This is the second in a series of articles which document the procedure/process following a burst water pipe and the subsequent insurance claim. I decided to write the articles following such an event in my house and being unable to find much in the way of useful information online. Hopefully, in time, the search engines will pick these articles up and if you are unfortunate enough to suffer a similar event, my experience might give you some idea of what to expect. The first article in this series can be found here.
So, to pick up where the last article in this series left off, I had returned home to find a burst pipe in my loft which had resulted in the house being filled with water. Approximately 75% of the property and my contents were trashed and the insurance company had paid for me to move into a hotel pending the visit of a loss adjuster.
The loss adjuster arrived a couple of days after my phone call and I was pleased that he seemed like a friendly and reasonable chap. As I said in the last article, I have never claimed on a house insurance policy so had no idea what to expect but I was pretty concerned that the loss adjuster’s main aim might be to try to wriggle out of paying up. Fortunately that didn’t appear to be the case. Unable to offer him anywhere to sit, we stood in the freezing cold kitchen (it’s January and the heating packed up along with the rest of the electrics when a billion gallons of water were chucked over them) while he typed up his notes on a laptop. I answered the questions you would expect: what had happened, how long had I been away, have I ever made any claims before and so on. I should say at this point that I was extremely grateful that I am not one of these people who claim for every tiny thing on their insurance policy. I would have felt very nervous if I had had to stand and confess to a string of minor claims over the previous years. Being able to say I hadn’t claimed in 23 years must surely have been a good thing? Not that I had anything to hide but when you are basically asking the insurance company to stump up tens of thousands of pounds, you want to be in the strongest position possible.
After completing the necessary paperwork (which all went straight into a laptop so actually no paper at all), we went to inspect the damage. The loss adjuster made notes on the extent of the work required to repair the house along with a list of contents which had been damaged. Some items such as the TV and beds, he agreed to pay for immediately. Other, larger pieces of furniture would need to be assessed by a restoration company to see if they could be economically repaired. This company would contact me in the next few days to arrange this.
The loss adjuster then explained what would happen next. Firstly, we needed to clear the house of any items which hadn’t been damaged. In my case, this wasn’t much but he said he would arrange for a storage company to collect and store the few bits of furniture and the odd personal possession. As I know a very reasonably priced local storage company, I asked if I could arrange this myself as it would almost certainly be cheaper than using their contractor. He agreed that if I got some prices, he would be happy with this if the cost was reasonable. In the end, there were quite a few jobs that I arranged personally because it was more convenient to me and cost the insurance company less overall. I could have just walked away and let them sort everything out but I wanted to try and keep the total cost of the claim down as much as possible – no point in wasting money regardless of whether it was mine or theirs.
Next on the list was getting the house dry. Nothing could be done in terms of repair before the property had been completely dried out and had a ‘drying certificate’ issued. Again, the loss adjuster said he would arrange for the drying company to contact me in the next few days to sort out dehumidifiers and air moving fans. He also said he would get a building contractor to contact me regarding stripping out the property. Having been involved in a number of refurbishments over the years, I asked if he was happy for me to start stripping the house out myself. This would obviously save the insurance company some money but (and this was the main reason for my offer) it would also speed the drying process up. There was an awful lot of wet stuff in the house which didn’t need to be dried (carpets, loft insulation, wood flooring and so on) and the quicker it was out and in a skip, the quicker everything else could dry. He agreed that I could start the strip out and confirmed that he was happy to pay for as many skips as I needed. It was also pretty obvious that my offer was highly unusual and not what he was used to seeing when visiting a client! It was also clear that anything I could do to minimise the size of the claim would be appreciated by the insurance company. Obviously, most people won’t be in the position of being able or even wanting to deal with the stripping out of a soaking property so the normal course of events at this point would be, I guess, to wait for the insurance company’s builder to come along and deal with this task.
There was no way I could live in the house going forward and therefore the options for accommodation were outlined to me. The loss adjuster was happy for me to stay in the hotel which I had booked into a few days previously (the Premier Inn) as this was actually cheaper than the cost of renting a flat or house on a short-term basis. I figured that I could happily live in a hotel for a couple of months so agreed to extend my booking. Now, it is possible for the loss adjuster to arrange for their agents to deal with the hotel booking but this is considerably more expensive. The upside is that you don’t have to pay for the booking and then claim the money back. The downside is that it will inflate your claim by quite a bit (my average room cost was about £60 a night but if the agent booked it, the same room in the same hotel went up to £90 a night). Personally I couldn’t see the point of throwing the insurance company’s money away by paying someone 50% commission for doing next to nothing. The loss adjuster agreed that if I paid for the hotel room, he would get the insurance company to reimburse me by bank transfer immediately so this is what I agreed to.
I should add, at this point, that with the benefit of hindsight, agreeing to stay in a hotel was a mistake. Most insurance policies will cover the rental of a suitable property for the period of repair if the house/flat is so badly damaged that it can’t be lived in. I agreed to stay in the hotel because I thought it might be fun for a while and I also thought it would save some money for the insurance company. Living in a hotel is fun for about a week and then it becomes very unfun! It is also expensive and bad for the waistline because you can’t cook so end up eating in the hotel restaurant every day. My insurance company did pay me a £10 a day ‘subsistence’ payment (designed to cover the difference in cost of eating at home to eating out) but this wasn’t enough to pay for a three course meal and beer each night (which, of course, you have to have if you are living in a hotel because it is basically the same as being on holiday!) I should’ve opted to go straight into rented accommodation because this would have been better for my weight and, more importantly, would have enabled me to get settled, rather than living out of a rucksack. If you ever find yourself in this position, get into a rented house asap!
So after a visit of a couple of hours, the loss adjuster left having agreed that this should be a straightforward claim albeit one which was going to take a few months to sort out. I felt much more at ease after the meeting and also had a better understanding of what was going to happen next. In summary, a payment would be made to me for expenses and initial costs (hotel, storage costs, skip hire and some of the contents) and I should expect a call from the drying company and the furniture restorers. I also agreed to get the heating and electrics back up and running as having the heating going would be an important part of the drying process. The loss adjuster would have arranged this if I had wanted but I know a good heating engineer/electrician so it was just as easy for me to sort it out and claim the cost back. As an aside, the process for getting costs such as this reimbursed was extremely easy – I just emailed a copy of the invoices to the loss adjuster and he arranged for the payments to be made.
Having now had a good look at what needs to be done to put the house back together, I can honestly see the total cost being in excess of £50,000 and this doesn’t include my contents and accommodation costs. A substantial sum of money. There is probably several thousand pounds worth of work just in stripping the house out, which is now my new job for the next week or so…