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Hi,

 

My father was in the toilet of a gym the other day. He's a taxi driver and popped in for a workout after his week of work before travelling home (he commutes into London and works 5 nights, then goes home).

 

Whilst at the urinal, his bag was opened and his watch, wallet, cab badge and earnings for the week were stolen. He was using a urinal with his back to the bag at the time.

 

CCTV at the gym showed the guy making off but there was no clear facial.

 

He had "Personal belongings cover" from Halifax, as a part of his home and contents insurance. However, they refused his claim on the phone today because he'd left the bag unattended. He explained that if he'd turned around, he had line of sight to the bag but they just said it should have been in a locker before his used the urinal.

 

I can't see anything in the policy terms about this. The only sentence I could see related to not leaving things unattended whilst abroad (though I can understand that if you just went a placed a load of money in the street and walked off you wouldn't expect to be able to claim for it!).

 

All in all it seems a little harsh. Anyone have the full T's and C's for Halifax personal belongings insurance? All I've been able to find is a 40 page policy booklet, of which the personal belongings section is tiny and wooly. I'm not sure what he earns, they only cover up to £500 cash anyway, but he's very upset about it.

 

James

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You can always ask them - but they are probably relying on this condition of the policy (page 33 in the online booklet)

 

Precautions – You and your family must take every reasonable precaution to prevent any loss, damage, accident or injury. You must keep the property insured by this policy in a good condition. Failure to meet this condition may invalidate your policy and/or any claim

 

These conditions are notoriously difficult to rely upon, as one persons definition of reasonableness is different to another's. Certainly worth putting in an official complaint.

 

I would point out though that there is a good chance they would consider the money "held for professional purposes" and hence decline to cover this even if they agree to cover the theft in general.

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Insurance policies will not cover personal belongings if negligence is a part of their being lost. The catch 22 being what to some may not seem negligent beforehand, suddenly looks very negligent once a crook makes good from it.

 

I think most people in a gym with so many things to lose would keep them locked in the locker if not directly infront of the open locker. Additionally, you did not say the bag was stolen, you mentioned a list of items were removed from the bag, which would take a considerably longer time than just picking up the bag. This again points to there being a far longer time the bag was out of sight.

 

Even without seeing the terms of the policy - I doubt there are any policies I have read that would pay out.

 

I once heard a good expression regarding negligence in that sense. It was "If you feel stupid after a theft, or wonder why you never saw the risk, then the chances are you were negligent".

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He should make a complaint per the procedure shown in the policy document. I would suggest writing to the claims manager at the office he dealt with. In the letter, he should make it clear, that he is intending to involve the FOS, as he believes the claim has been unfairly declined.

 

Without knowing the exact circumstances of the loss, it would be difficult to comment. Seems a bit harsh.

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As per the good advice above, without knowing the circumstances, however........Is it reckless to get caught short, rush to the toilet in the knowledge the bag was within your line of sight? presumably he had good reason to trust where he was, unless the gym was well known for this happening? What are you supposed to do when towel drying your hair, put yourbag in the locker? - what if you have chat with your mate across the other side? I'm presuming the toilet was within the same "area", rather than down the corridor. Being reckless requires an understanding of the consiquence if you do or don't carry out a certain action.

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First bit of advice. Do everything in writing so that there is written evidence of what is stated on both sides.

Your father should write and ask them to specifically state exactly why they do not wish to pay the claim

If as seems to be the case there is no specific exclusion relating to unattended property they can't use the wording you used in your post to refuse the claim

They are probably as another contributor suggested referring to the clause concerning lack of reasonable care and as also mentioned that is a matter of opinion.

Incidentally the Ombudsman has previously commented that if a policyholder can see something it's probably not fair for an insurer to say it's unattended.

I agree with others. The precise circumstances and how long the bag was left are relevant and business takings and other work related items such as the badge will not be covered

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Insurers use of the "Reasonable Care" exclusion is on the decline as the FOS and courts now often take a view that someone has to have been "reckless"; [adj. 1. a. Heedless or careless. b. Headstrong; rash. 2. Indifferent to or disregardful of consequences] with their property before they will uphold decisions to refuse cover. A momentary lapse is often insufficient grounds to decline a claim using this exclusion. Re: business use. There may be a valid claim for the money on a personal policy but it will depend on the nature of your father's employment. If, for example, he is a sole trader of self employed, he could argue that his takings are his salary and are therefore for his own personal use. He would be using them to buy his groceries, pay his mortgage/rent etc.

Edited by Data Mashups
typo
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