Pensioner left with snow-wrecked home as insurance company says it won’t pay for damage

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INSURERS have refused to pay out for a pensioner’s snow-wrecked house – because it does not count as storm damage.

Sheila Corrigan, 72, from Edinburgh, said she was lucky to be alive after her car port roof caved in, ripping down an attic wall inside her 1960s home.

But Mrs Corrigan got another shock when her insurers refused to pay up for the repairs, which are set to cost tens of thousands of pounds.

The firm claimed conditions at the time the snow fell were not severe enough to count as storm damage.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) today (Wed) advised homeowners to check their insurance policies if in any doubt.

Mrs Corrigan said her home, in the Gilmerton area of the city, looked like it had been hit by a bomb.

She said: “The bricks were coming down in big lumps and the noise from it was tremendous.

“I was in at the time it collapsed but fortunately at the other side of the property.

“About an hour earlier I had been brushing cobwebs from underneath the carport and would have been killed if it had fallen on me.”

The pensioner faces Christmas misery after being told she would be getting no money from the insurance company – despite them never having visited to check the damage.

Mrs Corrigan said she switched her home insurance to a firm called RIAS because “they claimed to look after older people”.

She said: “I remember seeing a brochure which said ‘relax and let us take care of you’.

“They told me I wasn’t covered without even coming out to inspect what happened.

“They just said ‘we don’t cover snow storms’ but what constitutes a storm?

“I think they are shocking, they have never even been to see my house.

“I’m not expecting them to refund the carport but I was expecting the building to be made safe.

“It’s appalling and I’ve been in contact with my local councillor and my MP Ian Murray because I want parliament to have a look at insurance speak and what is understood by the words they use.

“They should explain to you exactly what you’re covered for.

“What on earth do they think people are insuring themselves for if it’s not something like this?”

She added: “RIAS advertise themselves for the over 50s, they say they care for the elderly but I don’t think they have fulfilled their contract of care.

“I had taken out emergency cover – so I at least thought my house would have been made safe.

“I’m lucky because my neighbours and my son came straight over to dig a path – otherwise I wouldn’t have been able to get out.

“And my son has sealed up the gaping wall with black plastic bags.”

Mrs Corrigan said she has had to have her heating on 24 hours a day since it happened at the start of December.

She said: “The temperatures have been well below freezing for some time and if the heating wasn’t on the house would be very, very cold.

“The fact is that I cannot do any repairs just now anyway because bricklayers can’t do anything if the temperature is below three degrees.”

The damage to Mrs Corrigan’s Ford Fiesta and her son’s Lexus will be covered by vehicle insurance.

Mrs Corrigan took out her policy with RIAS, which is owned by a firm called Ageas.

A spokesman for RIAS said: “I can confirm that we received a claim from Mrs Corrigan regarding damage caused by ‘weight of snow’.

“Mrs Corrigan’s insurer, Ageas, has declined the claim because ‘weight of snow’ is not an insured incident under the ‘storm damage’ peril on our standard Home Insurance policy, and on the date of the incident the maximum wind speed was 31mph, with a snow depth of 7cm, which can’t be classed as storm damage.

“Weight of snow claims can be considered under the optional Accidental Damage section of the RIAS Home Insurance policy, which unfortunately Mrs Corrigan hadn’t taken out when the policy was purchased.”

A spokesman for the ABI said: “Household policies generally cover storm damage. They may consider damage caused by snow settling on a roof for days or weeks is not the result of a storm. It is worth contacting your insurer if in doubt.”

1 COMMENT

  1. Hi

    Having read your story:Pensioner left with snow-wrecked home as insurance company says it won’t pay for damage.

    Does this story sound familiar Direct Line Insurance I hope this is not too long winded.

    Due to the heavy snowfall over December/January of this year our carport roof began to buckle with the weight of the snow, and to lessen the weight I had to cut through the
    GRP roof panels in order to clear the roof of snow. My original plan was to take down
    The old carport and replace it at my own cost once the good weather came in.
    But my neighbour who is a builder said I should check to see if my building insurance would cover the cost.

    My wife phoned Direct Line 19/12/10 explained the situation and was told by their
    Operator that we were covered with our policy and that they would arrange for a surveyor
    To come out and look at the damage within 2 No working weeks, but in the meantime to
    Save some time could we arrange to get 3 No separate quotes for the removal and the refitting of a new carport, which I did.

    Owing to the time of year and with the Christmas holiday coming up we really did not expect to see the surveyor this side of xmas and we didn’t.

    We then called Direct line back the first week in January and they said that due to high demand in customer claims, the surveyor would not be out until the following week.
    But that week the snow came back and we received a call that the due to the heavy
    Snowfall the surveyor would not be out that week and that he would contact us to arrange another appointment.

    When the middle of January came and went we had still not heard from the surveyor my
    Wife then called the mobile number but got an answering machine, she left a message on
    It, which told him that if we did not here from him soon we would be contacting Direct Line
    Insurance with a complaint. The following day we received a call from the surveyor arranging a date for him to carry out his survey Saturday 29/01/11 between 10&12 o’clock.
    We told him that we had to go out @ 11 o’clock to visit my mother and father would that be a problem, he said no he could carry out his survey without us being present.
    When we returned later that day we did not know whether he had been & carried out his
    Site survey.
    I then called his mobile got no reply so left a message enquiring as to if he had carried out his survey, he called back about half an hour later & confirmed had carried out his survey.

    His first question was how old was our house, I replied approx 25 years old.?
    His second question was hold old was the carport, I replied approx 5 to 6 years old.
    His third question was who built it, I replied that I did.
    He informed me that in his opinion we would not be covered by our insurance.
    I asked him why, his reply was that the carport was classed as an outside building
    And in his opinion it should have taken the weight of the snow, he then said that the
    Carport pitch was insufficient and that he felt the supporting post set at 1800mm were
    Set too far apart.
    I replied that for the past 5 to 6 years through hail, sleet, rain snow & sunshine we have
    Had no problem with the carport, that the carport was purchased as a kit from a carport
    Manufacturer and was installed by myself following their instructions.

    I pointed out to him that the recent snowfall that caused the buckling of my carport has been the heaviest in the past 25 years and has affected the collapse of various building,
    caused potholes in roads, motorways blocked and people stranded over night all over the country had this unprecedented snowfall not been a factor, his reply was no the carport should have withstood this and that this would be in his report back to the insurance company. I told him I would be contesting his report once I have received it from Direct
    Line.

    So it appears that after contacting Direct Line Insurance and being told we were covered
    For our carport and after having obtained 3No quotes for the repair work and waited 6No working weeks for a surveyor to call and according to his report we will receive nothing from our insurers.

    Unless the surveyor is a structural engineer and has carried out structural tests. wind load test, imposed load test, how can his ten minute survey on a carport that has been functioning properly for the past 5 to 6 years suddenly not be sufficiently fitted.

    So this looks like the same old story you insure your property and pay your premiums
    But then when you make a claim, they will try to find any excuse not to pay out.

    Do I have any other recourse to take once I receive this report from Direct Line Insurance?

    Regards

    Jim Sharkey

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