Customer complains after basement flood, because insurer will only pay for damage caused not for making the basement watertight


After a period of heavy rainfall, Bob and Sandra discovered that the basement of their house had suffered damage from flooding and damp. They claimed under their home insurance policy, but disagreed with the settlement offered.

What happened

Bob and Sandra made a claim under the home insurance policy. The insurer sent out an engineer to inspect the basement, and issue a report. The insurer agreed to pay the cost of repairing the flood damage. 

However, the engineer had reported that the tanking (waterproofing) 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.

Bob and Sandra 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.

What we said

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. Bob and Sandra had also provided us with information 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.