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Home Insurance Topics Of Interest (K-Z)

Keys – Where cover applies (and not all policies provide it so check your wording) you should expect your insurer to replace all the locks in your house if your keys are stolen. Where car keys are stolen or lost you cannot expect your household insurer to pay for replacement of your car locks. Your motor policy will not cover it either! Where it s reasonable that the thief can determine the car to which the keys belong, a good motor insurer should listen sympathetically to your claim – after all it is in their interests to help you prevent the theft of your car.

Matching Items – another of those very controversial areas. Some wording try and restrict cover to just the item damaged. The minimum you should accept is repair or replacement of the damaged/lost item and a contribution of up to 50% of the replacement cost of the undamaged items to achieve an acceptable match.

Personal Effects – what is a personal effect that you normally carry or wear? You should expect a flexible approach from your insurer who should include any item that could reasonably be carried or worn. But don’t you be unreasonable either!

‘Reasonable Care’ – the test your insurer should consider is whether you have been reckless rather than negligent. If they draw the line at carelessness or negligence, hardly any claims at all would be paid! Insurers will take into account the desirability of the items, the value and what precautions were taken to safeguard them.

Replacement of Goods – in recent years, more and more claims are settled via replacement using the insurers' supplier. They achieve discounts of retail prices. If you are happy with this, fine. In vast majority of situations, it will be a satisfactory settlement for you. Indeed, you could upgrade by paying extra to the supplier yourself, at the discounted rate. Where, for one reason or another, you want to replace yourself you are entitled to the replacement cost you pay, not the cost your insurer would have paid to their supplier. Where your insurer replaces, they must do so ‘like for like’ unless the unit is obsolete in which case one of at least equal quality and specification should be offered to you and agreed by you. If the unit breaks down after you receive it, responsibility for repair or replacement under consumer legislation would rest with your insurer who in turn can recover any costs from their supplier.

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Storm – You might have heard of the ‘Beaufort Scale’. Insurers do not use this to determine if your property has been damaged by a storm. Each case is usually dealt with on its merits, having regard to weather data available and reasonably poor weather prevailing in your area. There have been court cases where the judges have ruled that for an insurance claim to succeed there must be ‘violent wind accompanied by rain or hail or snow’ (Oddy V Phoenix Assurance Co Ltd 1965) or ‘rain accompanied by strong wind’ (Young V Sun Alliance and London Ins Group 1976) or something more prolonged and widespread than a gust of wind (S & M Hotels Ltd V Legal and General 1971). Where the damage is caused by wear and tear or lack of maintenance do not expect your insurer to pay for it. Flat roofs are likely to be rejected for storm damage unless you can prove storm conditions were happening and that you have regularly maintained the roof. Tears caused by falling tiles and debris help. Damage caused by snow should be accepted a storm damage.

Subsidence – This one is likely to cost you! Your excess for subsidence on buildings' policy will not be less than £500 and in most cases £1000. i.e. you have to pay the first £1000 of the claim. I hope you have been saving your money for this! Insurers prefer to have control of the matter so if you notice cracks in your home, report it to them immediately. If you go and instruct your own surveyor they might well recommend drastic measures to prop up your house that might not be required. You will end up in dispute with your insurer. There are many issues that can arise such as trying to sell your home, trying to change your insurer and so on. It would take a book to answer them all. One I will just mention is that if you have moved your cover from one insurer to another, the previous insurers might be called upon to contribute to your claim under the A.B.I Domestic Subsidence Agreement. This is to prevent disputes between insurers as to who pays for what. It should not affect you at all. But what happens when an underground pipe has leaked and this has led to movement and thus subsidence? What insured peril should apply and what excess do you have to pay? It is in your interests to show that the loss should fall under the underground services peril. That way you do not have to pay the large excess for a subsidence claim. It is all down to what insurers call the 'proximate cause'. You need to be able to show that the proximate cause of the damage is the burst or leaking pipe.

Underground Services – you should expect your insurer to accept fortuitous blockages as accidental damage and they should be willing to pay for jetting out and CCTV surveys if required. Problems arise where an underground pipe has been leaking and caused subsidence to your home. See subsidence above


"The accident was caused by me waving to the man I hit last week"
Extracts taken from actual claim forms submitted to
a number of UK car insurance companies