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‘It didn’t feel real’: Fire leaves family £450,000 out of pocket

Published: 20/04/18

‘It didn’t feel real’: Fire leaves family £450,000 out of pocket

This headline appeared in the March 3 Money section of The Guardian telling the woeful story of a professional couple (female GP and her dentist husband) and their baby boy who were called back early from their holiday in Tenerife to find their house in ruins, devastated by fire. Whilst the couple felt fortunate to not have been trapped in a house fire or even experience the horror of watching their beloved home burn, they are still facing a pretty dire situation.

On the surface of it, the couple do not appear to have acted irresponsibly: they bought their insurance from Thatched Owners’ Group (TOG), a specialist broker in Lincolnshire and we are told that their rebuild value of £515,000 had been calculated using the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) calculator from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (Rics).

The home owners did however fall prey to that all too common problem of underinsurance. Following an insured event and subsequent claim, if your insurer calculates that you are underinsured they will not pay the full claim.

In this case, their insurer, Ageas initially estimated the rebuild cost to be £700,000, and then upped it to £900,000 in January 2018. As a result of this valuation Ageas said it will only pay out £435,000. As you might imagine the couple are still in lengthy a dispute with their insurer over the rebuild calculations. We are also told that Tim New, the managing director of TOG, “says he always advises clients to obtain rebuild valuations from a chartered surveyor.” but the insureds claim that this advice was not given?

As regards their insurance the article says:

“The couple paid a premium of £1,360 a year for their insurance. They estimate that if a higher rebuild value had been put into their policy, it would have cost little more than an extra £100. They insist there was no attempt on their part to deceive or under-insure deliberately just to save a few quid.”

Obviously we have no way of knowing whether they were looking to save money, when considering the sums involved it sounds ridiculous? We can see, as is so often the case – it's a false economy and clearly not worth it.

The article then goes on to discuss the reliability of the BCIS calculator and points out that this is the standard method of rebuild calculation when buying insurance online via price comparison sites. So without individual advice from a professional – you are taking a significant risk. 

High value homes need high value cover

We're not told how many bedrooms it had, but what we do know that it's a 1920's, detached, thatched, two storey house in Leatherhead Surrey and from the picture even after the fire, it looks a fairly substantial property, in a lovely setting.

The home-owner is quoted as saying “The construction is from the 1920s and the property is not listed. It’s basically two brick rectangles set at right angles to each other, to make an L-shape. The house was unmodernised since the 1970s, so there were no expensive fittings,” - again it's difficult without having the details but it could be argued a quality, 'unmodernised' 1920's property might actually be worth more because of highly valued period features, and then there's the integrity of the construction that would have gone into a building of that age.

Even if we take the insurer's lower rebuild estimate of £700,000 and then add contents cover on top, this is a high value property. The thatched roof makes it special construction and one that carries an increased fire risk!! When you buy insurance from Flint Private Clients we make recommendations based on available cover from a range of specialist insurers.

Survey as standard

Many high net worth insurers will survey the property themselves and set the rebuild value for the client as part of the insurance contract, as well as giving advice on security, property management and any other significant risks. Prevention is still better than cure – for all concerned.

As a specialist insurance broker Flint works hand-in-hand with our clients and insurers to make sure that everything is properly covered. And in the event of a claim we are there to offer our continued support.

High value homes require, specialist, high-net worth cover and every home owner, regardless of the size of their property needs to ensure that they do not fall prey to underinsurance.

For fail-safe high value cover call 0208 309 3434.


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