In the late 1990s, an elderly tenant living on the estate rang me to asked me to come and see her as she had a problem. I was at her door within ten minutes. I had known Pat for a number of years and we got on well. I knew she kept her flat in spotless conditions. When she ask me inside I was shocked to see her white carpet in the hall had blood all over it as well as blood up the walls. “What on earth has happened?” I asked.
“Two weeks ago, a vein in my leg burst. I went into a blind panic and ran all over the flat not knowing how to stop the bleeding. Eventually June my next-door neighbour heard me screaming and came to my rescue. She called the paramedics who came in a few minutes. He put a tourniquet round my thigh and rushed me to hospital. I only came out of hospital three days ago”.
I said, “What can I do to help?”
“You could have a word with my insurers. They’re refusing to pay out for new carpet and decorating,” she said. “I thought, my policy was comprehensive but their assessor has rejected my claim!”
‘What possible reason could they dream up to not to pay out in these circumstances,’ I thought. So took all the details from Pat, including their written statement, to her that ‘Burst Pipes’ were not covered under her current insured details!
The same day, I rang the company and spoke to a senior person who first refused to give me his name. He followed that up by saying that he couldn’t possibly talk to me as I wasn’t the insured named person. I took that rebuke and countered, that I fully understood his position. However I would be left with no alternative but to write to the press and other media, explaining how this customer had been treated shabbily. Mr No-Name said if I did the company would take legal redress with prejudice!
I then asked, “How many tenants in social housing had they as customers of their home contents insurance scheme?” Mr No-Name, couldn’t possibly answer that question, so I revealed that I was both a Local Councillor and Chair of the Havering Council Housing Committee. I intended to advise all past present and future customers that his company was shameful and didn’t deserve the profits made from working-class people. This changed his attitude and he assured me that his most senior claims assessor would come round interview Pat, the next day. That was fine, but I wanted to know when as I intended to be present when the claims adjuster called.
Sure enough at the appointed time, the adjuster arrived. He started off by making the extraordinary statement. “Well Mrs Jode – I have reviewed your case and have noted that you have been with us for getting on for ten years and in all that time you have not made a single claim on your policy, therefore as you have been such a good girl”… I stepped in then – “Mrs Jode is not to be addressed as “A GOOD GIRL” she is a woman and deserves to be treated with respect. Now, are you going to meet her claim in full or not?” “Yes,” he said meekly, “I didn’t intend any disrespect. Please arrange for new carpets and a decorator to replace the damaged articles and send the bill to me”.