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Hi, I'd be so grateful if anyone can advise me in relation to this.

I will explain as briefly as possible the relevant details of the situation, and set out a few questions I have.

 

In 2009 we bought our small semi-detached house. We almost were not able to, owing to the fact that we were only just able to find an insurer who would take us on when we declared the existence in the building of a tie bar (as our Buildings Surveyor instructed we must do). We phoned loads of insurers and all put us on hold while speaking to their underwriter, only to come back saying 'Sorry, we don't insure buildings with tie bars'. Finally, and close to giving up, we found an insurer.

 

We've been with this one insurer for 6 years now. No problems ever, until last December I noticed that what had been a hairline crack ascending the side of our house (from the tie bar) when we bought it had grown somewhat, to be up to 3 mm wide in places. It has very gradually widened over the years as cracks do, but seemed to have widened more quickly just recently. This prompted me to remove the thick insulating wallpaper from the corresponding inside wall, which revealed a more worrying crack of about 5 mm.

 

(The previous owner of the house was employed in the home energy efficiency business, so we didn't think it necessarily suspicious when buying that some of the walls had a covering that could easily hide cracks. Also in one room we did remove the covering when we moved in, and the walls had no cracks at all.)

 

On discussion with my partner we thought we had better inform our insurance company of our discovery.

First question: Was it not necessary to do this?

 

I phoned them and explained this all to the person I initially spoke to, who said 'You need to be speaking to the Claims department'. I explained that I didn't know if we were wanting to make a claim, that I just thought we were required to inform them of the situation, and I did say that were concerned about it, as one would be.

They repeated 'You need to speak to Claims', and put me through.

I then explained the whole thing again and was told in a rather reassuring way that 'We will send someone out to look at it'.

No one told me, and I didn't know, that I was 'making a claim', by agreeing to this.

Perhaps this was simply my ignorance having never had to report anything to a Home insurance company before.

 

A loss adjuster visit was arranged, and his subsequent technical report, entitled 'Subsidence Claim' stated his belief that the crack was owing to thermal movement, and, quote, "we do not consider that the damage is the result of subsidence of the site (or any other insured peril) and as such does not fall within the scope of policy cover."

 

This was in January. Now we have just received our policy renewal documents to discover that our premium has gone up another £150, making it now over £700.

 

For the average house the size of ours, inclusive of Contents cover, we would expect to pay about £200-250 per year, this house is now proving very expensive to insure and we can barely afford it.

 

We are concerned that there are no other insurers who we can turn to, as this was our experience 6 years ago.

Also, that there may be no benefit even if there were, since they all have access, I'm told, to a database that will show that we have made a 'Subsidence claim'. I presume this would be very off-putting to an insurer, even despite the fact that the loss adjuster found that there was no subsidence.

 

I have recently tried contacting a couple of Brokers to see if they can find us insurance. So far neither have replied.

 

I suppose I am after any kind of advice that might be useful, but specifically is it correct for us to be said to have 'made a claim' on the policy, when I only intended to inform the insurer of our situation?

 

And can they justify putting up our premium (and do they even have to justify it?) given that the cause of the crack apparently "does not fall within the scope of the policy cover".

 

It feels like - given our lack of alternatives - they can basically hold us to ransom.

 

Many thanks for any help!

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Try Legal & General with all of the information. You should have a letter from the recent claim that it turned out not to be subsidence. So that will deal with database issue with the claim. The next question will be whether the house has ever had subsidence and your original surveybwhen you bought the house should help. The tie bar is more an issue about the house, not related to subsidence. If you search online about tie bars, it will tell you why these are generally fitted.

 

You have to remember that the Insurance staff answering the phone calls are not very experienced. Most will not know what a tie bar is or even know what subsidence is, apart from general vague notion. But if you made it sound bad, then they will go by what you tell them.

 

Your situation is not as bad as you think it is. Yes you made a mistake reporting it. You should have got a local experienced builder out to take a look first. Perhaps you need some work done on the house to strengthen the wall and to stop further cracking, but it is nothing to do with subsidence.

 

Check the original survey on the house. If no mention of subsidence and the insurers assessor says no subsidence, then try Legal & General who are normally pretty good in this situation. If no joy, go to a brokers like Home Protect who will be more helpful than most in getting quotes for you.


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Thank you very much for your advice. I will try Legal & General as you suggest. I don't remember if we tried them last time, but as I recall it we tried a lot of companies. If they don't want us I will try Home Protect - thanks for these tips.

 

I take your point about the phone staff, but in each case they put us on hold saying they would speak to their underwriters, which took about 5 minutes, and who I assumed would know what tie bars are, at least if they are turning us down on that basis. I don't think I made it sound bad, I simply stated that we had a tie bar, because the surveyor said that we needed to or we might be invalidating any cover we got.

Do you believe his assertion here to be correct? I have read it on other sites (I would provide a link to one but I see I am not allowed at the moment).

 

We are well clued up about tie bars now. I've read just about everything I can find on the subject; though I might add that really, there isn't a great deal out there that is useful.

