In my opinion: You can't always blame the insurance companies
It was of course sad that Mr and Mrs Fowle of Polgooth suffered trauma after damage unfortunately befell their home. It was amazing and wonderful to read that someone has come forward to fund the repair costs, but I was a bit surprised however that the article by Petra Mann (February 12) suggested that the cost should have been borne by the insurer of the building.
I spent a career in underwriting personal insurance risks, and all too often the insurance companies are accused of trying to evade responsibility, or declining to admit liability on the strength of small print in policy wording. In this case, it has been reported that the Prudential argue that the cause of the damage was frost, and that the state of the collapsed wall had deteriorated over a period of time.
All insurance contracts are clear in stating the specific hazards covered, such as fire, lightning, storm or burglary, and I have never witnessed any contract which includes the hazard of frost; similarly policy wordings should always be clear that damage to property is confined to a single event, thus precluding gradual disintegration and damage.
The insurer's decision on whether a claim is legitimate should be based on the findings of an independent loss adjuster whose task is to check the application of the policy wording, quantify the damage and assess the cost of repair. In my view, the Policyholder would be likely to further his case only if he could show that the damage had occurred in one single incident.
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There is another issue which relates to the original proposal for insurance. On all proposal forms for private dwelling houses, there is a question asking about the use of the building materials in the construction of the property. If the insurer or broker was made aware at this time that the material was cob, there was a moral obligation to tell the applicant that periodic inspection of the property should be arranged so that maintenance could be put in place. In Cornwall, cob-built dwellings were regularly made from china clay residue, usually mixed with straw and soil; the resultant buildings have over the years proved notorious in the expansion and contraction of walls which are all too easily affected by moisture.
I deplore the statement from the local MP who according to WMN had, presumably without any expert advice, castigated the Prudential in no uncertain terms. I can only assume this was to bang the drum about his humanitarian side.
As a footnote, I suppressed a smile on reading that KBM Builders Ltd "had managed to bring the price down" by some £6,000 after it was known that the claim had been refused by the insurer. How remarkable.