Trevor Laffan: Blameless — but claim-less! Insurers are all take, no give

Trevor Laffan: Blameless — but claim-less! Insurers are all take, no give

FUNNY BUSINESS: Trevor Laffan finds getting insurers to pay out is like getting blood from a stone!

WE have a small room downstairs in our house that’s multi-functional. There’s a desk, some drawers and a printer in there so when I’m using it, I call it the office. Sounds posh.

My wife is more practical, and she calls it the junk room.

She has a point because there are times when I can hardly find a space to sit down. In fact, sometimes I can’t even find the desk.

There is a coat stand in there that is so full of coats, there’s no room for coats, so they end up on the desk, and they’re joined by everything else in the house that doesn’t have a place of its own.

Every now and then I make a burst and tidy the place up and, on those occasions, I love to sit back and enjoy the space.

It was on one of those rare moments that my solitude was broken by an unusual sound. Unusual for that room anyway.

It was the sound of water dripping and it didn’t take me long to find the source. It was coming from above my head.

There was a large circular damp patch on the ceiling and a drop was forming in the centre of it, like a bullseye on a dartboard. Every now and then it would plop onto the timber floor.

I went upstairs to investigate, and I soon established that it was coming from the shower in my son’s room.

I sent for the builder, who examined the bathroom and immediately declared it a disaster area and closed it down. He sealed it off like a crime scene. Then he started banging things with his hammer and dismantling stuff and within a short period of time, the shower was removed and was lying in several pieces out in the back garden.

The full state of the damage was revealed. The shower had obviously been leaking for years because some of the timber underneath was completely rotten.

This was going to be a bigger job than we had anticipated originally, and a lot more expensive too, so we decided that we would involve our insurance company.

I contacted our insurer and a lady spent a few minutes telling me what I wasn’t insured for and how I would be penalised if I made a claim. She told me she would send an assessor out to view the damage.

An assessor arrived a few days later, accompanied by a builder, and he got down to business surveying the affected area. He quickly concluded that the cause of the problem was a badly sealed shower and not an issue with the pipework. The assessor advised me that this was bad news for me.

She was very sympathetic, but because the pipework wasn’t the cause, she couldn’t cover the cost of the repairs.

I wasn’t particularly concerned with how the damage was caused. I was more concerned with the state of the bathroom and the large gaping hole in the floor in front of me and how it was all going to be paid for.

The sympathetic assessor offered more sympathy and then drove off with her builder friend, leaving me alone with my wasteland of a bathroom and my thoughts. And no money.

I questioned the value of having insurance when it wouldn’t help me in my time of need. I always seem to be paying top price and receiving nothing in return except sympathy.

I have been paying for car insurance for more than 40 years and I’ve never had a claim. I have a full no claims bonus for all that time but, in spite of that, I paid more for my car insurance this year than ever before.

My mother’s house has been vacant since she died two years ago and there’s nothing in it. We have the heating coming on a couple of times a day to keep the dampness at bay and, for the privilege of having that empty house sitting there minding its own business, I have to pay an annual premium of €660.

As far as I can make out, the house is covered for very little, but the company will pay out in the unlikely event of a plane crashing into it, which is very useful.

A few years ago, I was driving to Dublin when, somewhere near Cahir, I hit a brick that was sitting in the middle of the overtaking lane on the motorway and I ended up on the grass verge on the left-hand side of the road. I was lucky it wasn’t more serious, but the tyre was in bits and the alloy wheel was goosed.

It cost me more than €500 to replace them so I contacted the insurance company to see what they had to say for themselves. They told me that I would have to pay the first €300 myself and it would also affect my no claims bonus, so they suggested it would be cheaper for me to pay for it myself. So I did.

We had a Nissan Almera as a second car a few years back, until a driver crashed into it and wrote it off. The insurance company deemed the car to be worth a lot less to them than it was to us, so we got buttons for it.

So, the long and the short of it is, I’ve been paying insurance all my life to cover one thing or the other, and I never get any benefit from it. If I didn’t have it, though, I’d be the first one to suffer the consequences.

If my mother’s house was uninsured for a single day, I guarantee you a Boeing 747 would plough straight through the bedroom window.

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