Double agent leaves tenant between a rock and a hard place

Posted by 9 February, 2014 (0) Comment
This article is about tenants, builders and surveyors. One of them behaved badly when an insurance claim occurred and it’s not who you think. Insurance fraud is a huge problem for all of us. This article gives you some clues as to how you can avoid getting caught up, and caught out, when someone thinks it’s OK to commit fraud.
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Leaks can be a real drag

 

A last minute call before Christmas comes from a client in a mini panic because the client facilities at their studio have got pools of water where it shouldn’t be. The area has to be sealed off because of the leak and the business might have to close, albeit temporarily, if gets any worse.

This is a straightforward issue for us, yet it could be the first time a client is going through this scenario and prompt assistance and advice is what they need. We provided the reassurance that we promised, confirming that the damage to their property was covered. However we instructed them to contact their landlords insurance people because the leak had not sprung from nowhere. It was likely that both insurers would need to be involved. This is quite common and, in this case, a managing agent handled insurance affairs for the landlord.

Property Manager or Mangler?

 

After a fashion, I received another call from the client explaining that the property managing agent did not want to offer much assistance. They simply said “the builder must be responsible”. I reminded the client that their landlord had cover for investigating leaks, which had become clear when we checked their insurance provision at the beginning. Armed with this information the client/tenant felt confident in contacting the managing agent and pressing their point home. Subsequently, a surveyor arrives and determines that a pipe has not been correctly sealed, causing water to leak and bubble up through the flooring. Luckily it was water rather than waste that leaked, so the damage wasn’t too messy.

In the ordinary course of things, this would have been simple from here on in. The landlord’s insurance pays for the tracing of the leak and the builder repairs the pipe they installed defectively and the client has insurance to repair the resultant damage to their flooring, etc. The managing agent had other ideas.

Why do people think it’s OK to to defraud insurers?

 

The managing agent contacted the tenant and asked them to pay for the surveyors invoice. When they refused, because it is not their responsibility, the property managing agent said “completely off the record, it will be much easier to do business with us if you tell your insurance company that this was an uninsured part of the landlord’s policy, or write a letter confirming that there were more damaged areas than was actually true”. They wanted to recover the cost of the surveyor without resorting to their own insurance. Or rather, the landlord’s insurance. This seems daft because it’s not their insurance to worry about. It’s the landlord’s! Doing their job properly means presenting insurance claims to insurers in order for them to be settled promptly, fairly, and keep the premises in good shape.

What we know is that this happens all too often. Regrettably, property managing agents have to have their fingers in the landlord’s insurance pie, and they do deals with insurance companies, not always with the landlord’s knowledge, that means that they get paid extra if they do not make too many claims. This is on top of the income they receive for managing the insurance, which is paid to them by the insurance company and allows them to charge the landlord less for the overall management of the property. To landlords this is either something they are unaware of, or dressed up as a good deal. However, they don’t seem to realise that it is going to cost them money in the long run if the property is not well looked after.

Surely the managing agent should be looking after the property rather than trying to earn money out of the insurance that they don’t even pay for. People find it hard to believe that this happens, yet property managing agents seem quite willing to hide the commissions they receive from their clientele and mess up claims situations when it suits them. At the end of the day they always blame the builder or the tenant. Who is the landlord going to believe?

Top Tip: Always check the insurance arrangements of a premises you are about to buy or lease, because you will find insurance history can paint a different picture to the particulars you were originally shown.

Wrap Up: There are some great property managing agents out there yet there are also plenty of rogues. Accountants have told me that they have recovered many hundreds of thousands of pounds from property managing agents who stitched up the owners of properties they looked after. It’s not just on insurance, they do the same on maintenance issues and when repairs are required. Take a closer look at the bills they are sending and see if you can spot any trend that doesn’t make sense.

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Insurers pay one claim but not the other

Posted by 26 July, 2013 (0) Comment

This article is about how insurance companies often make odd decisions. Here’s an example of how one insurance company refused to pay a claim that another department had already agreed to pay, the delays it causes, and what you can do about it.

 

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We’re paying. No were not!

 

Terry calls me and lets me know there’s been a flood from an appliance installed at their property. It’s obvious that this is covered by the insurance because this is one of the main risks that we were asked to reduce.  It was a contractor that caused the problem and eventually they will be paying for it, yet when there’s water all over your property floor and the contractor has failed to answer their phone, things can get stressful. I let Terry know that we would ensure that someone visited to assess the damage, but the main thing was to stop the leak and find out what caused it.

