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Flooding nightmare - advice needed

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Hello everybody

 

This is my first post - I joined CAG just for this reason.

 

I and my mother are both pensioners and we have been with the same home insurer for over 50 years and had never made one claim up until now.

But now we have, and I feel we are being fobbed off with an unacceptable service, and I just don't know what to do.

 

I'll describe the problem as briefly as possible.

 

Six weeks ago I discovered that there was a lot of water under the floorboards after noticing a damp patch, and bailed literally gallons out.

This was traced to a cracked drainpipe

 

when we got the insurers in, they only put a patch on the pipe, even though the pipe might be 70 or more years old and might be cracked elsewhere too.

I wanted the whole pipe either replaced or lined but a patch was all they would do.

 

the water kept coming, and the electrical wiring was just lying in the water.

I told the insurer how dangerous this was he said it would be OK.

 

this is really old wiring, probably from when the house was built, and by now in no condition to resist lying in water.

The insurer's representative said it would be OK because if the water did get into the wiring, all that would happen was that it would trip a circuit breaker.

I told him our wiring is so old that there are no circuit breakers, only fuses.

He didn't seem interested.

 

the worst thing is,

they have just let the situation get worse and worse.

 

For days we could not wash, bathe or wash clothes because of the cracked drain.

Then when the drain was 'fixed' and the problem still persisted,

 

the house gradually began to smell horribly of mould - a really overpowering stench.

My mother is old and frail, and I am really worried that she has to breathe this.

 

I kept phoning and phoning, and not getting anywhere.

Now the whole house stinks and we have to have every single window open, despite the weather.

 

They have come and put crystals down to take away the smell, these have an acrid smell that is making us both ill.

all the carpets and all the furniture is impregnated with the mould smell - we might have to throw them away.

 

They have also put in driers (weeks after I asked them to) they are costing a fortune to run.

the water is keeping coming - over 300 gallons have been bailed out so far - so whatever it is, it hasn't been fixed yet.

 

I am convinced that if I stopped phoning the insurers, I would never hear from them again.

They seem totally uninterested in addressing the problem properly even though we have been exemplary customers.

 

Is there any kind of independent person I could employ in order to come around and assess things and give a professional opinion on what the insurer should have done and has failed to do?

 

Someone who could write an expert report that I could show to the insurer and say,

"This is what I want to claim, here is a report from an expert, and I think you should provide what it suggests"?

 

When you are in any situation where a service provider is giving you a poor service,

you have to find some sort of professional who can give an expert but entirely independent opinion,

 

just don't know who this might be in the case of an insurer.

Do such people exist?

Thanks.

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Hello and welcome to CAG. People should be along later with advice for you.

 

Could you clarify please if this is a drain under the house or a drainpipe coming down from the guttering? I'm struggling to understand why there's so much water at the moment.

 

We had something similar when the water main leaked under our house, it wasn't easy to deal with. You have my sympathy.

 

Best, HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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Thanks. It's a drain under the house. I should point out that one of the problems is that I can't even be sure it's this, because the water is still coming even though the pipe has been patched. It's a semi-detached house, and the water might be coming from the other property, but short of taking up all the floorboards, it's hard to locate the source.

 

But I must emphasise that the only reason I'm posting this is because I want to know if there are people you can employ to give an independent report - a report that will help me get the result from my insurer that I should be entitled to. I'd heard people called 'loss adjusters' can do this, but after looking on the Web, it's seems they're mainly an American thing.

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We have loss adjusters here, they often work for the insurance company. People who know more than I do will advise you if you need to hire one privately or find a different sort of person.

 

Has anyone done a survey on the house for this problem? It sounds as if something has been missed.

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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To answer the question , there are loss assessors out there.

 

There are mixed views about them, I've come across some good and many bad.

 

An assessor will want to handle the whole claim for you either at a percentage of the claim costs, or by appointing their own trades. Often they will make you sign a mandate where all funds go through them.

 

If you are going to use an assessor, set out what you want from them at an early stage i.e. just investigation.

 

The alternative is speaking to a drainage investigations company, or even appoint a chartered surveyor who will take on the task for you.

