Central Bank publishes findings on Household Property Claims in Ireland

At the end of October 2013 the Central bank of Ireland published a report with findings of a themed inspection into household property claims resulting from water damage.Given the increased frequency of floods in recent years the Central bank considered it important to make an inspection of the compliance with the Consumer Protection Code (the Code) between 1 July and 31 December 2012 in 10 of Ireland’s largest non-life insurer’s (approximately 90% of the Irish property insurance market).

With regard to this inspection the Director of Consumer Protection, Bernard Sheridan  said that the  Central Bank expects all regulated insurers to work in the consumer’s best interest by selling suitable insurance policies, providing clear information and handling claims properly when they arise, directly or through a third party such as a loss adjuster. He expressed concern by the findings of this inspection which show a lack of transparency around the claims retention policy and policy terms that consumers need to be aware of at time of purchase and when making a claim.   The Central bank considers that policy booklets contained a number of terms and conditions which may not be fair or transparent to consumers.”Consumers can often feel vulnerable when they experience damage to their home and that it is important that firms deal with their claims in a prompt and fair way.  ”  said also Mr. Sheridan.

One of the most important findings from the review were that most common reasons for insurers declining claims were either no insured peril or wear and tear that had occurred to their property, e.g. the sealant on a shower tray having fractured over time.  It was also noted that many consumers had withdrawn their claim on learning that an excess of up to €1,000 would be deducted from any claim settlement offer, as well as the impact that the loss of no claims bonus would have on future renewal premiums.

The Central Bank also considered that insurers’ policy booklets contained a number of terms and conditions which may not be fair or transparent to consumers, and therefore insurers have been requested to review aspects of their respective policy booklets. Examples of the terms that insurers were asked to review include references to policy excess amounts or administrative fees without actually stating how much these are or where the consumer can find this information and failure to include information about retaining a portion of the settlement until after reinstatement will be a condition of the claims settlement agreement.

A review of insurers’ policy booklets revealed that only one of the insurers clearly describes the practice of retentions in its policy booklet. All of the insurers have a practice whereby a retention amount may be applied to a claim settlement offer and typically the retention withheld would be between 20% and 30% of the settlement amount.  In order for a retention amount to be paid, consumers are required to provide either receipts, invoices or other proof that the repairs have been fully completed.  The Central Bank noted that 23% of the monetary amount of all household property (water damage) claim retentions applied by the 7 inspected insurers during 2012 were never claimed by the consumer.

What Clearys advises you is to always read very well your insurance policy and in case you have any doubts or ambiguity, do not hesitate to contact a loss assessor.