Laminate floor flood damage and tenants withholding 2 months rent – feeling overwhelmed!

by Readers Question

9:10 AM, 26th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Laminate floor flood damage and tenants withholding 2 months rent – feeling overwhelmed!

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Laminate floor flood damage and tenants withholding 2 months rent – feeling overwhelmed!

I thought I would share a recent experience. I wrongly assumed that all types of laminate flooring is covered under landlord’s building insurance and that my insurance would cover everything other than the tenants’ contents. Naïve? Probably.overwhelmed

My rental property had a major flood from a leak under the kitchen floor. It has saturated the concrete and ruined the 18 month old Click and Fit laminate floor.

My British Gas Homecare policy was as useful as a chocolate fireguard. Dynoplumbing came out, assessed the situation and said a specialist leak detection engineer was required but that he was on holiday for 11 days and no room in his diary until 3 days after that. The nearest back up was 5 hours away and he was also fully booked. I had to find my own leak detection company the following morning.

The lady handling my claim has told me that Click and Fit is not covered under buildings insurance as it is can be easily taken up and transported – like carpets. It never occurred to me – I saw it as a permanent fixture and filed it under buildings contents without checking. The skirtings have to be removed before the floor will come up so I have argued that it is not easily removed. So far they have not acknowledged my point of view.

They have also said that they will only cover the trace and access of the leak not the actual repair even though it was cheaper to re-run the hot and cold pipework rather than dig up the floor to find the leak which is what we did.

They have not provided a Flood Restoration company who would normally lift the laminate, dry out the concrete properly and issue a certificate to say it was ready for the new flooring. They have told me to find a company myself and they will only cover the cost of the drying out, not the lifting and disposal of the laminate.

The tenants have 2 dogs and could not find temporary accommodation in the area that would take dogs so they had to stay put and use neighbouring washing and laundering facilities for 2 weeks.
I was told by the lady handling my claim that temporary accommodation would not have been covered so we didn’t continue with our search for other accommodation.

I have also been told that they may not cover loss of rent due to the fact that the tenants stayed put which meant the property was habitable! They have asked for a copy of my AST which I supplied but I have heard nothing back.

The tenants pay quarterly and have withheld 2 months of rent (£1500) without prior consultation. Apart from initially being quite rude to my agent who does not handle the maintenance of the property (I had to apologise to the lad in the office), they have been very good in helping to sort out engineer visits and flooring quotes but maybe not £1500 worth of help?? It will likely be 2 months of inconvenience by the time the floor has dried sufficiently for the new laminate to go down. How much would I be expected to give them in compensation and to cover any consequential losses which the insurance company probably won’t cover either?

To top it all, it has turned out that the leak may be down to faulty workmanship and my policy would not apply under those circumstances.

I have contacted the builder who carried out the refurb 18 months ago and he has refused to accept liability or reply to my emails. He did however agree to take the damaged laminate away this weekend after I appealed to his conscience but he only did it because he is a friend of my mother’s and texted to say it was a gesture of goodwill only and he could not accept liability for the leak.

Br Gas are considering paying me the repair part of the bill after I made a complaint under breach of contract. Still waiting to hear – n surprise there.

I didn’t receive a copy of the insurance policy wording with my insurance docs last June so requested it from my broker (who said I had already received it but I have nothing on file). That’s when I learnt last week that loss of rent may not be covered and faulty workmanship wasn’t covered either.

Do I have to tell the insurance company straight away about the possibility of it being faulty workmanship or do I have it out with the builder first?

So far I have paid out £1800 for the re-routing of the pipes and lost £1500 in rent. I have provided a dehumidifier for the tenants and the laminate is going to be around £800 to supply and fit. Skirting removal, refit and redecoration is extra.

I trolled the internet and discover that Loss Adjuster work for the individual as well as the insurance companies but I couldn’t find anyone to take on my case. The insurance company didn’t assigned their own Loss Adjuster and no-one has been out to look at the floor. It has all been done with photographs.

I’m not a professional landlady and am wondering whether investing in property rather than a pension is worth the hassle especially as Clause 24 will also effect me. Feeling quite overwhelmed by the whole thing to be honest and very disheartened by the fight one has with the insurance company at a time when you just need to get things sorted. It’s like a game of sparring until one gives in from the stress and walks away with a bill you shouldn’t in theory have to pay. After all, what is insurance there for?

Any helpful comments to raise my fighting spirit would be much appreciated.

Jane



Comments

Jason McClean

10:43 AM, 26th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Jane

It is difficult for me to discuss this with you given not knowing all details (despite your report) but I would suggest the following:

1: Who is your broker and who is your underwriter? If it is a big broker then they will have a claims department to help you push your claim through the underwriter. Your broker should be your ally here. If no claims department, then you'll need to go to the underwriter direct.

2: Give them reasonable deadlines when you want responses and if they fail to meet them, then tell them you will be going to the Financial Ombudsman. They will incur costs if it goes to the Ombudsman so will go the extra mile to avoid these.

3: It sounds like the claim has been handled poorly. A loss adjustor should have been sent to the property - and then a lot of these arguments and contests of liability would be avoided. I think they could do with sending one now anyway.

4: If there is a professional liability possibility then your insurer should be telling you that after the loss adjuster has attended. You are not a professional to tell them this yourself ref workmanship.

5: If you didn't receive documents then the broker may be at fault. But check your emails - they may well have proof of sending and it could be your responsibility for not notifying them that documents were not received.

6: Sadly this is typical of some insurance claims and is what gets the industry a bad name. But try the above and see if that helps, it should do so.

I hope this helps!

