Couple complains after their insurer took too long to repair damages caused by a leak in their kitchen

Distress and inconvenience £5000 and over Insurance

Aftab and Naima were advised by their insurer it would take two months to repair damages caused by a leak in their kitchen. Their insurer arranged temporary accommodation while the repairs were carried out. After it took over a year,  Aftab and Naima discovered it had caused more problems impacting both their health and mental well-being.

What happened

Following a leak in their kitchen, Aftab and Naima made a claim on their joint buildings insurance policy. Their insurer assessed the damage and said it would only take two months to remedy, but as they had two young children they were placed in a hotel. The family was split across two rooms. Naima uses a wheelchair, and one of the rooms wasn’t accessible for her as it was up a small flight of stairs. This meant Aftab had to stay in one room with the children, leaving Naima on her own. Aftab and Naima explained this set up wouldn’t be suitable given the separation and the lack of access. But the insurer told them there wasn’t any other accommodation available.

After nine months of living in the hotel the insurer still hadn’t fixed the leak, and the work of its contractors had severely weakened supporting walls in the house – meaning extensive work was needed to make it safe again. Aftab’s health had begun to deteriorate due to the stress of the situation. Naima felt like her independence had been severely impacted, as she was mostly confined to the hotel room and largely separated from her children. They also couldn’t cook for themselves in the hotel, and having a poor diet was affecting them. They asked the insurer if they could be placed elsewhere, and showed the insurer options they had found. The insurer discounted those as they were too expensive, and instead the insurer found them a house that was quite far away and still wasn’t fully adapted to Naima’s needs.

They remained in alternative accommodation for another year until the leak was eventually fixed, and the structural damage also repaired. By that point Aftab’s mental health had declined further and he’d started taking medication. The disruption to their home life had also impacted their children and they were struggling at school.

The family moved back into their house, but soon after large cracks appeared in the walls. A survey was carried out which revealed the rectification work done by the contractors had been poor, and hadn’t fixed the structural problems they’d caused. The insurer moved the family back into the same alternative accommodation while repairs were carried out. After almost a year, Aftab had a mental breakdown and was admitted to hospital. He was later signed off work for two months, and during that time he wasn’t able to help care for his family.

The couple raised a complaint. Their insurer responded to say there wasn’t more it could do in terms of the living arrangement – particularly as the budget for alternative accommodation had been used. It did recognise it had significantly delayed the claim, and the mistakes of its contractors had meant they’d had to leave their home again. The insurer offered the couple £2,000 in compensation.

Aftab and Naima weren’t happy with the offer, so approached our service for help. They felt the overall impact to their family had been huge – and all because of the way their claim had been dealt with.

 What we said

We thought the situation had gone on far too long for what had started as a fairly straightforward escape of water claim. The insurer’s mistakes had meant the claim had been delayed by three years, with many more months of scheduled works still remaining. The insurer had also been aware of Naima’s needs from the start but hadn’t in our view sufficiently taken them into account – causing significant impact to her day to day living.

We didn’t think it was correct that the alternative accommodation budget had been used, as the claim had only gone on this long due the insurer’s actions. The couple had found suitable alternative accommodation with the adjustments Naima needed, and we told the insurer to place the family there for the remainder of the claim. We thought, based on the research they’d done earlier in the claim, it was likely that more suitable accommodation could have been sourced from the start, and shouldn’t have been declined due to the cost. So the family had unnecessarily lived both in a hotel and unsuitable accommodation for three years – which was a very significant amount of time.

We thought the effect on Aftab’s health had been severe, and based on submissions from his doctor would likely have a lasting impact. We thought this could largely be attributed to the circumstances caused by the insurer’s mistakes.

Overall, we decided the impact of the insurer’s mistakes would have a lasting impact on them as family, and had caused them sustained distress – even pain and suffering. Due to the extreme level of impact caused to both policy holders over many years, we thought an award of £8,000 overall was appropriate in the circumstances.