In early March, accountant Bruce Strugnell discovered the tell-tale sign of water damage. But as he had Saga home insurance, he wasn’t particularly perturbed.
On inspection he located the source of the leak from the loft cold water tank.
Water was penetrating the joists, insulation, and ceiling boards, requiring immediate attention.
But the crisis quickly turned into a protracted drama, when he became involved in a surreal three-way spat with Saga’s AA Home Emergency Service provider, and the sub-contractor Mitie, about replacing the water tank.
Bruce said that the AA responded within a couple of hours of calling them out.
They in turn sent out a tradesman from national facilities company Mitie to investigate. He quickly and efficiently confirmed the source and isolated and drained the tank, which sorted the immediate emergency.
However, from there on matters took a sudden downward trajectory when Bruce was told that his loft hatch would have to be enlarged to accommodate a replacement tank. The estimated cost of £200 to £300 plus compensation and all the associated inconvenience wouldn’t be covered by the insurance.
Bruce argued the enlargement was unnecessary, but the plumber insisted the tank would have to be replaced on a like-for-like basis and the existing hatch aperture was too small.
He said: ‘I told him it was a 50-gallon tank and it wasn’t the size of the tank that was the constraining factor but its capacity. It didn’t matter whether the tank was round, cubed, rectangular, or whatever, it was the actual water capacity of the tank. Why couldn’t we have a replacement tank that would go through the hatch?’
Bruce’s well-reasoned request was met with uncompromising insistence that only a replacement tank of the same physical size and shape would do the job.
He phoned AA Home Emergency Service to complain, but all his efforts fell on deaf ears. They were equally insistent that he had no alternative other than to enlarge his loft hatch by a foot on all sides to facilitate the replacement.
As luck would have it, the following day the assessor for Saga insurance turned up. He ran through the process of confirming and making a claim which appeared straightforward with no identified problems.
While he was about it Bruce raised the absurd situation about the hatch enlargement. He just didn’t want an unsightly big hatch dominating his landing ceiling.
The assessor’s opinion was that the insistence on replacing the tank with another of the same type was ludicrous, and unreasonable. He confirmed replacement water tanks were available to go through the existing aperture.
Determined to doggedly fight his corner, 68-year-old Bruce from Bedhampton decided it was high time to raise the stakes.
He put in a further series of calls to the AA and dashed off a confirmation letter which hardly concealed his fury and resentment about its stubborn refusal to listen to his concerns.
He also contacted the Financial Ombudsman Service, which regulates insurance services, but it was unable to offer any short-term help.
In the meantime he’d also surfed the internet and sourced a suitable tank that would easily go through the hatch.
Fed up with the continued inconvenience of boiling kettles for hot water and relying on family and friends to shower, Bruce decided the only way to achieve the outcome he wanted was to arrange to have the work done privately.
He added: ‘At that point they told me if I had the work done myself it wouldn’t be covered under the insurance and they wouldn’t pay for it.
‘I realised I wasn’t going to get support from anywhere, so I was better off getting the hot and cold water where we needed it to minimise all the ongoing stress and inconvenience.’
In the meantime he decided he had one more shot left in his locker and called in Streetwise to see if we could get the standoff sorted.
After we contacted Saga Insurance, the tune quickly changed. Bruce told us that within a short time of Streetwise getting in touch with them, AA Emergency Services and Mitie called him out of the blue offering to provide an installation team within 24 hours.
A Saga spokesperson was also quick to react.
They said: ‘Whilst we understand that escape of water can be frustrating, disruptive and concerning for homeowners, our Home Emergency cover meant that professionals were able to isolate the leak quickly for Mr Strugnell.
‘We understand that Mr. Strugnell has arranged for the works to be carried out privately and those costs will be reimbursed by the AA up to a policy limit of £2,000 once receipts and invoices have been provided.’
Bruce’s claim for the installation of a suitable tank included compensation for 10 days’ stress and inconvenience.
Within a day or so of sending his receipts, he was delighted when a cheque promptly turned up in the post from AA Home Services in full settlement.
‘I can’t understand why it couldn’t have been sorted so quickly before,’ he said.
‘Many thanks for your input and attention on our behalf. I’m very grateful.’