#theAXAINSURANCE and ME

#theAXAINSURANCE and ME

First published on September 29, 2014, my AXA INSURANCE blog has been read  over 77,000 times as I begin this blog. The  content  of that blog is copied below, in its original form. For those new to the story, here is a brief outline of the AXA and ME.

 

1916083_206607721806_5836304_n In 1986, I bought my first home in the UK. It was a leasehold 2 bed 2 bath flat on the first floor of  a terrace that had three leasehold flats in it.  I also bought the freehold to the property, making me liable for the buildings insurance for the whole building. I had a mortgage. A condition of mortgage was to have buildings Insurance. I had a financial advisor. He advised me on the buildings and contents policy. This advice led to a policy cover for buildings and contents for my new home. The underwriter of the policy was Insurance giant The AXA INSURANCE. That is how my relationship with the AXA began. Proper advice. All above board. Cover calculated by professionals in this area.

Each subsequent year there would be a review of my needs by my broker, Ken Quigley at Ferndowne Insurance. An adjustment for inflation and for building costs would follow. And I would pay the annual premium in advance of the reinsurance date. I never missed a payment. I was never late by as much as one day on each annual reinsurance payment.Screen Shot 2019-10-16 at 13.46.41

In 1992 I bought my second property. And after refurbishing that, I rented it out. I became a landlord. My policy cover changed to provide ‘landlords Insurance’. This meant I paid a bit more each year to cover the income I made from the rental apartment.

Every year, same thing, review of inflation and building costs – plus occasional changes to contents, reflecting new purchases. The broker would send the revised invoice for the coming year. I would send the cheque (In those days). Always in good time to clear before the due date for reinsurance.

1986. 1987. 1988. 1989. 1990, 1991…… up until 2001.  For fifteen years (15) this process repeated. Andrew paid the AXA for Buildings and contents. I felt confident that I had proper cover. My home by now was worth around a million pounds. And I had put most of what I earned by doing many gigs as a musician and producing many albums as a producer, into improving the property. I was not going to take any chances on BAD INSURANCE. The AXA INSURANCE checked out. Big players in my area of London. Not the cheapest I could have got, but the one my broker advised as best for my needs.

Then, after 15 years of sending cheques for buildings and contents, my house caught fire. In 2001. Two levels burned. My tenants lived in the flat above. They were now homeless as was I. The bottom flat, was unaffected as the fire started in the first floor, and traveled upwards.

My home was gutted by fire. All I had left was my dog, Wallace the immaculate schnauzer, Wally 7 the clothes I wore, my wallet and my  keys. And, my income source was now ended as my tenants were clearly not going to pay to stay in a burned out ruin. The following morning after the fire, I met with the Fire chief and Forensics inspector, before standing outside my home, surveying the damage and feeling the amazing sensation of owning nothing. Free from the burden of ownership. With just my dog at my side.

Off I went to my Insurance broker in his Weybridge office, twenty minutes drive from Hampton Court. His first words were “Don’t worry about a thing. You have good cover. The AXA are a good company.”

The AXA paid for my rehousing. They paid me my lost rent from the rental flat. They repaired both flats fully. And All my contents were replaced. Nine months after the fire, I moved back into my new home. And immediately rented the repaired rental flat. Yippee.
Well done #THEAXAINSURANCE

But then.

When it came time to re-insure, for the 2003 year, Ken told me, the AXA would not provide cover. Because my claim exceeded £50,000, I was a high risk for reinsurance.

At that point in time I had just met a seductive young lawyer, who advised me on a clever legal option to get Insurance. She offered to take out Insurance in her name, saying she had never claimed before. She offered to do this because I was housing her for free and lending her life changing amounts to get her out of the debt lifestyle of a junior lawyer with student debt. And so, in a trust agreement between Charlotte Adler and myself, from 2003, my freehold title went into her name enabling her to take out Insurance cover for my building and contents. The Policy cover on my Riverbank home continued exactly as it was before. Buildings and contents, landlords insurance to cover the rental income. Just in her name instead of mine, which was linked to the fire claim. I was surprised the AXA didn’t cross reference the property with the name of the policy holder, but as I was assured by my lawyer girlfriend, who had confirmed this aspect with the property law partner at her firm TWM would be the case, they did not. Gosh. Lawyers know stuff, I thought. I would never have thought something like that was legal, but there you go. If you cant trust a property law partner at TWM then who can you trust?