 

Regardless you need to follow the insurers complaints process (not any appointed adjusters or contractors the underwriters of the policy), from experience on the other side, a lot of people don't know how to complain properly, or think they are complaining, but it's not getting noticed, or getting lost in the message.

 

Make your next phone call to them saying (others will tell you to write, follow it up in writing) you are making a complaint and would like this looked at by the (underwriters, again I stress that point)CEO's office or customer relations manager (or whoever they have in place).

 

Keep the complaint call very simple, straight to the point tell them you are unhappy with the service and the time taken so far to resolve. When they ask what you would like to be done (they will it's an easy cop out), tell them they should review their file and then come back to you once they have considered what has gone wrong, if they push, just tell them the leak is ongoing, you are living in damp, possible dangerous conditions and it has taken 6 weeks. keep it simple, keep it simple, keep it simple.

 

The insurers may just take up the mantle once the complaint is in their system

  • Haha 1

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Not convinced the problem is purely a drainpipe carrying waste water from the houses. When you hear that 300 gallons of water have been drained, there is another problem going on.

 

What we need to know is which Insurers this is and what policy you have ? E.g Aviva Home Insurance premier gold. And also is the Buildings Insurance standard cover or with accidental damage ?

 

If you provide details of what Insurers and what policy, then we can read the policy wording online and review what cover you have.

 

You might have trace and access cover to dig down to find source of a leak. The problem might be that the issue is wear and tear, not a peril that is covered by Insurance. Therefore it is not a case that Insurers are not interested, but the Insurance policy does not cover the drainage issues that is going on.


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you will need to get someone to find the source of the water and even if that meand paying yourself it will be better than suffering nmore damage. If you dont do somehting the insurers will say that you failed to do so and the problem is poor maintenance and thus not their problem. If it is a broken sewer then it is possibly down to the water co to make good dependant upon where the damage is so get on to them anyway, they have repair teams that will chargeyou less than a separate contractor in most cases and the advice will be free.

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I agree with a lot of what you say, EB but would sound a note of caution. With our water main problem, as soon as the pipe was on our property it was our problem.

 

The water company only looked at their pipes in the road.

 

HB


Illegitimi non carborundum

 

 

 

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I agree with a lot of what you say, EB but would sound a note of caution. With our water main problem, as soon as the pipe was on our property it was our problem.

 

The water company only looked at their pipes in the road.

 

HB

 

That is correct. If the water company come onto your property to repair something which is legally the responsibility of the home owner, the water company may issue a bill for the work. Can be more expensive than employing own tradesman.


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the law changed about 4 years ago so all sewers are now the water co responsibility except the small bit of pipe that goes from the sewer to the property itself. For example, where I used to live I had 3 sets of drains/sewers from other properties crossing mine and due to their age they were all the responsibility of Thames Water. The change in lw means that drains and sewers of any age become their responsibility so for example, a newish development that has a sewer crossing all of the properties is now the water co responsibility where before it was the landowner, regardless of the fact it was someone else's private pipes.

I would still get them to come out and have a look.

Water mains, ie the fresh water coming in are your problem your side of the mains stop cock and that can be on your property or in the street. If in the street you have to get the council to agree with the quality of the repair if the pavement needs digging up or they can come back and bill you for their remediation (rare as most pavements are so poor anyway and there is nothing to insist on like for like so a bit of tarmac in a York stone flag pavement is OK)

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Hello again - OP here.

 

Thank you so much for these replies. The advice in them is really valuable. A couple more things:

 

1) One poster asked what my insurance company is. It's Aviva. I don't know the exact name of the policy, as the documents are 'buried' at the moment, but we took it out as a standard home insurance policy.

 

2) There have been a couple of serious developments since I posted, and I would appreciate your opinions. On the night I posted, I wound up having to stay up all night, sat in a chair downstairs, because the smell was so overpowering, I had to keep every door and window open, so I had to stay away in case of burglars. This is a crazy situation. The smell is not the damp smell but the smell of crystals that the insurers put down to remove the damp smell. The smell is just as bad right now, so I'm looking at things such as charcoal or bicarbonate of soda to try to get rid of it. You literally can hardly breathe in here.

