Page last updated at 00:01 GMT, Saturday, 28 November 2009

Flood insurance deals 'vary greatly'

By Maryam Moshiri
Business reporter, BBC News

Floods in Cockermouth, Cumbria
Recent floods have devastated parts of the UK

There is a lack of consistency in the way insurance companies treat flood victims who are looking to make claims, the National Flood Forum has said.

The charity says the problem of people living on the same street being charged very different excesses for flood insurance is of "epidemic proportions".

It adds that people who have claimed for flood damage in the past often find it difficult to get a better deal.

Insurers say it is normal for offers to vary for different customers.

Same property, different stories

Dominic Witherow and Mike Lewin live next door to each other in Chobham, Surrey, in a property which has been split into two homes.

Mr Witherow, who moved into the property after previous flooding and has never made a claim, has a flood excess of £100.

Mr Lewin, who is with a different insurer and has claimed for past flooding, is looking at an excess of £10,000.

Dominic Witherow (l) and Mike Lewin
Dominic Witherow and Mike Lewin had very different insurance offers

Both men believe this is unfair.

"Mike's building and my building are the same," says Mr Witherow.

"We are one building, we are in exactly the same area, we have exactly the same flood risk, there's no reason for us to have an automatic excess difference that's just so huge. It's crazy."

Mr Lewin adds: "It's an inordinate amount of money, isn't it? And obviously, if you are going to get even two inches of water in this place then you're going to spend a lot of money to get it straight."

After recent intervention from an insurance broker both Mr Lewin and Mr Witherow have been offered a new deal with the same £2,500 excess.

No consistency

But according to the National Flood Forum, the problem of neighbours getting very different flood insurance offers is widespread.

The charity believes thousands of homes at risk of flooding could be affected by similar problems.

Mary Dhonau, chief executive, National Flood Forum
The National Flood Forum says people are concerned about insurance

"It's epidemic proportions as far as I'm concerned," says chief executive Mary Dhonau.

"Everywhere we go to speak to communities at risk of flooding, the subject always gets round to insurance and people tell us their stories, neighbours... having different excesses is really quite a big issue.

"Another community that was flooded, where all the houses were flooded [to] the same depth, the same kind of house, the same insurance broker - all different policy prices, all different levels of excess. Where's the consistency in that?"

Approaches to risk

But Nick Starling from the Association of British Insurers says it is not unusual for deals to vary.

"There are many different reasons why there are different prices, even properties which look very similar can have very different risk characteristics," he explains.

"It also depends on the type of property and on the contents you've got, but also it's because different insurers have different approaches to risk."

The National Flood Forum says people should look for help if they are worried about their flood policy.

"In the worst case, we take on people's cases on their behalf and we fight the insurance industry for them," says Mary Dhonau.

"So come to us, the more evidence we get, the more we can present to the Association of British Insurers that yes, this is a problem."

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