You can trust your insurer to do the right thing. Right?

Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

Having spent the last 8 years dealing with insurers over claims for septic tank problems, we have a bit of a mixed opinion on whether you should be able to trust them to do the right thing when you need to claim. I find that people tend to fall into two camps when it comes to views on insurance companies - those that have faith in their insurer to do the right thing in times of trouble, and those that think that insurers will do whatever they can to wriggle out of a claim. So, can you count on your insurer to do the right thing when you need them to?

Recently, I found myself on the other side of the fence, needing to make a claim with our travel insurer. Having decided to travel abroad for the first time in three years with our two young children, you can imagine our dismay when our travel plans collided with a global system meltdown at British Airways, who we were due to fly with. Instead of settling in to our carefully chosen villa, we found ourselves getting back home from the airport 5 hours after setting off, feeling somewhat shell shocked and very disappointed.

First thing we did? Call our travel insurer. I had spent time picking a good policy, shunning the sites that offer you others at rock bottom prices - after all, who wants to get caught out abroad with young children and a budget policy that won't cover you for anything? I had picked Post Office Travel Insurance, a good reputable brand I thought, and they had won a 'Best travel insurer' award recently. I was confident we'd be covered.

Until we hit the first stumbling block. The claims team weren't available at the weekend, and no one who was available could give me any advice. Hmm. However, assuming that we would be covered for the cancellation of our holiday, something which was totally out of our control, we hurriedly re-booked a short break in the UK. I called the insurer again on the Monday, which happened to be a bank holiday. An automated voicemail told me that the claims office was 'shut for the holidays'. Somewhat ironic, I thought - how on earth could they be unavailable when the very people they were insuring were travelling with the policy they had happily provided?

Tuesday came and I made my 3rd call to register my claim. Except that the girl I spoke to very quickly informed me that we would not be covered for our lost holiday accommodation. I wasn't covered and that was that. End of conversation. To say that she was less than sympathetic to our plight would be something of an understatement.

The long and short of the story is that our policy had some very specific wording about what was covered, and it didn't refer to whatever had happened at BA. It had never entered my mind that I wouldn't be covered. It felt like something of a lottery - how could we ever have guessed this might happen, to be able to check that the specific wording would cover it? Even with our years of knowledge of dealing with insurance policies, we still got caught out.

So, bringing my personal woes back round to septic tanks, how are you as a property owner meant to know if you're covered by your buildings insurer if your septic tank gets damaged? Most people don't realise that you don't actually need specific septic tank insurance, the majority of buildings insurance policies already provide cover. And if your policy provides cover, can you trust your insurer to do the right thing if you need to make a claim?

In our experience, reflected in our own travel insurance debacle, it really is something of a lottery.

It's made even more complex because your drainage system sits underground. What you have to do is to prove to your insurer that whatever has happened to your septic tank meets with the definitions within your policy. Sounds tricky? It certainly can be. After all, we are specialists in managing insurance claims for damaged septic tanks, and we know exactly what we're looking for - yet some of our claims still get turned down by insurers. But we have a 96% success rate in appealing declined claims. What does this tell us? Firstly, that we really do know what we're on about when it comes to septic tank insurance claims. But secondly that insurers often get it wrong, and tell customers that they're not covered when they are. Given the huge cost of replacing a damaged drainage system, this can have a really big impact on the people on the receiving end of these decisions.

One of the biggest challenges facing customers buying insurance policies these days is the sheer amount of choice - all the different policies and options can be overwhelming, and it can be really tempting to stick with a brand you trust, such as your favourite retailer, your bank or even the Post Office ('boo!'). The problem with this? They aren't the people you will be dealing with if you need to make a claim. Many of the policies sold these days have been 'white labelled' - put simply, the lovely brand name of your favourite retailer has been badged on to an insurance company's policy. So, if you need to make a claim, it won't be them that you speak to. Sometimes it's not an insurance company you've even heard of - the travel policy I had with the Post Office was provided by a company I'd not heard of, but then underwritten by another company entirely. Confusing, even for someone who spends far too much time looking at insurance policies.

So, the best advice I can give when buying an insurance policy?

  1. Before you take out a policy, know exactly who you would be dealing with if you needed to make a claim - who actually provides the policy? Do your research on them, not the lovely retail brand who has their name on the leaflet. You will want to know that the insurer has their own brand that they will want to protect by treating you well.

  2. Price doesn't mean everything when it comes to policy. Buying an expensive policy doesn't mean that you will be covered or even that you will be treated well. But some of the worst policy wording we've seen comes from the cheapest policies you can buy. If it's a really cheap buildings insurance policy, it's probably that way for a reason. There are plenty of decent mass market insurers, that will provide you a policy at a reasonable price as well as a decent claims service if you need them. Insurers like Aviva and Axa are a good place to start in my opinion.

  3. If you have a septic tank, make sure that your policy provides cover - this will be typically found under 'accidental damage to underground services' in your policy.

  4. If you are having septic tank problems, and you're wondering whether you might be covered by your existing policy, call our team today on 0800 028 9903 or send us a message. We can manage everything for you from start to finish - from working out what's happened to your septic tank, to checking for cover on your policy, managing all the discussions with your insurer, through to getting any works completed. The only cost to you is the excess on your policy, typically around £100.

  5. Don't take out travel insurance with the Post Office!

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Sam Warren's Photo
Written by Sam Warren

Sam's career prior to UKDP was spent in the marketing and service industries, so she is focused on making sure we look after our customers – and getting the UKDP message out there! Sam has overall responsibility for business operations and for delivering the best customer service we can.

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