Back in August 2018, Mrs F was walking down the stairs when she noticed brown mushroom growths protruding from the edge of the staircase string (against the wall). She was obviously surprised and a little alarmed, dreading what this might signify, so she decided to call the family’s regular handyman and builder. He said immediately that he suspected dry rot and correctly advised them to call in an expert, someone who would be better qualified to give an opinion. This was the last thing they needed as Mr and Mrs F were saving for their three teenaged daughters’ higher education and for a new extension to allow them all more space.
Mr and Mrs F found a local dry rot firm, which estimated the cost of the work at £20,000 and asked for a large deposit. Having decided to think about it for a while, they then contacted their insurance company to see whether they were covered in such a situation. The insurance company said no, so they went back to the dry rot firm, only to find that they had gone bust in the interim. This made them even more anxious, thinking about how they could have lost their deposit.
A few weeks later Mrs F was sorting through an old filing cabinet when she came across a Tiffin’s invoice – we had carried out some work for the family nearly thirty years earlier when they lived in Islington. She did a quick search online and was delighted to find that Tiffin still existed, rebranded as Eco Tiffin Ltd, with a smart website and glowing testimonials from the Federation of Master Builders and WHICH Trusted Trader, among others. She phoned us and within a matter of days Robert was able to carry out a thorough assessment.
What we did
He found clear evidence that the dry rot was caused by a defective cast-iron pipe, with the decay a direct consequence of the leaking pipe. As a result, he was confident that this was a valid insurance claim. He was also sure that the damage was far more extensive than reported by the previous firm and felt that the cost would be around £60,000 plus VAT. Mr and Mrs F asked Eco Tiffin to deal with the claim.
After lengthy negotiations with their experts, the insurance company eventually accepted liability under the terms and conditions of our clients’ policy. They also agreed to cover the costs of alternative accommodation for six months. This was extremely important given the extent of the work required and the disruption it would entail.
While the work was being carried out, major structural problems were uncovered, necessitating the removal of a first-floor bedroom and the timber wall of the staircase to the second floor. In addition, the decay was found to have affected the full length of the flank wall of the ground-floor joists. All these extra costs were negotiated and agreed with the insurers.
During the upheaval it became obvious that if the clients wished to fulfil their long-term dream of building a beautiful extension, now was the time to do so. However, they were unable to access the necessary funds as they hadn’t expected to embark on the extension just yet and the current treatment and repair work being carried out made remortgaging impossible for now. We agreed to do all the work and finance half the extension to enable the work to go ahead, allowing our clients to refinance at a later date.
While the work was being carried out, Robert successfully negotiated with the insurance company for a contribution towards a replacement kitchen, carpets for the staircase and decoration in the primary rooms. Also, thanks to our extensive knowledge as qualified retrofit coordinators and thermographers, we were able to advise our clients that this was the ideal moment to upgrade the floor insulation on the ground floor and improve the external wall insulation along the main side flank wall. Both of these will greatly improve comfort and save money on energy bills in the future. Despite the variations due to the amount of the damage and the extra time needed for the extension, the treatment and reinstatement work were completed in full on time.
Keeping the client informed
Throughout, we kept our clients informed on progress, while clearly explaining the difficulties inherent in the job – of which there were many – and dealing with all the necessary professionals, including the building inspector, the quantity surveyor, the insurance claims manager and the loss adjuster. To compound matters, these complex problems were handled within the run-up to the COVID-19 crisis, which meant that the removal company suddenly had to lock down, as a result of which the family could not move back in. The insurance company kindly arranged for them to stay in their rented accommodation for two more months at no additional cost. The total contribution of the insurance company was £142,000, an enormous amount that Mr and Mrs F would never have been able to afford themselves.
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