Questions Of Cash: 'Pension fund firm rejected my French documents'


Q. I am about to retire – my birthday is on 30 September – when my pension should start. I have a pension fund with Winterthur Life and applied to receive my pension. But it will not accept my French birth certificate as proof of age. I have explained to Winterthur that the French system is different from Britain's: original birth certificates are always kept in archives at the place of birth. This avoids such an important document being lost. No French citizen gets the original certificate: one sends for a copy whenever necessary and receives it promptly, free of charge. I have lived in England since 1972, have paid my taxes and been a good citizen. CC, by email.

A. Axa – which owns Wintherthur – confirms that it is company policy to require the original birth certificate, though it would also have accepted a current passport or driving licence in the absence of a British birth certificate. But given your circumstances, Axa has accepted a copy of your French birth certificate. It has now settled your policies and sent a tax-free lump sum direct to your bank account. It apologises for your inconvenience. It is reviewing its processing of applications to avoid similar problems being experienced by other customers.

Q. I have been told by Nottingham City Council that it is unsafe for me to use my home, because of a landslip on a neighbouring property. A prohibition order has been issued, instructing me to move out of my house. But my insurer, RSA, refuses to pay my costs for living in rented accommodation while the problem is sorted out. ZP, Nottingham.

A. RSA has now carried out a structural review of your property and concluded that your property is not structurally damaged. On this basis, you are not covered for your full rental costs while you are necessarily living in temporary accommodation. It has, though, now paid you £500 as a contribution towards these costs under the home emergency section of the policy. It seems that you will need to take legal action against the owners of the land that is slipping, to recover your costs from them. Your home insurance policy does include entitlement to free legal advice, but RSA tells us that this is limited to access to an advice line and excludes cover for the costs of legal action. We have also discussed your problem with Nottingham City Council, which advises that you seem to be the only owner-occupier who has had to move out. It is trying to identify the owners of the properties where the landslip has occurred and hopes to broker a solution in which your costs are recovered. However, it seems as if the total cost of resolving the landslip may be over £1m – which means that it could take several months, or longer, before the situation is resolved, you receive compensation and can return to your home.

Questions of Cash cannot give individual advice. But if you have a financial dilemma, we'll do our best to help. Email us at: questionsofcash@ independent.co.uk.

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