SALLY SORTS IT: Home insurer slashed storm payout over price of tiles


During a big storm on February 18, tiles at back of the house blew off and landed on our extension, causing further damage, and leaving dangerous debris on the roof.

I contacted our insurer Ageas, which eventually said a surveyor would come and inspect our home on April 14. When I said I couldn’t wait that long, it was agreed I could go ahead and organise the repairs.

I used a local builder that had previously done work for my brother-in-law. The total cost, including £1,800 for scaffolding, was £4,700.

Hitting the roof: A reader ended up £1,756 out of pocket after her insurance company said the tiles used to repair her home after it was damaged in a storm were too expensive

The Claims Consortium, which was handling the claim for Ageas, said the builder should have sourced the tiles from somewhere cheaper and was only willing to pay £2,944 minus our excess of £100.

Had they been able to proceed sooner, I would have willingly gone with the insurer’s choice of builder. I think this is a poor show and I’m now £1,756 out of pocket.

L. R., Chittlehampton, North Devon.

Sally Hamilton replies: The weather incident that wreaked havoc on your roof was Storm Eunice.

It was one of three storms (the others being Dudley and Franklin) that swept through the British Isles in February and led to about 177,000 insurance claims costing £500 million, according to the Association of British Insurers. Insurance firms were certainly under pressure to meet the demand for repairs.

But they are in the business of managing the unexpected, and while certain delays can be tolerated, I would agree that asking you to wait nearly two months in the middle of winter for the company’s own damage assessment was excessive.

Fortunately, the Claims Consortium and Ageas consented to you arranging the repairs yourself. You chose a building firm recommended by a relative, which gave you confidence that the job would be done properly.

Once it was completed you sent an itemised bill to the claims handlers totalling £4,700.

To your dismay, they sent you a cheque for just £2,844, stating your tiles were too pricey.

You told me they were the only ones the builders could get hold of that were a near match to your existing tiles, although even then they weren’t perfect.

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But you were just happy to have your roof intact. I do not know whether your builders could have obtained cheaper tiles.

But what I do know is there’s an acute shortage of building materials due to supply chain issues, the war in Ukraine and rising energy and labour costs, all of which are pushing up prices for many construction and repair projects.

I asked Ageas if it could revisit its decision. A spokesman came back to me with the following explanation: ‘Due to the extent of Storm Eunice in February 2022, we had a significant increase in the number of claims, which had a knock-on effect on our supplier availability and repair times.

‘Unfortunately, this delay affected L.R. and for this we apologise.’ The spokesman said that as part of the validation of any claim, the insurer asks for a detailed breakdown on repairs, which is then fed into an industry database, to ‘provide an accurate cost of repairs’.

It did this with your estimate, which came up with a different sum to the bill that you paid.

However, the spokesman added: ‘While we still believe the amount charged for the work by her own supplier was excessive, we recognise that it was our delays that caused her to appoint her own repairer. 

In this case, as a gesture of goodwill we will reimburse the difference between our surveyor’s estimate and the amount she paid for the repairs to her roof.’

You told me you were delighted with the outcome and have pledged to pay the £1,756 difference between the original and final payment offered by Ageas to the North Devon Hospice, which you say took exceptional care of your father in his final days.

University won’t return fees after Daughter had to cancel course due to ill health

I borrowed £16,000 from my bank HSBC to pay for my daughter to take a 12-month barrister training course at BPP university in London.

Unfortunately, due to developing mental health problems after the course was booked, my daughter, who lives with her mother in Bangladesh, could not travel to the UK to complete the course. She is still receiving treatment and is unable to study. It is a matter of great regret that both her and my dreams have been shattered because of her serious mental illness.

My daughter submitted the course withdrawal form, attaching doctor’s evidence and requested a refund of fees. But the university refused, citing its terms and conditions that say fees are not refundable. Please can you help us?

N. I., London.

Sally Hamilton replies: I felt sad for you and your daughter when I read of your plight. You work hard as a housekeeper in a large London hospital and send money to your family in Bangladesh as well as supporting yourself in the capital.

But you were happy to scrimp and save, as well as take out a loan to help pay for your daughter’s course, as it was an investment in her future and her dreams of being a barrister.

It was bad enough when those dreams tragically collapsed due to her ill health, but then knowing you would be saddled with paying off the debt, for nothing in return, I was determined to step in and ask BPP to reconsider its position.

It took me some time to track down the right person at the private sector university, but eventually my intervention meant the dean contacted you directly to find out more.

She convened a meeting with management to discuss your daughter’s case.

A few weeks later, BPP offered to return £8,000, 50 per cent of the fees. Its defence was your daughter had started the course and attended online sessions from home.

I felt this offer fell far short, especially as you described how your daughter had spent most of this handful of sessions simply sitting in front of her laptop screen in a state of distress and not taking in what was being taught. I asked again for BPP to reconsider.

Within two days it came back with the offer to return £12,800 — 80 per cent of the fees.

You were full of relief and gratitude at this result and thanked me for my involvement, without which you believe you would not have received a penny.

You told me you had spread the word on the Sally Sorts It column to your colleagues and friends, as well as your relatives back home in Bangladesh.

I wish you and your daughter all the best for the future.

Straight to the point 

I accidentally ordered a ticket for a 6.30am train when I meant to book the 7.30am service. 

Transport for Wales is insisting I pay a £10 amendment fee, even though I rang its helpline minutes after realising my mistake.

T. L., Stockport.

Transport for Wales usually charges customers £10 to make changes to advance tickets. However, as its ‘Book with Confidence’ scheme (introduced during the pandemic) is still in place, the fee has now been waived.

*** 

Our energy supplier Eon keeps sending us bills of several thousand pounds — with the latest one coming in at £1,538. How can this be possible?

M. H., by email.

Since I passed on your letter to Eon, it has tried to contact you on several occasions. It needs you to supply accurate meter readings before it can resolve the issue.

*** 

I was recently diagnosed with breast cancer and had to cancel a holiday to Malta on April 28. 

I was told by easyJet that if I completed its serious illness form I would receive a voucher for the cancelled flights within seven days.

I have followed up but had no response, and I’m upset that I have to keep talking about my diagnosis.

L. C., West Sussex.

An easyJet spokesman says the airline is sorry for the delay in processing your claim. You have now received the promised voucher.

*** 

Barclaycard wrote to my husband stating he is entitled to refunds totalling £2,994 because the bank charged him too much in fees. 

He has vascular dementia and I have Lasting Power of Attorney, but it is refusing to accept the validity of the documents.

L. S., Kent.

The forms you sent had pages missing, but Barclaycard has now gone to the Office of the Public Guardian to verify the documents. 

You have now been refunded and received an additional £100 as an apology for the delay.

  • Write to Sally Hamilton at Sally Sorts It, Money Mail, Northcliffe House, 2 Derry Street, London W8 5TT or email sally@dailymail.co.uk — include phone number, address and a note addressed to the offending organisation giving them permission to talk to Sally Hamilton. Please do not send original documents as we cannot take responsibility for them. No legal responsibility can be accepted by the Daily Mail for answers given. 

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