After a period of exceptional rainfall, Mr and Mrs Marsden discovered that the basement of their house had suffered damage from flooding and damp. They put in a claim under their home insurance policy.

What happened

After sending an engineer to inspect the basement, the insurer agreed to pay the cost of repairing the flood damage. 

However, the engineer had also reported that the tanking protecting the walls was in poor condition and this had contributed to the problems in the basement when the water table rose. The insurer said it wouldn’t pay to make the walls of the basement watertight.

Mr and Mrs Marsden thought it was unfair that the insurer wouldn’t pay for all of the repairs. But the insurer said it wasn’t liable for the cost of repairing the tanking or providing an alternative solution to keep the basement waterproof and damp-proof. It said the damage to the tanking must have been caused by defective design, poor workmanship or gradual deterioration over time – and these things weren’t covered by the policy.

So the Marsden's brought their complaint to us.

Our decision

The engineer’s evidence suggested the damage was likely to have been caused by wear and tear, rather than by a defect in the workmanship or design. She noted that the basement appeared to comply with the relevant standards at the time it was built. 

The Marsden's provided us with links to a weather-forecasting website, which suggested the water table wasn’t likely to reduce significantly in the foreseeable future.

After reviewing the evidence, we concluded that it was likely the tanking had suffered from a degree of wear and tear. That meant it wasn’t strictly covered by the policy.

But we also took into account the cause of the flood – a rise in the water table. As the water was likely to stay at a similar level for the foreseeable future, we thought that further flooding was likely if the basement didn’t have appropriate waterproofing. We thought the only way to ensure an effective and lasting repair of the flood damage was to repair the tanking. So we told the insurer to pay for the cost of installing a new system to replace the damaged tanking and protect the basement.