How can they possibly refuse?

 

Once the claim was made the insurance company confirmed that it would repair the internal damage yet none of the damage to the walls. Yes the wall, this was some leak! This was some leak and it is not unusual for this to happen when a property is unattended.  We helped the client make contact with the insurance company of the walls, and things seemed to be progressing smoothly, with all the various parties agreeing the damage was covered and the amount to be paid to the insured to replace all of the damaged property, repair the flooring, the walls, et al.

 

It then transpired that the same insurance company covered both the internal and the structure. However one department had agreed that it was fair to pay for alternative accommodation whilst the repairs were undertaken and the other department said it would not be necessary.  This caused a delay, there was no need for it, because you can’t renege on a promise, and as insurance contracts are promises, we weren’t going to let them get away with it.

What can you do about?

 

This often occurs and the two insurance departments appointed 5 separate “independent” advisors to manage the damage. We oversaw all the relevant parties and it was a shame that one of them was seeking to “draw favouritism” fromthe insurance company by trying to reduce the claim.  Terry was pleased with the final settlement, but it was only achievable because one of the adjusters appointed by the insurer was reasonable and went the extra mile once we had put together a fully reasoned argument as to why  the settlement should be full and include the cost of alternative accommodation.

As I write this, Terry is preparing for her stay in a hotel and all the building work is due to be completed within a fortnight. It’s a shame that a hotel is even necessary and the lesson is, make sure you use contractors and suppliers who are there to help you when you most need it. A good way to check this is to ring the claims line of any insurance provider that you are due to choose. I have said this before – at least it will give you the opportunity to assess how quickly they will respond to your claim. It may help you measure whether they have put all of their resources into sales and leave you hanging when you most need them.

 

Wrap Up: There are always difficulties when different policies cover parts of the same property. Who covers the floor if it is someone else’s ceiling? The measure of any service is how well they perform when you need them. If you can, try and use as few advisors as possible when protecting your assets, income or reputation.  This will reduce the number of gaps and the time it takes to deal with any queries when accidents happen.

 

Top Tip: If you are having any form of work done at your business or home check the insurance details of the proposed contractors. The fact they have insurance is a good start, yet not all “cover notes” are the same and the policy details behind them are even more complicated.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , ,

Smashing lady is actually a criminal

Posted by 4 May, 2013 (0) Comment

Geoff calls me to ask if I can help him with protection for a large amount of jewellery he has just bought his wife and we always help our business insurance customers when they need help with their personal asset protection. While working out the particulars Geoff asks me if I have time to hear a short, but interesting story. Geoff is an entertaining guy, and I’m always happy to hear what’s been going on in his world.  He starts regaling me with a tale from a friend of his, who had been at home when he heard a loud bang, and his wife started shouting for him. He sped downstairs and was confronted with the sight of his front garden wall – newly decorated with a BMW.

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Who Done It?

 

A lady who looked physically shaken, was standing in his front garden, saying “a guy crashed his car into mine, knocked me into your wall and then disappeared.” Over a cup of tea she explained how she had been driving down the road, when she had been shunted from behind, left the road, hit the curb, and landed on top of his wall, rather than driving through it. There was no real evidence of damage to her vehicle, so it looked plausible.

The police were called and statements were taken. The lady drove off, regrettably she didn’t know the identity of the perpetrator who had crashed into her.  She didn’t know the make of the car or the registration number, because it had happened so quickly.

She did it!

 

Some time later a neighbour stopped by to ask what was happening with the demolished wall was told the tale of the lady being shunted into the curb and over the wall. At this point his neighbour informed him that his CCTV told a completely different story.

As Geoff’s friend watched the CCTV footage, he couldn’t believe his eyes. The lady’s BMW was spotted travelling down the opposite side of the road that she’d said, and suddenly left the road as her head disappeared from view behind the windscreen. Her car then clipped the curb and demolished his wall.

Fraud, lies and videotape

 

He could not believe what a performance this lady had put on, both for himself, his wife, and also for the police. He was incandescent by the time he had reached the end of the video footage, asked for a copy, stormed down the police station, demanded that the lady be arrested for fraud. Regrettably nobody had kept her details. Fortunately the CCTV recording had the registration plate number. The police are unlikely to investigate the lady for fraud, as they feel the insurance company would deal with the claim. Yet it is an offence to damage property whilst driving and not report it to the Police – check the highway code.

