Questions of Cash: Sinking feeling over home subsidence insurance
Saturday 06 October 2012
Q My insurance brokers, Simply Business, saw us excellently through the subsidence at our house, but have refused to insure us again. As a result, the house has been uninsured for a scary amount of time. Are the insurers not happy with the standard of repairs they paid for? Other insurance brokers have said: "It is very difficult to find quotes for houses with subsidence history" despite me having a certificate of adequacy, etc. They also require reams of information about total cost of repair and other things I do not know as only the old insurers have that information. My favourite option would be if the old insurers came to their senses. I feel very cheated that the people who paid for the repairs won't now insure me. ES, by email.
A Your existing insurers have now offered to insure you again, though with an excess on subsidence claims rising from £1,000 to £2,500. A spokeswoman for your broker, Simply Business, says: "In 2010 [the reader] needed to make a claim on her policy because of subsidence. When this happens, it is common for insurers to complete some extra checks when the policy is due for renewal, which means it does not go through Simply Business' standard renewal process. Unfortunately, in this case an administrative error was made which meant that the policy was not renewed and [the reader] was not aware that her cover had expired. This has now been reviewed and [the reader's] original insurer has agreed to insure her property. We have directly offered our sincere apologies to [the reader] for any inconvenience caused." If you are unhappy with the increased excess, we suggest you obtain a comparison quote. Adrian Flux – www.adrianflux.co.uk/subsidence/ – is an insurance broker who specialises in obtaining quotes for properties with a history of subsidence that have become difficult to insure.
Q I have been a rail commuter for the last 16 months and I am used to obtaining compensation for badly delayed and cancelled train services. Despite the shoddy service, constantly overcrowded trains, regular delays and cancellations, I thought this was at least a small positive in the generally frustrating life of a rail commuter. But Southern Rail now refuses to refund money and claims that the trains weren't delayed. My letters of complaint have not received a reply. DK, Sussex.
A A Southern Rail spokesman says: "Delay Repay comes into effect for journeys that are delayed for more than 30 minutes [at their final destination]. We have carefully considered [the reader's] claim and although we have turned down part of it, it is fair to say that we made an error in the handling of the remainder. We will be apologising to the gentleman and compensating him in accordance with the terms of our Delay Repay scheme." You have accordingly now received £24.30 in vouchers from Southern Rail, which included £10 as a gesture of goodwill. Southern Rail says its failure to respond to your correspondence was the result of a distribution problem at a Royal Mail sorting office which delayed your original letter.
Q When my dad died, he left his house, currently under offer for £95,000, and savings of £10,000. He died intestate and my sister, who lives abroad, was the only other beneficiary. He trusted the Co-op with his funeral arrangements and I paid Co-operative Legal Services (CLS) almost £4,000 to administer my father's estate. I made it clear before signing the contract that I required a grant of probate that would enable me to make decisions about the estate as my sister was absent from my parents' lives for 20 years. But I soon realised that I had signed away total control of my father's estate to the Co-op and that it would use this control as it felt fit. This included telling me what reasonable expenses I could claim. Early this year, I told the Co-op that I wanted to use a local estate agent, not the agent it recommended. This was ignored. I had to clear the house of belongings. I put in a reasonable petrol request of £1,900, but was told I could not claim this without my sister's permission. This decision was revoked when I complained, but I was unable to claim expenses from June. My sister was then contacted and given a value of the estate that excluded the administration costs and the charge for selling the house. She was told about my expenses. I was not told that she had been informed. The Co-op said I had no right to know as it was the representative of the estate, not me. I also received the invoice of another bereaved relative. Following 10 months of problems, I have dis-instructed the Co-op as I no longer have faith it is working in the best interests of my father's estate. I complained about the Co-op's service, for which it refunded £1,000, plus VAT. But it rejects my complaint about the unauthorised sharing of information with my sister. JS, Reading.
A We have had to abbreviate your very long complaint and CLS's very long response. CLS does not accept most of your complaint. Specifically, it suggests that you do not understand that it was acting on behalf of the estate, not you. It must comply with clear legal obligations to treat you and your sister equally. It was legally obliged to respond to your sister's request for a statement of expenses. But it accepts that it wrongly sent you a bill for another family and says that it has tightened procedures to prevent this mistake recurring. It says that while it believes its customer service up until April this year was satisfactory, in the period from April until July it was not of the standard required. It has therefore offered a further fee reduction of £250. If you remain unhappy you can request an investigation by the Legal Ombudsman. Your situation is a warning of the problems caused when a person dies intestate.
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