How to report an escape of water to an insurer.
When you suffer water damage or an escape of water in your property, regardless of whether the incident has occurred over a matter of time or in one big rush of water YOU SHOULD BE COVERED under your buildings and contents insurance with certain conditions:
- At the time of the escape of water the property was not left unoccupied for a period of time (check the period of time in your policy documents). If the escape of water had occurred over many months and during this time you were in occupation at the property, you should be covered (again check the wording in your policy).
If you have a buy to let property, loss of rent should also be covered under your buildings insurance policy. If your insurer says that you are not covered, check your policy carefully – you may find that you are!
What to do in the event of a loss of water:
- Grab your phone and take some pictures/video – you may need this later on (only if safe to do so).
- If it is a serious emergency and you cannot stop the water, dial 999 and get out.
- If not, find your insurance paperwork and check it to ensure that you are covered BEFORE you make the call.
- Make a note of the date and time of the incident and what type of incident.
- Confirm with the insurer that you can call out an engineer and that they will cover the cost.
- The operator will ask you quite a few questions about the issue. If you are not sure, do not guess otherwise your claim may be rejected. Only respond with what you know and what you can see.
- If the property is NOT in a liveable condition, you need to confirm that to the insurer so that they can help you secure alternative accommodation immediately. This can be a nearby hotel of your choice. You should then be given instructions on how much you are able to spend on food/laundry etc and these should be covered by the insurer (double check your policy documents for this). If you are landlord and your tenants have been affected, you should be covered for loss of rent whilst the property is uninhabitable.
- The operator may then advise you that you are covered or not.
If you live in a flat and the escape of water is caused by a neighbour above you:
- If the loss of water is from an apartment/flat above yours, you should speak to the person who owns the property.
- If you are a leaseholder, you should have been given building insurance documentation from the freeholder (as it is usually the freeholder who arranges the policy). If you do not have a copy, you need to contact the freeholder to get it.
- If you are a freeholder with your neighbours, then you should have building insurance in place so you should check it.
You will need to have the following handy:
- Your insurance paperwork
If the operator advises the claim appears to be valid:
- The operator may advise you that they will send a “building surveyor” to your property or a loss adjuster depending on the value that the operator sets on the claim. A “building surveyor” could be a building contractor that the insurance company uses (and they may not be that good!). A Loss Adjuster is a company that the insurance company uses to handle claims and they are independent (although their services are paid for by the insurer).
- You do not want the building surveyor. If the operator insists, ask the operator who the building surveyor is and what company they come from, then check the details online. You may find that the building surveyor is in fact a building contractor who is used by the insurance company to get a cheaper deal (and sometimes cheaper finish) on any works to be carried out in your home. REFUSE. State very clearly that you want a LOSS ADJUSTER and do not back down.
- The operator will then advise you that the Loss Adjuster will contact you direct and you will have no further dealings with the insurance company after this point.
- The loss Adjuster will contact you and arrange a date and time to visit. Make sure you show them all the damage, inside and out. The Loss Adjuster will take detailed notes, measure the areas damaged and tell you what is and what is not covered. Ask for a copy of these notes or better still record the whole visit on a dictaphone or on your mobile. During the visit the loss adjuster will then ask you to provide two contractor quotes for the works carried out.
- The insurer or Loss Adjuster may again recommend one of their contractors to start remedial work. You have the right to choose your own.
- Do not tackle any works until you have been given the go ahead by the Loss Adjuster or Insurer or they may not payout.
If the operator advises the claim is invalid:
Write a letter of complaint to the insurer setting out the following (write it in a story form):
[Your name and address at top of the letter]
[Address of Insurer]
On [day] [month] 201[ ] I contacted your company to advise of an incident in relation to a(n) [loss of water/escape of water] to my property.
You rejected my claim. I feel that this was unfairly rejected because [fill out why you believe your claim should be upheld.]
I look forward to hearing from you.
[Your name/Address etc.]
Regardless of whether you have been rejected verbally, you should never take no for an answer.
Your insurer may then send a surveyor/loss adjuster to your property to assess the claim (follow the steps above “If the operator advises the claim appears to be valid”).
Your insurer will then write to you formally outlining their final response.
If you are not happy with it, you can write to the Ombudsman outlining your complaint in detail. Include all correspondence between you and the insurer. You will also need to give the Ombudsman a copy of your insurance policy document.