And so with just a different name on the policy,  the same cycle continued. I paid for an annually reviewed buildings and contents  policy. A cheque for the full amount of the invoice to the broker well in advance of the renewal date.

In 2004, I bought the third leasehold in my property. And spent £300,000+ refurbishing that to a high standard. This included tanking the lower level to prevent water ingress. That alone cost some £100,000 at that time.  The Insurance was reviewed and changed to include the third property. And the fact there were now two rental units generating income. I was listed as a live in Landlord for the policy cover.

Then came the first flood to my Riverbank property. 2007. The Thames rose to record high levels, and the tanking on the lower level was breached. However, the builder, a good friend of mine, Cliff,  who had done the work in 2005, stepped up and agreed to repair the tanking and the clean up any water damage.   He asked that I claim only for the lost contents. He would do the rest. (Seeing as it was his liability that was no less than fair, or so I thought.)

It took about two weeks to do what he said with repairing the tanking breach. The policy was still in my then girlfriends name, Charlotte Adler. The agreement was that she would return the Freehold that enabled the Insurance policy cover for the building to my name. However this claim meant that we agreed to keep the title in her name. The claim for contents was around £30,000. The AXA paid it to Adler, and that replaced the contents lost in the 2007 flood. Cliff sent in a crew to repair the area where he believed the tanking breach occurred.

Another years renewal for Insurance came around. 2008 – 2009. The policy was still in Adler’s name. As usual, I paid it in full, in advance of the due date. The 22nd year in which I paid the AXA for cover on my home. Although by this time they had paid out twice. £90,000 for the fire claim and £30,000 for the flood of 2007.

Then came the flood of 2008. Turned out Cliffs patch repair of the tanking had not been effective. And the entire lower level flooded in 6 inches of water.
The policy was still in Adler’s name, however from day one I had her call the AXA and authorize me to manage the claim, as the Lessee. (The Buildings cover was for three leases. Each lessee was liable for one third of the cost. I was the lessee of all three. I owned the whole building, freehold and leaseholds) In Insurance terms, as the named Lessee, they agreed to deal with me for the claim. No problem at all.

Visiting Hampton Court to review the flood damage in 2014

Visiting Hampton Court to review the flood damage in 2014

A surveyor came to the property. Identified the problem as failed tanking. And within no time at all works were underway to ‘restore the property to its pre incident condition.’ I was rehoused in  ‘like for like accommodation‘, as per policy, which was a three bed annex in Palace Road, a five minute walk from my property. About 9 months later works were complete. And I moved back into my home.

The claim cost in total around £300,000. The AXA paid in full. The payments went to Adler who was still the named policy holder, in her capacity as a trustee freeholder. The agreement from 2003 where she put the freehold in her name to be able to take out insurance without declaring the fire claim.

Nothing illegal there, as I had confirmed by the property law partner at TWM in 2003.  And the AXA were beyond reproach in their  policy payments. They paid all costs exactly as prescribed in the policy cover.
Specifically; like for like accommodations until the property as habitable again (9 Months of rental payment at £3,500 pm).
And complete re tanking of the lower level. Which required going back to soil and replacing all the parts.
Two top spec bathrooms. Tiling. Carpeting etc…… Electrics. Plumbing. The works.
The tanking job was contracted to Peter Cox tanking.
The Plumbing was GBM heating, my friend Geoff, who did the plumbing for all three of my apartments for many years. I must have done over £100,000 of work with Geoff through the years. About 7 new boilers. Countless call outs as tenants needed urgent plumbing work. Geoff knows his business well.

