When the worst happens, be sure you understand the insurance policy is used to best effect.
Statistically the most common accident within flats is water leaks from washing machines. All too often such leaks do not just affect the flat in which it occurs but it will work its way down through the building, sometimes affecting two or even more other flats within the block. Fire can cause very significant damage. Because of the structure of most buildings, a fire in one flat will rarely remain in that flat and communal areas and other flats will often be affected, if not by fire, then by smoke damage.
It is at times such as these that the insurance policy becomes very important. The policy must be one that covers the repairs to damage to the building as a whole, it cannot be a policy dedicated to a single flat.
If a leak or similar has occurred then you must contact the management company or their managing agent immediately and explain what the damage is. The agents will then initiate contact with the insurance company.
The “loss adjuster” is the first person you are likely to see in an insurance claim. Usually, smartly ‘suited and booted’ and very polite, these people are sent to assess the damage, but are working to a remit of ensuring that the insurance company’s interests are protected.
The loss adjuster will be looking at the damage but they will also be seeking to ensure that the terms of the policy have not been breached in any way. Typical amongst the questions they will be asking is whether the building has been regularly revalued and if the valuation is not up to date then they will argue they cannot make an appropriate valuation for the claim. Similarly they will want to check things such as the fire alarm has been regularly tested.
It is at times such as this that having a managing agent such as PM Property Services, comes to the fore. The agent can work closely with the loss adjuster, handling many of the challenging questions that will be posed. Additionally, PM Property Services works closely with an insurance broker who has authorisation with a number of insurance companies to actually carry out work without going through the full claims process, thus speeding up restoration significantly.
A significant water leak or similar can be very emotional in a building. All of a sudden somebody who has no problem whatsoever is faced with water dripping through the ceiling or similar. It is important that “emotion” is taken out of the process, and again, the managing agent such as PM Property Services, can be invaluable. They can take an even handed view of the situation, and take much of the ‘steam’ out of the process.
It is at times such as this insurance policy really gets tested. Often factors that did not seem significant when preparing the original proposal become apparent. A classic example is cover for loss of accommodation. Most policies have some coverage for this, however, if you live in a Listed Building (perhaps Grade I or Grade II) then the time it may take to restore the building will be significantly longer than other buildings because of the need to obtain planning permission for the repairs. Get the wrong policy and your costs of alternative accommodation could be very much higher and may well not be fully met by the policy.
What if the policy is inadequate? Ultimately, the policy will have been selected by the management company or its agent, and if it is found to be significantly deficient in meeting the requirements of the claim then it may involve a legal claim against the management company for a lack of duty of care to ensure the building was properly insured. This is a very messy and very contentious route down which to travel, and why PM Property Services so strongly recommends getting the right insurance in place before the worst happens.
Once the claim is accepted then restoration work has to take place. It is important to remember that the policy is about making good the damage caused, it’s not an opportunity to do a complete refurbishment of your property and certainly it is not intended to make things better than they were previously. That said, it does not mean that you end up with a “bodge job”. It should be fully and professionally undertaken.
Can I choose the contractors? It is sometimes possible to have a say in which contractors, but in these days it is normal for the insurance company to select the contractor and make the necessary arrangements for the work to be done. It is rare that the householder has much say other than perhaps colours and finishes of fitments if they have to be completely replaced.
Don’t forget the “excess”. On most policies there will be what is called an “excess”. This means that the value of the claim is reduced by a certain amount which has to be met by either the flat owner or through the management company funds. Often the excess will be in the order of several hundred pounds so it is not an insignificant amount of money that may have to be found.
The consequences of the claim will be recorded against the policy and could indeed require a higher premium in the next year. The insurance company may also want clear evidence that the cause of the problem, for example faulty plumbing or the like, has indeed been fixed and if a repeat of the accident occurs they may look very poorly on meeting the claim if corrective action has not been taken.
Dealing with an insurance claim is time consuming, emotional, and often very tricky to achieve the desired outcome. It is essential that time and effort has been taken to get the right insurance policy, but it is also very wise to ensure that the likelihood of a claim occurring is mitigated. For example, make sure that people are very clear about using professionals for plumbing work. You may use your “mate” to do work in a house and the consequences that follow will only affect that house, in a flat it will affect often many other people. Also, insure things such as the electricity supply has been checked regularly because the prevention of a claim is likely to be far preferable than the handling of a claim.
Insurance is not fun and the implication of a claim should be taken very seriously.