The recent fine delivered to Southern Water – a whopping £126m for the spillage of wastewater from sewage plants and the misrepresentation of company performance, reminded us at Aspray of the insurance claims issues that can develop for homeowners and commercial property owners who suffer the horrible occurrence of sewage water backup.
Such an incident can damage both the inside and outside of a property. Should damage occur internally, getting a property back to normal could seem almost impossible. The right to have a refund of a year’s sewerage charges if the damage is internal, or a maximum refund of 50%, if the damage is to land outside, is nothing compared to the losses that can have incurred inside a home, where even a good dose of disinfectant over floors and surfaces able to take such liquids does nothing to reduce the distress.
The fact is there are UK homes flooded with sewage each year, resulting in buildings insurance claims that may, or may not, pay out for the damage caused. Buildings insurance policies often state that there will be no recompense if the damage is caused by exceptional weather conditions, which render the sewerage system unable to cope, or if a strike by the relevant authority’s staff has led to the issue. Additionally, there is no compensation if the sewage back-up is deemed to have been caused by the policyholder, or if the public sewer has been flooded because of their actions.
These types of condition mean that doubt is embedded within the policy. Much is open to interpretation. What is “exceptional weather”? What sort of action could be deemed to be irresponsible or ill-advised, on the part of the policyholder? How can a policyholder be expected to fight any adverse adjudication of their claim for sewage back-up alone?
The answer is that they do not need to do so. If they contact Aspray, they can appoint their own loss assessor to do the research, thinking and negotiation for them, using Aspray’s in-depth experience to challenge anything the insurer and their representative, the loss adjuster, might say that adversely affects the policyholder’s claim.
Rather than wading through the sewage claims situation themselves, the policyholder can instruct Aspray to try to achieve a fair settlement and then also institute and manage the necessary schedule of works that will restore the property. In such a case, that will also include actions to sanitise the property and seek to assess whether the sewage has caused any unseen damage to the building framework.
Given the severe stress that usually accompanies sewage back-up, appointing your own claims manager, loss assessor and supervisor of works (all of which Aspray can be), is a move towards taking back control and a decision that could expedite the settlement of the claim.
Interpreting the policy in a way that is not in the policyholder’s interest can sometimes be a tempting option for some insurers, typically those under pressure because their claims payouts are draining the available funds in their set-aside reserves. This pressure can often work against the novice claimant, who is unlikely to know, one way or another, if the final repudiation of the claim, or lowering of its scope, is just. Most property insurance policyholders are insurance laypeople and simply do not have the means or experience to challenge a decision. Putting across the policyholder’s case in a compelling and authoritative way is something Aspray’s loss assessors do every day and their input can often completely change the course of a claim.
If you require support for your sewage back-up claim, call 0800 077 6705. If you want to have an authoritative voice on speed-dial, in case the worst should occur, note the number and keep it on file, or at your fingertips, within your smartphone directory.