Normally the Daily Mail front page story is having a pop at one gender, ethnicity or sexuality or another to get us to pick it up the rag at the newsagent. But on Monday they had a worrying scoop. They had discovered that unscrupulous firms are setting up around the country to try and profit from dormant or uncollected County Court Judgments and money owed to firms or the courts. Everyone from established banks to utility companies and mobile phone networks are obtaining the CCJs from an anonymous building in my home town of Northampton and deploying legions of debt collection methods to chase people down. Nothing wrong with that if the people owe quite a bit and trying to be evasive, which pushes up all our bills etc. But this is very different in that a company is looking to make money, PPI style, by simply activating the outstanding but already written off ones to cynically generate debt collecting letters and fines, charging people interest who contest the fines and for every letter sent, the same way parking cowboys rake it in. There are over 900,000 CCJs made every year and 75% don’t even go through County Court now. Many people being targeted are unaware of the debt (as little as 10p owed on an electricity bill after changing addresses, for example) and some quickly driven to poverty paying escalating fines as they contest the mysterious and unexpected fines and letters that have little to do with them. One firm alone chased down 230,000 claims. You could buy a second hand car and be totally unaware there is outstanding finance on that car but now responsible for that finance. It looks like the court service is privatizing debt collection to the cowboys again.
So with that in mind you have to be extra carefully you pay off your outstanding bills, however small and make sure your current address is up to date a these guys deliberately send out debt letters to previous addresses to start the meter running. We are pretty good like that with everything up to date but who is to say the big tertiary brands are not in on the act when they chase people down for shekels? Refreshing or taking out new insurance policies falls comfortably into this red zone and you have to keep your policy up to date and accurate. If your house burns down or robbed one day after your policy expires, however caring those insurance adverts are, they will not pay you a penny.
Most house policies are the same whatever the brand and underwritten by the same people. The small pint is the same and the same actuaries work for all the big insurers and have riddled that small print with mines to hamper any claim you make. In my policy if you don’t have a certain make of lock on your doors and windows it can greatly reduce the payout. You name the risk, they will know about it. The Act of God law covers a lot less than it used to, including flood damage in some areas. Luckily we live on a hill and so no chance of a river or drain burst here. If the roof gets taken off by a tornado we are unsure on that one on the Act of God law s far as Norwich Union goes.
NU deals start around a £110 per annum (10% discount for first time policies on the website) and offer a useful 40% no claims discount for customers who go five years without a claim. Just as most people who take out house insurance for the right reasons, many don’t, and look to claim in the first year for often disingenuous damage or burglaries to make more cash than what they had spent on the policy so far. The wedding ring going missing is one of the most popular claims these days, as are the more unusual, like dog bites, tree falls, intoxicated guests and ‘injured domestics’. People will take out full cover to exploit it.
NU, like nearly all policies will have wear & tear covered and so you wont be able to get away with ‘stuff getting old and breaking’. If your roof leaks it’s your fault. If you haven’t serviced your boiler it’s your fault. If the bathroom tiles leak water through poor grouting (the drip from the kitchen ceiling) it’s your fault. Burst pipes through poor lagging they may well not cough up. Even untreated tree branches and roots can leave you exposed to no claim. With Norwish they also lay the law down firmly on House & Content rules If, for example, your house burns down and it’s going to cost £200,000 to re-build it, but you’ve only agreed maximum cover of £150,000, then you’re going to be £50,000 out of pocket. Same with those thieves and scallies. If your property is cleaned out while you’re away on holiday, but your total maximum claim limit for possessions and stuff is less than the total value of what’s been stolen, you’ll financially knackered. Its worse for rental and housing association accommodation.
Non disclosure rules also apply. If you don’t tell your new insurers about previous claims they can penalize you. Punters do that to maintain the no claims discount, of course. The same with those CCJs. If you hide them it could annul part of any claim. You can bolt on extra protection like up to 50 grand in legal expense or home energy cover for when the boiler blows. Accidental Cover will cover you putting your foot in it, quite literally, the moment when it goes through the loft floor.
NU Building Policy standard cover in their policies (their legal text from the website):
• Properties of most shapes, sizes and construction types covered, up to a rebuild value of £1 million.
• Garages, sheds and outbuildings covered as standard.
• Accidental Damage Cover for damage to mains services, fixed bathroom fittings and fixed glass only.
• Alternative Accommodation for your family if your home becomes uninhabitable.
• Trace & Access – Our insurers don't just fix the damage, they can also help to diagnose the root of the problem.
• Property owner's liability insurance.
Contents Insurance - Standard Cover in our policies:
• Cover for typical household contents you keep in your home – choose your amount up to £100,000.
• Alternative Accommodation if your home becomes uninhabitable (even if you don’t have Buildings Cover with us).
• Accidental Damage Cover to protect from mishaps to mirrors, ceramic hobs and glass (such as oven doors and glass-topped tables). Some policies will cover damage to TVs, desktop PCs and games consoles as standard too.
• Valuables and high-risk items cover provided as standard (total limits apply, ranging from £10,000 to £30,000 depending on insurer). No need to specify items worth less than £2,000 and you can cover individual items worth up to £15,000.
We have the standard policies for both and so far no claims made since we have been with them in 2012. We have used the call center to query a claim and they were very fair. The garden shed got turned over but it was a bit of a lean-to and the lock rusted and so we didn’t think we would get a payout that did us any good and so the assessor wasn’t called out. Everyone on the planet will get something nicked out of their garden at some point and unfair for the insurance industry to underwrite that. That would make policies very expensive! You can pay monthly by whatever means other than cash and £160-80 a year for full cover.