 

But the most serious development is this. They sent someone yesterday, and this person said he was sure it was groundwater, and that the only solution would either be to 'live with it' (he actually said that) or else have the whole of the bottom of the house sealed, which will cost tens of thousands. And groundwater is not covered by insurance. Now, I've heard before that insurers sometimes say it's groundwater when it isn't, just to get out of paying, and what I've read on this website tells me that Aviva appears to be a company lots of people have had problems with, so I'm wondering if I'm being treated fairly and squarely. So is there any way I can prove whether it's groundwater or not? One person who came six weeks ago tested for chlorine and found it, and concluded that this showed it was from the drain, but now the drain has been patched.

 

We've lived in this house for over fifty years and there has never been a problem with groundwater - I looked under the floorboards myself only a few months ago because of a different matter and it was bone dry.

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for it to be groundwater your house would need to be lower down than the water table so essentially it would be very close to a river or a spring for this the be really the problem. There are methods of measuring this to see if their is a hydraulic gradient affecting your property. Pop up your postcode and I will have a look at the geological and flood maps for your area.

However, you are still ignoring the advice to get someone in to ahve a look at your own expense and if you are right them you bill the insurers for their work.

Yo wont need the whole bottom of the house sealing eithr if you have a suitabel soak away installed, this is often a porous pipe or even a cutting and filling of a ditch filled with gravel/sand to drain the water to a lower down point and reduce the water table locally if that is indeed the problem.

the alternative is you sit at home doing nothinga dn then find you are uninsurable becsue you have done nothing

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Thank you for that. My postcode is NE33 5PQ.

 

BTW, please don't think I have been ignoring people's advice. The truth is, I haven't had time to do anything yet, and after having to stay awake all night, I'm exhausted. This whole thing has hit me right out of the blue.

 

Please be sure that I'm very grateful for everyone's advice here - you've already helped me ten times more than the insurer has.

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Agree you need to get your own surveyors in that look into such issues.

 

As for looking at the policy, Aviva issue lots of different policies. Would need to know which one. But yes as an Insurers, they don't have the best reputation in handling claims.

 

What is happening in regard to your neighbours house. As this is a semi detached, it would seem odd, if they did not have the same problem. If so, what are they doing about it ?


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Hello again.

 

I've dug out the insurance policy, and all it says is 'Aviva Home Insurance'. I took it out a long time ago, so this might have been before insurance companies started using names for particular types of cover. I should add that I paid for an addition called 'accidental damage to services, pipes, cables, fixed glass and sanitary fittings'.

 

As for my next door neighbours, they did have a water problem around last year. They had to have all the floorboards ripped up, and joists under the floor replaced. However, as we hardly ever saw these people, and they've since moved, I can't say how many rooms this involved, or what the cause was.

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I looked at your road using the postcode you posted. You are surrounded by other houses and nearby roads, with it looking like the area is not flat. If there was a broken drain or water pipe in the road, my guess is that homes would be affected. It then depends on how water proofed the houses are.

 

There is only so much a Home Insurers will do. They will help with the flood damage, a minor trace and access process to find the fault and a straightforward repair. But they won't dig up the groundfloor of your house to carry out a full renovation of the house, including installation of new drainage, pipes and flood preventative measures.

 

You need a survey of the house to find out exactly what the problem is, what works are needed and the cost. Have you asked neighbours in your road, whether they are aware of any issues in the road with drain or water flooding issues ? Perhaps in the road, there are drains and pipes leaking ?


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it would interesting to see what those maps erics refer to say.

does the council and/or the water company have any historic info re the area.

as neighbour has had similar problems it seems it may be an inherent issue there. no wonder they moved after repair!


IMO

:-):rant:

 

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envirenment agency keep maps of all areas liable to flood. They rely heavily in contouts but also have local water table data. The geological map will tell what sort of subsoil (drift) and what sort of rock (solid) is in the area and that will tell peopel whether the rock is a potentail aquifer or run off likely, what fault lines are there as they allow passage of water etc

There are test that can be done to look at hydraulic gradient and pore water pressure but take a long time to get menaingful data and expensive to do as no govt agencies do it any more, they put it all out to contract when they want to build a new road/tunnel etc and then a load of my ex-students will earn their keep.

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