reassurance. Insurance companies are generally pretty good at swinging in to action when there’s a flood. They’ll have their people on the ground – the loss adjusters – out in areas affected by flooding quickly. Loss adjusters are there to help assess what needs to be done as a priority, along with the subsequent repairs and claim issues that arise as a result.
Many of the storm complaints Resolver sees come where people can’t get hold of a loss adjuster or there are simply too many people affected for them to respond quickly to all the claims. This is going to be a challenge for the industry over the next few years. All we can say is keep trying – your insurer has an obligation to get someone out to you as soon possible.
When you make a home and contents claim, make sure you explain the impact on you personally. Particularly if you’re ill or have a young family and you can’t stay in your property – they’ll tell you what will happen next. They can even help you find (and fund) temporary accommodation if your home needs serious work.
The biggest problem with storm and flood complaints is the time it can take to sort things out. If your property has been structurally damaged, it can take a long time – on rare occasions years – before the property is habitable. During that time, you may find yourself in alternative accommodation for a prolonged period.
Resolver also sees complaints about the contractors the insurer uses to sort out flood damage, from loss adjusters to builders and specialist tradespeople. Don’t forget, your contract is with the insurance company, so if you’re unhappy with a contractor, speak to the insurer.
If you need to make an insurance claim
Ready to make a claim? Here’s what to do.
- Call your insurance company to log your claim and get as much advice from them as you can. Remember to make a note of when you called and who you spoke to.
- Keep a record of any extra spending, including hotel bills and emergency repair works as this may be covered by your policy too. Make sure to keep them in a safe place with your insurance documents.
- Don’t authorise people to carry out repairs without speaking to the insurer first. You might not be covered if your chosen contractor is more expensive than the insurer’s choice.
- Take photos and video of the damage that has been done, list all the damage to your house and belongings and even keep samples of things such as carpets to prove the quality of furnishings.
The most important thing to remember is to keep informed. Flooding claims in particular can be complex and may take a while to resolve fully. So, speak to the insurer, get them to explain to you what they’re doing, timescales and if your property needs to be ‘future proofed’ to prevent problems happing again.
What to do if you’re unhappy
If you’re unhappy with the way your complaint has been handled, then Resolver can help you make a complaint for free. And if the insurance company doesn’t sort things out, we’ll pass your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) who have the power to tell the insurer to make things right if they agree with your complaint.
The main problem people have with storm and flooding claims is when things break down with contractors. Remember your contract is with the insurer – the underwriter of the policy. If you are having a problem with anyone from the loss adjuster to the builders and other contractors, don’t go round the houses – go direct to the insurer.
If you don’t feel the work of contractors is up to a good standard, make a note of all your objections and see if you can get some free quotes from other contractors in the area. Don’t authorise the work there and then though. Speak to the underwriter and see if they are willing to replace the contractor based on your quote.
Wear and tear
Though less common than contractor disputes, claims rejected due to ‘wear and tear’ are a close second. This is where the insurer concedes that damage occurred but argues that the storm or flooding is not directly responsible or is merely the catalyst for something that would have happened anyway.
Insurers – and the Financial Ombudsman – will look at the weather in your local area from official sources, which usually clears up the whole ‘is it the storm’ argument. Wear and tear can be subjective though. If your fence is rotten, then realistically, it was going to fall down at some point. But tiles falling off the roof aren’t necessarily grounds for a claim rejection even if there was some wear. The key here is ‘what should you/could you have known?’ If you don’t think you’ve been treated fairly, make a complaint.
What about power cuts?
Of course, it’s not just damage to your property that you can complain about. Many people have found themselves without power for extended periods of time.
Firstly, if you’re local area is affected, make sure you check in on older or more vulnerable neighbours to see if they’re okay. There are lots of local support services available through your local council and power company that you can call on to help them.
Anyone affected by a ‘prolonged’ loss of service may be entitled to compensation, according to regulator OFGEM. This is known as the ‘Guaranteed Standards of Service’ – rules that govern when compensation kicks in. The compensation increases depending on how long the power is out and is capped at £700 per household and comes from your energy network supplier, not your energy provider. If you’re not sure who this is, speak to the firm that supplies you energy. Regardless, the energy network supplier should contact you about compensation. Keep this guide handy though, in case you don’t hear anything.
Martyn James is a leading consumer rights campaigner, TV and radio broadcaster and journalist.