Insurers can create a storm when refusing a payout

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Storm damage is one of the worst nightmares for any homeowner. The sudden invasion of water, usually dirty, with little or no warning is bad enough but as the clear-up gets underway, there is at least the peace of mind that insurance will cover the cost.

Yorkshire has suffered more than most of the country with recent appalling weather. The sudden rainfall and giant hailstones have damaged properties, both inside and out.

Imagine setting down all the costs involved to then be rejected by the insurer. The Financial Ombudsman – which tries to settle disputes between consumers and insurers – says that far too many claims are being turned down without a proper investigation.

The problem stems from insurance companies wishing to shelter behind a definition for ‘storm’. The reality is that homeowners want to be reinstated to the position before the disaster regardless of some technical weather statistic.

Rather than accept damage can result from a sudden meteorological change, usually involving rain, snow or hail, some insurers look for “wind force 10 on the Beaufort scale reaching 64 to 72 knots”.

Wind speed alone is not a reason for declining claims, says the Financial Ombudsman.

Anyone on the spot can see damage which is out of the ordinary. Employ more inspectors if necessary, perhaps taking on chartered surveyors on a temporary basis.

‘Wear and tear’ is one excuse adopted by insurers to not pay out. These are weasel words of which they should be ashamed. If there is roof damage, they look for rusty nails maintaining a roof as an excuse to not pay out.

It is not all one-sided. Insurance providers would be within their rights to reduce a claim where the maintenance is poor or non-existent, such as the guttering has become blocked.

Insurers paid out over £200m for settling flood and storm damage in 2011.

The payment is likely to be higher this year but that is no excuse for not settling genuine claims.

Rather than disappoint homeowners and prolong a personal misery, let’s see insurance providers being prompt and magnanimous.