Is this gentleman incandescent enough to launch a private prosecution – probably not! Has he learned his lesson that what is often perceived may not be the case – yet this is what typically happens when anything goes wrong. I told my friends about this scenario and we all agreed it’s rare for people to take responsibility when things go wrong, sometimes because of the financial penalty. Most people don’t plumb the depths this lady did yet they do think their insurance premium will go up if they make a claim – which is untrue because not all insurances have a “no claim bonus”.

Wrap up:  A lot of businesses relationships with their suppliers go sour when it’s found they don’t provide the service they said they would and use their T&C’s to avoid paying a penalty. Let’s face it, some suppliers best performance is in the tender process.

Top tip: Follow me on Twitter to be the first to hear real evidence of the Police crackdown on whiplash claims. It will happen because the Government has realised that it’s caught up in insurance company unwillingness to drive change. This happened in the1990’s when the Police were swamped with claims for car stereos. The Government forced car manufacturers to improve security.

Share this: With anyone who complains about their insurance premium increasing. If it’s car insurance they’re complaining about, we don’t do it because it’s such a mess thanks to direct insurers and their unwillingness to detect fraud. Yet we do have this nifty tool that helps everyone reduce their premium.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , ,

Health and Safety can make you feel ill

Posted by 16 March, 2013 (0) Comment

This month is about the perils of consultants who, errr, don’t consult, why anyone offering insurance as an “add-on” should be carefully checked, and the scale of the trail of damage they can create.

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‘Elf & safety chancers

 

My hotelier clients are truly wonderful people. Like myself, they ensure that their clients get a good night’s sleep 🙂

One of them called me the other week and asked if their insurance covered them for the new regulations. “I must have missed something… what new regulations?”

It transpired that a Health & Safety consultant had turned up out of the blue,  making out they were some sort of official and asked to look around.  After lots of tutting, he then told the hotel staff that their boss was going to be jailed if they didn’t sign a contract for three years advice.

Putting the frighteners on (best gravelly voice required)

 

The fact the hotel already had an up to date and robust Health & Safety policy hadn’t crossed the consultant’s mind. He just wanted to scare people into signing up. It’s why Health & Safety has such a bad name. It’s used to frighten people into parting with their hard earned money instead of protecting people as they go about their day to day life.

Even worse than “the frighteners”, is the fact he included insurance in his offering. This would have been, in part, a duplication of cover that was already in place. What’s wrong with dual insurance, I hear you ask?  Well, it causes delays at the very least, because each insurance company will suggest that the other is responsible for settlement , a case of “after you, Claude”.

So who pays – not the con man

 

In the worst case scenario, it can lead to claims being declined because insurance companies get a bee in their bonnet when they assume that claimants are trying to claim twice. It’s seldom true – people resent the hassle of insurance, never mind paying for it twice. It can lead to policies being cancelled because of something called non – disclosure.

And it doesn’t end there. If someone’s policy is cancelled by an insurance provider then they must inform future insurance providers of the cancelled policy, at the time that they are seeking alternative insurance solutions. Insurance companies can void the claims of those who have an an incidence of non-disclosed cancellation.

If the current insurer decides to increase their policy premiums because they suffered losses elsewhere in their portfolio, you wouldn’t want to be stuck with them forever.

Wrap up: Health & Safety is important, yet should be treated as a way to prevent issues, rather than be used as a stick to beat people with.

Top tip: Check your Health & safety, employment tribunal and other business protection practices do not include duplicated insurance.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , ,

Cowboys and Insurers catch policyholders in bug fight

Posted by 11 February, 2013 (0) Comment

This article looks at why insurance companies are not paying out on as many claims as they normally would, why inflated claims are not usually due to policyholders being greedy and how insurance companies can reduce costs by settling promptly.

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Insurance payouts on the decline

 

The Money section of The Sunday Times confirmed that insurers are using the current climate as an excuse to decline more claims than they normally would. The report confirms that 41% more claims are being needlessly declined, and this suggests a shift by all insurers to look at things with a “fine tooth comb”. The Association of British Insurers argues that insurance companies are always willing to pay valid claims quickly and speedily.

However, the Association of British Insurers do not deal with claims on a daily basis… I do, and I can confirm, categorically, that insurance companies are using any excuse and making people fight to get what they are contractually obliged to. Yes, your insurance policy is a contract, and they should be honouring the terms and conditions, rather than using spurious clauses to avoid making a fair settlement.

 

Someone is going to draw their weapon… smallprint?

