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Dropped roof apex and bowing front wall to tenanted property

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Hi everyone


I have just posted this to someone specific, who asked about anyone wishing for insurance claims advice, but I thought it maybe a good idea to open the debate by widening the audience a little by making a separate post....so here we go:


I've just logged in to the forum after a lengthy period of absence, for one reason and another (family life and business diversification etc) as I'm faced with a potentially large bill if I don't prepare myself adequately for a meeting this Friday (30th June, 2017) with a 'Subsidence Consultant'.


I am a relative veteran as far as property investment goes, having got into the 'game' back in 1999, and built a portfolio soon after - to then sell off half of it for the economic abyss we face; but that's a story for another time.


Where I'm not experienced is in insurance claims, as to date I've only ever claimed once, and that was for something minor. But now I face something pretty major and I need to consider my options and how I might navigate the rough waters I face:


One of my properties is a Victorian house, and the front wall has bowed markedly to the front of the house. It's a terrace house, and each side is fine as far as bowing goes; but in the centre it's bowing by about 4". Initially we thought it was the wall ties having given out.


Ordinarily these types of houses have the wall plates (and for those who aren't familiar, a wooden support that rests on top of the wall that takes the weight of the roof and therefore supports it) to the inner skin (wall). 


Also one the purlins (roof cross members) had split right through, to the rear of the pitched roof. Luckily this was directly over the central supporting wall, so we were able to jack the roof up (literally with a jack, a car jack) and fitted an adapted, old oak fence post. We thought nothing more of this.


Additionally, as the roof apex had dropped (which could be seen by simply standing opposite the house, on the other side of the road) we decided to also reinforce the timbers supporting the concrete-tiled roof; and so we fitted 2.4m 2" x 4" cross members, with double-sided galvanised dogtooth connectors, fixed with large bolts and 2.5-3mm thick, square washers to each end. We did this on every other truss/tile-supporting timber, across the whole width of the house. So 7 of these were installed in all. 


We were going to remove the out skin to the front wall, down to the windowsill level, which is where the bowing began; but after installing and paying for scaffolding, we were about to begin, and upon removing the first brick, we noticed that actually the wall plate was/is actually on the outside wall, not the inner skin. So the roof is actually bearing on the outer bowed wall. We had to immediately stop! The roof would collapse if we were to remove the said wall, obviously, and we were both shocked by this. It's going to be a MUCH bigger job now, and one for insurance!


I did have to instruct a watercourse/pipe leak some years back, as the rear of the house had evidence of mild subsidence, and an inspection revealed a broken pipe, which meant much water was leaking into the surrounding footing, resulting in softer ground support. But that was remedied and we rendered over the crack that first alerted us to it, which went from the top corner of one side of the house, down, across to the other side - though it wasn't a wide crack, thankfully.


So, having finally managed to get hold of the insurance company (having called several times but kept on hold for a long time, and then when I did speak to someone they said they'd e-mail me, but never did, so again to call etc.) their claims department have arranged for this assessor to do a site visit this coming Friday, as already stated.


FINALLY I now get to my 2 questions:

As it can only be a single event or cause, and classified under either 'perils' or 'subsidence', to be covered, I'm at a loss as to what I could in fact say or do so as not to scupper my chances of having insurance pay out on this.


I, stupidly in hindsight (from a shooting myself in the foot perspective), mentioned that I'd noticed 2 or 3 other houses along the same road had bowing house fronts, though nowhere near as bad as mine. This might indicate poor design or ongoing/gradual problems, in which case I WON'T be covered, according to the claims advisor. He said "it's wasn't looking good", when I mentioned that, but I'm damned if I'm going to just give up and have to shell out many thousands to rectify this, from my own pocket. This kind of scenario is the whole reason we have insurance, as far as I'm concerned.


What can I say, or what could I stress or focus on in order to steer the assessor to act in my favour? How could I present this in such a way as to tie in each element, or a couple of them, that could be related, so I qualify for financial assistance? 


You can't give an accurate assessment without seeing things for yourself, but even so, any words of advice would be greatly appreciated. Meanwhile I can, and will, forward the "Circumstances and Nature and Extent of Damage" to a loss adjuster friend of mine, who is also looking at this case - but as he'd no doubt recommend too, it's best to spread the net far and wide in order to possibly catch something worthwhile. As you've had 15 years in claims work, your angle may well reveal something my buddy's won't.


SECONDLY (and this is additional to the post I submitted elsewhere) although there is a subsidence consultant doing a site visit this Friday afternoon, once he's been and gives in his report, does this then mean I can't have another assessment visit by anyone else, under the title 'accidental damage'? It seems highly unfair to place an insurance restriction that says it either has to be 'accidental' or 'subsidence' and that's it - much as it might be common practise. 


Any advice of helpful pointers will be much appreciated.


Thank you in advance, and sorry that this is such a long post, but I feel it needs to be to fully brief you, or we'd be exchanging yet more messages.


Ian :-)

Edited by Ian Cole
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