Best

Jason

Dr Rosalind Beck

16:09 PM, 26th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Jane.
I have had battles with most insurance claims I have ever made. Tell them only what they need to know and what will help you. They have loss adjusters to look after their interests and you only have you to do that. I find it is a game of cat and mouse with them often, so don't give in - keep persevering and presenting your case, complaining etc. They may pay you just because they're sick of you pestering them.

As for the compensation issue, what the tenants are trying to do is way off the mark. They still have a roof over their head and problems with houses happen all the time. I find tenants unrealistically expect there never to be a problem. It is a drag that the floor is the way it is, but they can still sleep, cook, bathe and so on. What I would do is immediately join the Guild of Residential Landlords (I'm not on commission!) - it costs around £70 a year - and Adrian there will give you some great advice. He always advises against paying compensation in cases like this, saying that give them an inch and they'll take a mile. However, your tenants seem to want to take the mile to start with. Good luck!

Martyn Surridge

18:14 PM, 26th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Jane,

I have been specialising in repairing properties following a buildings insurance claim for the last 8 years and I have never come across a insurer who has refused to replace damaged laminate flooring. Some loss adjusters used to ask if the flooring was stuck down but in the end they all accepted that you cannot successfully relay the flooring. Even if the laminate was not covered they would still have to pay to replace the skirting’s and the cost of labour to re lay the floor as it must be lifted to repair the leak and to dry the concrete floor below.

I would suggest that you get a full estimate for all the work, including all the laminate flooring, skirting’s, re decorating the walls (walls will be affected when taking off the skirting’s)and any other work you think should be done. Also include the drying, trace and access and stripping out costs. You can also estimate the loss of rent. Send all these costs to you insurer and ask them to send a loss adjuster out to meet you at the property to discuss the claim. They will only be able to argue against you estimates by sending someone to the property.

The alternative would be to appoint a qualified loss assessor to handle the claim for you.

Kind regards
Martyn

10:02 AM, 27th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jason McClean" at "26/04/2016 - 10:43":

Thanks for your time Jason.
I will go back to the broker and ask for some support. At the time of the leak they simply passed me onto Amtrust and said they don't get involved with the claim.
Would I expect to receive fresh policy docs including policy wording at each renewal? Their defense for no policy wording at the renewal is that I was sent it when I originally took out the policy.
Seems like I have to threaten the financial ombudsman at each stage but if it works then that's what has to be done. No good expecting them to treat me as I would treat them - ie ethically and fairly.
I will also go back to Amtrust case handler and ask for a loss adjuster to be sent out.
Many thanks again.

Jason McClean

10:24 AM, 27th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Jane

Yes, you should have received new documentation with updated answers.

Amtrust is normally OK but looks like they've dropped the ball here. You need to get your case escalated and the Ombudsman is one way of doing so. Your broker will have influence here as well, so ask them to support your claim and explain what has happened.

You need a loss adjuster sent out or you will make a complaint is your position I think. It sounds as though it has been very poorly handled by an inexperienced claims staff member.

20:06 PM, 27th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Martyn Charles" at "26/04/2016 - 18:14":

Hi Martyn,
Thank you for your input. I have some of the information in with regards to repairs but wall re-decoration has not been thought about at all - thank you for pointing that cost out.
Floor restoration companies are like hen's teeth in the far reaches of Cornwall so I have sent a dehumidifier to the tenants and the damaged laminate has been lifted. Unfortunately there were Marley tiles hidden under the laminate so I now have the problem of lifting and disposing of tiles which may or may not contain asbestos - groan. I live a 900 mile round trip from the property and am a full-time home educator. My retirement investment is turning out to be a a nightmare.
I could only find one loss adjuster on the web but they weren't interested in handling my case.
I shall take your advise, pull all the information together and ask the insurance company to appoint their own loss adjuster and continue to look for someone to represent me at a site meeting.
Regards

20:12 PM, 27th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Jason McClean" at "27/04/2016 - 10:24":

Thanks Jason. I appreciate the input - it really helps to straighten the thoughts and formulate a plan.
I'm beginning to realise how hard you full-time LLs work having to take care of these sort of things and the tenants too. All those thoughts of investing in another property have strangely gone away!

Martyn Surridge

22:06 PM, 27th April 2016
About 3 years ago

Hi Jane,

The marley tiles need to be tested before they are lifted and disposed of. If they contain asbestos they will have to be removed by a licensed company which makes it even more imperative that the insurers appoint a loss adjuster without delay.

If you would like to contact me directly you should be able to do so via the members profile below my name above.

Kind regards
Martyn

21:33 PM, 3rd May 2016
About 3 years ago

Reply to the comment left by "Martyn Charles" at "27/04/2016 - 22:06":

Hi Martyn, sorry I haven't replied earlier.

I heard back from the administrator and she has agreed to cover the laminate flooring as the skirtings need removing to take it up. She had asked for photos of the area. All duly sent.
She has also offered one month's rent although I'm not sure why as she says that loss of rent isn't covered because the tenants didn't move out however I'm not going to argue.
The trace and access bill has been paid and a cheque arrived on Friday for that plus the one month's loss of rent.
I have explained about the Marley Tiles and await her reply.

I have appointed a specialist asbestos firm who are visiting the property tomorrow to take a sample for testing.

Thank you for the offer to contact you. Apart from one month's rent and the repair bill (which I have asked Br Gas to pay due to breach of Homecare agreement) I am making starting to make headway now with the laminate replacement costs and redecoration costs. If there are any issues regarding the Marley Tile removal costs I will be in touch.

Kindest regards.


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