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One morning in March last year my partner was studying in our home office when our house was hit by a lorry, badly damaging the Victorian railings and Portland stone gates at the front.
We are in our 60s and were badly shaken. Liability for the damage, which totals about £22,000, was swiftly accepted by the driver’s company and the police are prosecuting him for careless driving. Yet despite all this Aviva, our insurer, has settled only £13,000 of the claim.
We have no idea why. As our home is Grade II-listed, to rebuild the wall and gates we are obliged to use certain materials that are vastly more expensive than other types. However, this is reflected in the building insurance premiums we pay Aviva.
Everything has been done properly, with a loss adjuster to assess the work, yet Aviva is not sticking to its promises. There has been no communication about whether or when the remaining bills might be paid. Our builder is a small specialist and, despite the rise in material costs over the past year, he has kept to his estimates but now finds himself waiting for payment from a large insurer.
The rebuilding has involved several craftspeople, from blacksmiths to plasterers, all specialists because of the nature of the building and all with an expectation of being paid as agreed. Surely the point of insurance is that if a lorry hits your house and liability is accepted, and if you are properly insured, your insurer is there to pay out?
– JM, Swindon
Satellite imagery of your house shows that it is located around a sharp bend, where the speed limit is 20mph. The lorry in question came hurtling round the corner, overshot the pavement and smashed straight into your property.
It was a stroke of luck that no pedestrians were there at the time, as a tragic accident might have occurred. I can see why you and your partner feel so shaken.
You bought this Aviva policy via a broker that specialises in listed properties such as yours. You say it has done everything it can to assist you, but the matter comes back to Aviva. It was a year since the lorry crash and enough was enough.
You were worried that the higher cost of materials and specialist labour was making Aviva wince and causing it to try to see what it could get away with not paying. However, I have established that what actually happened was a breakdown in communications.
After I contacted it, Aviva quickly responded, saying it wasn’t even aware the money hadn’t been paid. Within days it agreed to pay the remaining £8,000 it owed. It described the delays as “regrettable” and said a problem with a “third-party processing system” was ultimately to blame.
Aviva also said it was sorry you were disappointed with the frequency of its updates, but pointed out that, when brokers were involved, they and the loss adjuster should usually be the point of contact. In light of the delays you faced, you will receive £50 for the “inconvenience”.
Now that this is sorted out, you can start to petition the local council to erect some bigger warning signs around that hairy road bend.