24 January 2010

I swear I was not going to relate the continuing saga of our struggles with our insurance company and their agents regarding the damage to the Annexe shower. Continuing incompetence requires full disclosure, I am afraid.

We all know, I guess, that insurance companies are liars, frauds and cheats. They take your money every month quite happily and assure you of their best intentions and continuing love and affection, when in fact they are out to screw you at the first opportunity. So, what follows will come as no surprise to anyone. (By the way, is there anyone on this mailing list who works in the insurance industry? If so, apologies to you the individual but no apologies, I’m afraid to the industry).

A couple of weeks ago the newish, young tenants in the Annexe came around to report that they had discovered some damp and mould on one of the bedroom walls. When we went round to investigate there was indeed damp and mould on the wall, the other side of which was, naturally, the shower.

So, I contact the insurance company to report the problem – clearly we have a leak in the shower, either in the pipe work or, perhaps more probably, some of the grouting or sealant has cracked.

I guess we’ve all had the misfortune of having to deal with insurance companies at some point in the past. So, it will come as no surprise to learn that their first response on hearing my description of our damage was, “I’m sorry Sir, but that’s not covered.”

On the one hand I was somewhat nonplussed by their initial rejection; on the other hand I was half expecting the initial reaction to be negative because, it seems in my experience, that the initial assessment is always that somehow the insurance doesn’t cover precisely what you thought it covered. So, I pressed for an explanation. Apparently, damage which has been on-going is not covered so the fact that the plaster was wet and there was some mould indicated that the problem had been going on for some time and hence would not be covered. The agent even offered to send me a copy of the policy document (naturally I couldn’t locate mine) which she did.

Imagine my surprise to discover on reading the policy document that leaks from pipes and other “equipment” was covered under the policy but, as the agent had pointed out, on-going damage was excluded. I rang back and spoke to the agent again – the policy says that damage from leaking pipes is covered; what we have is damage caused by leaking pipes. How is one to know that one has a leaking pipe until the damage becomes evident which, if it is a slow leak, will naturally take some time? At which point, the agent conceded that this was a grey area and eventually agreed to send out an assessor the next day.

In the meantime, when we thought the insurance was not going to cover the damage we had asked a local plumber to come and give us a quote for removing the tiles, stripping back the damaged plaster, repairing the leak, reboarding the shower cubicle and restoring everything to its once pristine state. The size of his estimate was in the vicinity of the current budget deficit so we were delighted when the assessor agreed that the damage was caused by a leaking pipe and should be covered under our policy.

Now, while this is undoubtedly saving us a considerable sum of money, one is beginning to wonder whether we wouldn’t have been better off organising the work and paying for it ourselves. The insurance company appointed a particular firm to carry out the repairs and this firm has been just about as inefficient as it is possible to be. The phrase “They couldn’t organise a piss up in a brewery” was designed, I think, for the manner in which this firm has dealt with our issue. Workmen arrive with no clear instructions – we try to explain what we would like and they then need to telephone their boss who says, “No”, seemingly no matter what the request might be. The company contracted by the insurance company to deal with our claim is clearly interested in spending as little as possible, while charging the insurance company as much as they can get away with. Each worker who arrives explains why he cannot do what we want him to do but only what the repair company authorises him to do. So, we’re back on the phone arguing with the agent again, and again, and again. They even managed to send a tiler out before the shower cubicle had been properly boarded out – even I knew that wasn’t quite the order in which the work needed to be completed.

Still, I think we are getting towards the end of it. The pipe work has been repaired (at our expense, not the insurance company’s because, bizarrely it seems to me, they will pay for tearing everything apart to find the damage and then they will also pay to put everything back again but they won’t pay for repairing the damage or the cause of the issue itself – that’s our responsibility. Now, I have to confess I can see a bit of logic here but when I asked what would happen if I simply did not repair the leaking pipe – wouldn’t they be out here again in a matter of weeks to repair the damage again? Surely it was in their interests to ensure that the damage was repaired properly? No, because that would definitely be on-going damage which they wouldn’t cover).

The shower cubicle has now been properly boarded (again, after considerable discussion about whether they should use water-proof plasterboard specifically designed for showers – “No” was their obvious initial response, until we agreed to pay the difference) and we await the re-arrival of the tiler on Monday. Then, we’ve got to get the plumber back to do the final connections and we (or, in fact, our tenants) will be good to go.

Insurance agents and lawyers – don’cha love ‘em!

As some slight recompense for the rant above, enjoy a photo of the orchid on Ms Playchute’s kitchen window sill as well as one of the Christmas hyacinth.

Love to you all,