Insurers accused of ‘ducking and diving’ over flood pay-out

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THE owners of businesses in West Yorkshire’s Calder valley are claiming that their futures are being put in doubt because insurance companies are refusing to offer them flood cover.

Hundreds of claims for damage to homes and businesses in and around Hebden Bridge are being processed, the majority of which are progressing well, according to local brokers.

Floodwaters surround the cinema and local shops in the centre of Hebden Bridge in June

Floodwaters surround the cinema and local shops in the centre of Hebden Bridge in June

But some insurers have been accused of “ducking and diving” in an attempt to get out of paying for flood damage repairs, while others are refusing to provide businesses with renewed flood insurance cover.

One business landlord in Hebden Bridge has had a £15,000 claim for flood damage rejected by an insurer and is taking the case to the Financial Services Ombudsman, according to an insurance broker in the town.

In some cases, businesses and householders looking to renew their insurance policies are being told that flood cover will no longer be part of the policy. Others have seen premiums double and at least one firm has been quoted a £5,000 excess in the event of a flooding claim.

An insurance broker who has opened up a free advice centre for those having problems with insurers has told the Yorkshire Post that he had come across one company that had cancelled a client’s insurance policy mid-term.

This, he said, was “morally wrong”, although the firm is within its rights to do so.

Insurance broker Simon Waring, based in Hebden Bridge, has been helping people in the town who are having problems with their insurers. He stressed that none of those he is helping are actually his company’s clients.

“I have given advice on about 15 cases where people have had difficulties with insurers,” he said.

In some cases, some of the fault lies with the business or householders because they have made mistakes in the insurance application questionnaire.

He said forms had been filled out in haste without taking expert advice beforehand.

He has come across two cases in which insurers are refusing to pay out and another case where an insurer has cancelled a policy mid-way through the term.

Mr Waring said that people who are refused flood damage insurance need not panic, as it was possible in many cases to prepare a building for a future flooding event.

In one case, a shop owner had sealed his doors with silicon ahead of heavy rain which had kept his Calder valley property dry until the water subsided. Others have been laying stone floors and moving electric cables to prepare for the worst.

One business owner hit hard by the floods is Yvonne Willars who is still waiting for work to begin on her flood-damaged Cabin cafe in Hebden Bridge.

Because the cafe was closed, she was not making any money and had to take out a loan to buy another business, the Riverside cafe at nearby Mytholmroyd.

She has now been told that she cannot get flood damage insurance on the Riverside. She understands that the previous owner was given insurance, including flood cover, for less than £500 a year. She was recently quoted more than £700 for insurance which would not cover flooding damage.

Ms Willars told the Yorkshire Post: “I am not the only one in this situation. I have been talking to people who have been quoted £5,000 excess. It’s crackers and it’s a scam.

“I think a lot of people will be thinking twice about starting up in business. I believe some people are pulling out. The insurance companies have got you by the short and curlies and won’t help when you need it most.”

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers said: “Insurers will do everything they can to deal with people as quickly as they can. The last thing they want is people waiting. Most policies have cover which pays for the cost of alternative trading premises.

“Companies move heaven and earth to get claims dealt with quickly.”

The spokesman advised anyone having problems with their insurers to contact the company head office and, if necessary, to contact the ombudsman.