It’s every home owner’s nightmare. Something happens to your property and possessions and you have to make a large claim on your home insurance, but for reasons you disagree with the insurer refuses to meet the claim.
While the majority of honest claims are met by insurers fairly quickly, or at least settled amicably after a little toing and froing, it’s becoming more common that some are rejected.
Last year the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (BIBA) found that of all UK insurance brokers, 90% said insurers were becoming more difficult when it came to pay outs and agreeing settlements, largely blaming increased fraud and the economic climate.
So if you make a home insurance claim which you end up in dispute with your insurer over, what’s the best way to go about ensuring a successful outcome
1. Write a formal letter
Firstly, you need to formally lay out why you disagree with your insurer’s decision in a letter (this is expected of you before you can approach the Financial Ombudsman – see point 2 below). Note down any wording in your policy documents that you think supports your case, and also any elements which you think are ambiguous or poorly explained (this will also help support your case).
It’s worth noting that a recent change to the rules means insurers will have difficulty rejecting a claim if you can show you answered all questions on application for your cover to the best of your knowledge. If your insurer is now asking for information you feel wasn’t requested at the time of application, it will count against them.
Include all evidence you have that you think supports your claim and say what you want the insurer to do.
2. Go to the Financial Ombudsman Service
If the insurer still refuses to meet your claim, or you are still unhappy with any settlement you may have been offered after complaining directly to the insurer, you’ll have to go to the Financial Ombudsman.
One of the reasons the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS) was set up was to mediate and settle disputes between consumers and financial companies which can’t be settled otherwise.
The Financial Ombudsman Service will guide you in the process and act as mediator, and ultimately will decide on what the settlement, if any should be. The FOS has a website with all the information you need to continue your claim http://www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk/
3. Beware time limits
It’s very important that if you disagree with an insurer’s decision you start the complaints process as soon as possible. There are set time limits relating to how long you can take to do so, and if you go beyond them you won’t be able to pursue your complaint.
4. Maximising your chances: Fighting loss adjustors with your own loss adjustor
For larger and more complicated home cover claims, insurers often send out claims assessors, or loss adjustors as they’re also known, to assess the claim. Disputes often originally arise because a homeowner disagrees with the loss adjustor’s views and recommendations.
If a claim isn’t going the way you’d like, many experts recommend you get in touch with the Chartered Institute of Loss Adjustors (CILA) and have one appointed to represent you (by law you’re allowed to do this). You can then have them make their own, independent assessment and help to fight your claim. They should be experts in the area of your claim (in all likelihood you won’t be!) and know how the system works inside out.
Unfortunately, they charge by the hour rather than taking a percentage of any possible recovered claim. But after consulting with you, a loss adjustor should let you know what they think your chances of success are and you can then make your mind up about hiring them.
5. Hire a chartered surveyor
For disputes over claims involving the structure of your home, which is covered by the buildings element of your home insurance, it can be a good idea to hire a chartered surveyor. Many also help mediate over insurance claims as well as fulfilling their more traditional surveying duties.
6. Buying through comparison sites might not be the best way
Increasingly, when people buy house insurance online through comparison sites, they often simply opt for the cheapest option, without really reading the small print, and end up with insurance that isn’t what they’d hoped.
Insurance brokers can be very helpful in this regard, tailoring policies to better suit your needs than the more generic options often offered through comparison sites, and guiding you through what’s right for you and what you can expect from your cover.
7. Dispute decision
Smaller claims are often settled fairly quickly, in a matter of weeks or a few months, once you’ve taken a dispute to the Financial Ombudsman. But more complicated claims can take much longer, so be prepared to wait. However, if you’ve got your facts straight, have followed procedures correctly, and stick to your guns, you’ve got a very good chance of success.
We carefully select the insurers on our panel for their cover levels, price and claims service; to make sure you get the best possible quality for less. What you see is what you get – no hidden excesses or excessive fees. To speak to one of our experts, call 0203 014 9300 or email firstname.lastname@example.org