Consumer not ‘reasonably aware’ of leak or damage to prevent floor collapse

Buildings insurance

When Gary's washing machine leaked, it damaged his kitchen to the point where the floor collapsed. He got in touch with us when his insurer only agreed with part of his claim.

What happened

Gary's washing machine started to leak, which damaged his kitchen walls and flooring. It also caused the joists to rot, with the floor eventually collapsing.

When he called his insurer, they agreed to pay for some of the damage. But they wouldn't pay for the gradual damage, including the rot. Their insurance policy said that they wouldn't pay for gradual damage in general, and specified about not paying for rot.

What we said

When we looked into Gary's complaint, we saw that the leak was behind the washing machine. This meant that Gary wouldn't have been able to notice the leak or damage until it was too late. We decided that the damage started with the leaking pipe, which was covered by Gary's policy.

Even though we agreed with the insurer that the damage happened gradually, it wasn't reasonable to think that Gary would have been aware of the damage until the floor collapsed and he made a claim.

We understood the insurer's decision to decline the claim. This was in line with the terms of their policy as it excluded gradual damage. But we didn't think the decision was fair or reasonable to Gary as he wouldn't have been able to do anything about the damage. So we decided to uphold Gary's complaint.