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Saturday, January 12, 2013

I know that Churchill is associated with V-signs, but to be honest, when you're paying them ninety quid a year for your home insurance, I expect them to be a bit more cooperative.

Having told us we need to pay the £100 excess upfront, Lisa phoned them on Thursday with my credit card details, only to be told that they couldn't accept the payment because she's not the card holder. So despite suffering from flu and a sore throat, I had to phone up myself. And give them the exact same details Lisa had given them. Frankly she could have just put on a deeper voice, it would have made no difference.

I spent last weekend cataloguing all our flood-damaged belongings (it's what I call 'water-logging') and taking photos of it all, since when we've spent hours on Amazon, looking up everything we don't have a receipt for, and compiling it all into a wish list as evidence of what it would cost to replace them. It already seemed like a lot of work for a comparatively low value claim, but yesterday morning we received an envelope in the post from Churchill Insurance.

And it wasn't a cheque. It was actually a letter containing a list of ten demands, followed by a warning that if we don't fulfil them all within 21 days, they're dismissing our claim. When we made the original claim over the phone eight days ago, Lisa asked them twice if we need to speak to the lady upstairs, and both times they said no, they would contact her themselves. Well they've clearly had second thoughts, and realised that the less they have to do, the better, because they're now asking us to find out her insurance details.

In addition, they want a written statement from us, giving our version of events, plus proof of what caused the flood, where the leaks occurred, an engineer's report confirming the cause of the damage, and details of any witnesses. I'm not sure if Amelie counts.

During that first phone call on January 4th, they asked Lisa if she or I have any criminal convictions (which we don't), but by the time you've read to the end of their ten demands, you feel like you're being asked to prove your innocence in court. I don't know if it's because we're dodgy council tenants, or if this is just standard practice, but they seem to be doubting us at every stage. I wouldn't mind if we were claiming for six Fabergé eggs and a Renoir, but we're only asking them to replace a few low-cost household goods.

Lisa went upstairs twice yesterday, and got no answer. I was tempted to go myself and give the woman flu, but if she's not opening the door, it wouldn't have made a lot of difference. So we wrote her a note and put it through her letterbox. Twenty-four hours later, she still hasn't got back to us, which is not surprising for someone who never even gave us a courtesy knock on the door after she flooded our flat.

So we turned our attention to the council. Lisa phoned them yesterday afternoon, asking for a written report from the plumber who assessed the damage. A simple request, you might think. They said they can't supply one, and that we need to ask Mears, the council contractor who employ him. So Lisa phoned Mears. They told her that they can't give out information direct, and that any request has to come from the council.

So Lisa phoned the council again. They told her it's not their department, and gave her another number. She phoned that number and was put on hold for ten minutes, after which the person she spoke to told her she should go direct to Mears.

At that point I screamed, while Lisa calmly told them that she'd already been through all that. The man replied that in that case he didn't know what to do, and would have to phone us back.

He never did. I'm beginning to think we must be the only council tenants in Brighton responsible enough to have taken out home contents insurance, because they clearly can't find anyone who knows how to deal with a simple request like this.

So as things stand right now, we can't get the information we need from our neighbour, or the report we need from the council, and without them, Churchill are threatening to close our claim. We're also a hundred pounds down. Not including all the phone calls, the cost of printing out numerous photos, and the hours of time we've already spent on all this.

But on the bright side, I've written a lovely 600-word account of the evening of January 2nd, which, as I failed to fully explain the events at the time, I'm tempted to publish as a blog post.


Friends of Rozi and Zita said...

-How extraordinary in many ways, but mostly we are just about to renew our insurance and I was thinking of using Churchill, but given what you have just said, will stay well clear of them!  Thanks!

Phil's Mum said...

I heard yesterday of someone else who had a difficult time trying to claim from Churchill Insurance and were paid nothing.  Keep spreading the word and at least we'll have the satisfaction of seeing them go out of business.  (What will happen to the dog though?)