Most people don't even realise that, often, the costs of resolving septic tank problems or soakaway problems are covered by standard buildings insurance policies. We're often called by people looking for a specific septic tank insurance policy - but no such thing really exists, because typically cover is already provided by buildings policies. So, that's the good news. The not so good news is that insurers aren't always great at dealing with claims for damaged septic tanks. So, what are the top 5 reasons why insurers turn down septic tank insurance claims? And what should you do if it happens to you?
Here at UKDP, all we do is manage insurance claims for damaged septic tanks, soakaways, cesspits and sewage treatment plants. Day in, day out! Yes, it's pretty niche, but we like to think it makes us pretty clued up on such matters. We know what is and isn't covered by insurance policies, and importantly we know how to deal with situations when insurers incorrectly turn claims down. Yes, I did say `incorrectly', because insurers don't always make the right decision.
How can I prove that? Well, if an insurer turns a claim down, we can take it to the Financial Ombudsman Service for a final decision, which is binding on the insurer. In recent months, we have taken 19 claims which had been declined by the insurers to the Ombudsman, and they have reversed the decisions in 18 of those cases. So that means that in 95% of decisions to decline claims that we have presented, the insurer was wrong to do so. Pretty scary stuff if you ask me - what happens to all those people that don't have UKDP on their side to champion their cause and get them the cover that their policy should have provided? Septic tanks are not cheap to replace, so this can place a big financial burden on those people who are incorrectly told that they're not covered.
There are many reasons why insurers decline septic tank insurance claims - although as we've established above, they're often not right to do so. So what are the top 5 reasons?
Ok, so the concept of a septic tank seems pretty straightforward and we won't dwell on it if you're eating your lunch. But actually, how they work and more importantly why they STOP working can get pretty technical. Least of which because they are underground so no one can see what's gone on. Some insurers simply don't understand how it all works, and valid claims can get turned down because of this.
Each insurer appoints a company to assess the claim for them. Sometimes this might be a loss adjuster, other times it might be one of a number of drainage companies set up to work for insurers. The problem is that septic tanks are just a small proportion of what these companies do, and - dare we say it - some are more inclined to recommend that claims be turned down than others. Of the 19 complaints we have taken to the Ombudsman in recent months, 17 of them relate to one such specialist company, even though there are 10 companies regularly used by insurers. Sounds a bit dodgy? We think so too.
We see a number of claims being turned down based on the opinion of these specialists, and the insurer will often support the decision in default, until the Ombudsman tells them that they are wrong. For example, one specialist used by insurers will say that any septic tank beyond a certain age has failed because it's too old. The problem is that it's just their opinion, and it's not supported by manufacturers or any industry bodies.
We have had so many debates with insurers and their representatives about what has caused the damage to a septic tank or soakaway, it's hard to count them. There are two problems with this. Firstly, it is almost impossible to prove what has happened to a drainage system which is underground, and most people don't have plans to set up camp in their septic tank, just in case some damage should occur. But secondly and most importantly, for a claim to be valid, you don't have to prove what's CAUSED the damage (unless you have a really tricky policy). All you have to prove is that what's happened to your septic tank or soakaway meets with the definition of `accidental damage' set down in your policy.
If a customer has demonstrated that their claim meets with the policy definition, the insurer must PROVE that an exclusion within the policy applies if it wants to turn it down. It's not enough just to provide an opinion, only evidence will suffice. So, for example, if an insurer wants to use the argument that the septic tank is just too old, they have to prove that it is the age of the tank that has caused the system to fail.
Sounds daunting? It can be. Luckily you are already in the right place for help with any septic tank problems or soakaway problems you might be having.
Whether you have noticed that your septic tank needs emptying more frequently than usual, or if you have already had your septic tank insurance claim turned down, we can help.
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.