 

One of the examples The Time reported was when an insurance company tried to decline paying a claim for damage caused by a water leak, by referring to woodworm that was found in the floorboards where the damage occurred. They stated that woodworm was not covered by the policy, and they are right. However, the claim was not for damage caused by woodworm, it was for damage caused by a leak, which every policy covers, unless there is a specific exclusion due to previous claims or unusual circumstances.

There is a good reason why this happens so often. Regrettably, people who are involved in the claims process sometimes make simple situations far more complicated than necessary.  In this particular case, the builder decided to mentioned woodworm in their report, encouraging the home-owner to have the woodworm repaired. On one hand, you can’t really blame a contractor for mentioning it. On the other hand, small print in the insurance contract meant that the home-owner initially didn’t get paid for something they should have been paid for. Fortunately, they didn’t give up.

 

Can’t we all just get along?

 

A better way to deal with it would have been to issue a report on the water leak, and issue a separate report for the woodworm, or estimate for fixing the problem. Sometimes the insurance company appoint contractors, and whenever they do, my head starts to hurt. Recent cases I have dealt with include an appointed inspection company visiting a premises three times because they failed to carry out a correct “validation” on the first and second occasions.

Our nationwide Insurance companies and local contractors can, and should be encouraged to, work together quickly and cohesively, in order to help their mutual clients, because they are clients to both parties. Local work keeps costs down and quality contractors work hard because repeat business is really important to them. Insurers only make a profit on repeat business so it makes more sense to keep clients happy instead of  leaving them hanging.  

 

Wrap up: The Times article finished off by recommending that policyholders enlist the help of their insurance broker. I would not recommend anyone to report any claim to any insurance company, until they have taken the advice of someone who understands why insurers decline claims, and can make sure it never happens.

Top Tip: When you are choosing any insurance always call the claims line before you make a purchase. This will give you clues as to how your claim is going to be dealt with, especially if they fail to answer the phone quickly, put you in a call queuing system, fail to call you back, or are downright ignorant. It is the claims department who will ensure that you get what you deserve, so it makes sense to try before you buy.

Who to share this with: SME Business Owners & Contractors.

 

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

What the hell was that? Homeowners escape collapse

Posted by 31 May, 2012 (0) Comment

Last week saw the collapse of a roof that hit the front page of the Evening Standard. This posts advises why it’s highly unlikely that the home owner’s insurance company will cover the cost. Read on to find out how it happens, who picks up the tab and why legal action is often the end result.

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How does a roof just collapse?

 

Collapsed RoofIt’s been said that the accident is due to some form of faulty workmanship, crap materials or just old age. However, it’s often difficult to tell when faced with a pile of rubble.

It is highly unlikely that the home owner’s insurance company will cover the cost. Most policies exclude such damage, especially when they are being renovated.

So, who covers the cost?

 

So who pays for this? It’s difficult to say and I think it will most likely end up in the courts. I doubt anyone will want to take responsibility, yet the blame could be a aimed at a contractor, architect, surveyor or even the homeowner. Especially if the appropriate planning permissions were not obtained.

If nobody takes responsibility the owners of neighbouring properties damaged may find themselves uninsured. They’ll probably lay the blame (and cost) at the door of the “guilty” property. It happens from time to time.

 

Last resort, take action? Only if you know who to sue!

 

There is a form of protection that covers works and damage caused after they have been finalised. High quality architects and responsible builders recommend or invest in. It protects neighbours’ properties too.

However, I’ve lost count of the number of people that say they’ll sue someone else if things go wrong, rather than protect themselves. As if they have the money to do that. Do they realise just how much it costs to work out who is responsible for a pile of rubble?

 

Wrap up: Property renovations are a shrewd investment when the cost of labour and materials are so low. The opportunity to increase the value of assets can and should be balanced against the risk of a project going wrong.

Top Tip: Inspect insurance protection of those you allow into your property to complete repairs or maintenance. If they’re not protected, you might not be. Always be careful to survey a property owned by a “DIY Del” before making an offer. Click here for free Property Owners download.

Share this with: property owners, architects, surveyors, contractors, engineers and anyone else who gets involved in property improvements.

Categories : Accountants Insurance,After The Event,All Risks Insurance,Building Contractor,Business Insurance,Company Insurance,Contractors Insurance,Customer Service,General Requirements,Health & Safety,Legal expenses insurance,Liability Insurance,Litigation expenses insurance,Personal Insurance,Solicitors indemnity,Solicitors insurance,Trade,Uncategorized Tags : , , , , , , , , ,