Is insurance just for peace of mind?
Most people realise how important it is to insure their home and possessions as a safeguard against their worst nightmares becoming a reality. Be it burglary, storm damage, fire or flooding, virtually everyone has insurance which enables them to sleep at night, not worrying about being left out of pocket or with nothing after a major disaster.
Or so you would think. But as keen as the industry is to collect premiums from you, things are quite different when an insurer has to pay a claim. Even a simple small claim such as a handbag loss can result in a disputed claim requiring proof of original costs (receipts) and police crime number etc. Even when the claim is eventually paid (ours took over a month) the following years premium increased by over 30%.
So it is hardly a surprise that this grubby industry is dragging its heels in settling claims from those flooded in January. This, despite the Prime Minister David Cameron saying on national television that he was “putting insurers on notice that they needed to pay up the money fast” So how can it be that, according to the Association of British Insurers, 7,480 householders, that is 40% of those who made a claim for flood damage this year, are still waiting to be compensated by their insurer? The ABI figures also highlight that 2,600 will still be waiting at Christmas! Around a 100 families on the Somerset Levels are still in temporary accommodation, often living in caravans.
The ABI says it does not know the exact number of people living in temporary accommodation and insurers say not all outstanding claims are disputed and think that 85% of the flood claims submitted will be settled before the New Year. That would still leave 15% (nearly a sixth) who are still waiting!
There are few who could argue that stamp duty land tax is as unfair as it is unpopular and well past its ‘reform by’ date! With the current thresholds and the excessive tax incurred, it is hardly surprising that more and more people are staying put. A report in The Times highlighted that in the 1980’s, around 12% of all houses changed ownership every year. Last year the figure was just 4%.
There have long been calls for stamp duty to be made marginal, the same as income tax, so that the percentage paid relates to the amount above each particular threshold, rather than on the whole amount.
This is precisely what Scotland are introducing from April 2015 with their Land and Building Transaction Tax announced last week.
For a start no tax is due on properties sold for less than £135,000 – £10,000 higher than the rest of the UK. Then between £135001 and £250,000 a 2% tax is charged but only on the proportion above the nil-rate threshold. After that it gets a bit silly! A 10% tax is due on the proportion between £250,000 to £1 million and 12% on anything above £1million.
Buyer Cara Waligura reported a nasty smell emanating from the bathroom of her new Persimmon home soon after she moved into her new home on the South Shore estate opposite Blyth beach. But Persimmon failed to resolve the drainage problem until recently – nine months after it was first reported!
She told “Mr Justice” of the Evening Chronicle how Persimmon’s contractors left a “gaping hole” in the bathroom whilst trying to identify the source of the stench. She said: “Our new home stinks and so does Persimmon!”
Defective “Durgo” was the cause
“Since moving into our newly-built home in January we have had to endure a horrible drainage smell in the bathroom. We are now nine months into complaining but we are getting no joy. After many calls and tears we still have a hole in the bathroom wall and an awful stink in all of the upstairs.”
Apparently even the NHBC issued three warnings to Persimmon to carry out work that is required under their Buildmark warranty.
John Eynon, deputy managing director for Persimmon Homes North East, told the Evening Chronicle: “This issue has been on-going for some time but time-scales have been agreed for it to be resolved. I would stress that the design complied with building regulations and NHBC technical guidance at the time of occupation and was accepted by the NHBC. Subsequent investigations and works to try and remove the smell have been ongoing and the final solution was agreed with the NHBC to vent the soil pipe to the atmosphere, in lieu of the durgo valve that had been fitted. Unfortunately, there was a delay in completing the works due to organising suitable sub-contractors to minimise disruption. We apologise that the problem was not quickly identifiable but the solution should resolve the matter now. I have personally made several attempts to contact the customer whilst my customer care team have been dealing with the issue.”