We have since had specialists and others look at the house, and we are not overly worried about the crack, and are monitoring it for the time being. The original buildings survey does not say there is any evidence of subsidence. Incidentally the specialists have not been able to either date the tie bar, or come to a good conclusion about why it is there, as there isn't any sign of roof spread and all walls are plumb. The house is circa 1884.

 

Would you be surprised that insurance companies simply refuse to take on houses with tie bars? That is certainly how it seemed 6 years ago. (We've always worried that we might have trouble selling it when it comes to it. I have also read that insurance companies put in more and more exclusions all the time...)

 

And do you have any advice about what to say when phoning up for quotes, please?

 

Many thanks again.

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Was not aware of any issues with tie bars. The underwriters won't know much about this.

 

I seem to remember seeing many reports of properties with tie bars after WW2. The properties were not hit by bombing, but were affected by the impacts to buildings/ground in the area.

 

I would not make it a big issue. When asked about condition of house and claims, just say orginal purchase survey advised of no subsidence issues. You noticed some recent very small cracks and the Insurers claims assessor confirmed no subsidence. There is a tie bar fitted, whuch is not unusual for a property of its age.

 

There is no specific question asked by Insurers on tie bars. What they want to know is whether the house is in good condition and not subject to subsidence or having been affected by subsidence.


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Thanks again for your time!

 

Yes, that is something I've read too, about bombing, so may be the reason it is there.

 

So, you would not be worried that we would not have a valid policy if we don't specifically mention the tie bar, is that correct?

I have noticed that there is no specific question about tie bars. I wonder then why buildings surveyors insist we specifically mention it?

 

Can I ask - is your background in something very closely involved with/related to all this? Hope that doesn't sound rude.

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Yes i have underwritten thousands of Insurances reviewing survey reports etc. Have underwritten for mortgage and insurance purposes.

 

What the surveyors are probably saying is that if you did not mention an old defect to the property, that although it might not relate to subsidence, IF there was ever any issue again, they may ask the question why you did not mention. But of course the tie bar was fitted to deal with a previous defect and does not mean there is any current issue. The property may be in much better condition than a house built in the 1960's !

 

If you walked around your area, i suspect you will see other properties with tie bars. If there are many by your house, then it could relate to a bombing event 70 years ago.


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Thank you again.

 

I will proceed as you suggest. I'll let you know what the outcome is of my looking for a new insurer.

 

Ah, one final thing. My partner and I don't think we did actually get any letter from the insurer after the Loss adjuster had reported to them.

Because we got the report direct from the Loss adjuster I think we then didn't think to chase up anything from the insurer, and then forgot about it generally.

If they didn't send us anything will they have to provide me with something free of charge if I ask for it? And is this letter called anything in particular I need to ask for (such as 'claim outcome')?

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The loss adjusters report should suffice, but i would get the Insurers to note the claims and underwriting records that there was no subsidence per the adjusters report.


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Hi, just thought I ought to let you know the result: We managed to get insurance from another company easily in the end!

Turns out our Loss Adjuster visit was NOT recorded as a 'claim' as one of the phone operatives had previously told me. Therefore we were able to say we have no claims, and didn't bother to mention the tie bar at all. It's very good that we've had the crack diagnosed as thermal movement by a specialist. Means we don't need to mention it at all, since it isn't covered by insurance.

Thanks again for your help, just wish we hadn't paid over the odds for insurance the last several years unneccessarily.

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Just make sure there is definitely no claim recorded. If you did not make a note of the persons name you spoke to, i think i would make sure you get this confirmed. If they have sent out a loss assessor costing them £300 +, i would be surprised if there is no record. The loss assessor will send them a copy of the report and someone at the Insurers may set up a claims record.

 

Just don't want you to get caught out in the future. Getting definite confirmation now, may save you a lot of hassle in the future.


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Hi.

I did get the name of the person I spoke to.

My conversation was specifically about asking whether the incident had been recorded as a 'claim'.

She unequivocally stated that it was not. It was recorded as investigation of a crack that turned out to be outside the scope of the policy, being assessed as caused by thermal movement. I also noted the date and time of the phone call.

She also stated that it would not show up as a claim on the database that all insurance companies have access to. She said we can definitely say we have made no claims if we go to another insurer, which we've now done.

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Hi.

I did get the name of the person I spoke to.

My conversation was specifically about asking whether the incident had been recorded as a 'claim'.

She unequivocally stated that it was not. It was recorded as investigation of a crack that turned out to be outside the scope of the policy, being assessed as caused by thermal movement. I also noted the date and time of the phone call.

She also stated that it would not show up as a claim on the database that all insurance companies have access to. She said we can definitely say we have made no claims if we go to another insurer, which we've now done.

 

Should be OK then, but keep records, just in case.

 

I don't trust many companies these days, as they outsource work and sometimes the people you deal with are not employed by the Insurance company. Many Insurers have outsourced claims work to companies thst handle claims on behalf of many companies.

 

Policyholders keeping records of phone conversations is therefore advisable. E.g telephone number called, full name of person spoke to, date/time, what was agreed or confirmed.


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