Nine months after the flood, I moved back home to a complete job. My property restored to it’s pre incident condition. And I rented out my two rental apartments.

The re-insurance for 2009 – 2010 followed. No reluctance from the AXA. The policy price increased, but was still realistic. The policy was still in Adler’s name, the trustee freeholder. Her advice was to leave it that way for 5 years until the ‘Insurance blight’ passed. Evidently it takes 5 years for the flag on a property to lapse following a big claim. Made sense. Good legal advice.

And so 5 years passed. Same procedure. Annual review of Insurance needs. Invoice generated. Sent to Adler’s name. Paid by myself, in time and in full. To the AXA. By cheque from my account. The last policy in this arrangement was 2012 – 2013. This was the 26th year in which I paid buildings and contents to the AXA for policy cover on my home.

In 2013 Adler left my home in an acrimonious separation in which she committed a string of offenses while still the trustee freeholder of my home. I requested the return of the freehold and when renewal of the Insurance policy came due, I contacted the broker. Fairweather Insurance. I explained the change in the named policy holder – that I was the freeholder and Adler the trustee – and as she as no longer resident in the property – I would henceforth be removing her name as trustee freeholder, and about returning the freehold to my own name. We discussed amendments to policy cover for that renewal – including removing contents items belonging to Adler. (I had given her a ring from JS Jewels, made for her, costing £12,000 that was insured in the contents policy.) This lowered the contents cover. The broker sent me an invoice for the year 2013 – 2014 (October to October).

I paid it in advance and in full. Buildings and contents cover for the three apartments, exactly as calculated by my IFA as adequate cover for my situation. Landlords insurance to cover loss of rent. Based on landlord living in the property. All professionally done. Agreed and paid for. Policy accepted by the AXA Insurance.

At this point in time – October 2013, I had buildings and contents cover in place with the AXA for my home for the 26th consecutive year. From October 2013 to October 2014.

In February 2014, my home flooded. The biggest flood in Thames history. TV cameras were there when the Thames breached the river bank.
The flood was far worse than that of 2008. Aside from  the Thames river water breaching the riverbank and flowing over the road,  the Thames-water drains back-flowed, adding sewerage to the flood ingress into my property. A dirty flood.

At this point, I became homeless. My home was clearly uninhabitable. And I needed to have the repairs effected quickly. The AXA sent a surveyor. The surveyor wrote “Flood caused by breached tanking”. It was pretty obvious. As was the liability of the Insurer.

I expected the AXA to do exactly as the policy cover required. As they did in 2008, in identical if less extreme circumstances. The precedent in terms of cause and Insurance liability was established. The sole difference this time is, for reasons of malice, the ex girlfriend, Adler, refused to had over the claim for me to run, as had been the case previously, when she had honored the trust agreement exactly as required in law.

On the day of the flood I started paying out costs for remedy and mitigating the claim. To pump out water. To clean up the foul water mess. To rescue whatever possible from the downstairs. To plug up the back-flowing foul water drain. To install rented pumps. Over £2,700 just in the first 2 days. I had to pay a plumber to stand in rushing water and stick his hand two feet down, into a back-flowing foul water drain, to block it and stop the back-flow of sewage. Imagine how much a plumber will charge you for this service? That would never be enough. Still, I did all the things a good owner would do to mitigate the damage and begin the repair of the flood damage.

I would go on to spend over £250,000 in remedial works, making up the shortfall in Insurance necessary to make my home habitable again, while I waited for the AXA to pay.

In year one post flood, I paid out some £75,000. The AXA paid me back Zero Pounds. (£0.)
In year two I paid out another £80,000. the AXA paid me back back Zero Pounds. (£0.)
By year three had paid out £250,000. By the end of year three post flood The AXA INSURANCE had paid me back Zero Pounds. (£0.) Not even the bills for the pump out of the flood water.

To date I have not received one penny from the AXA.

The consequences of this non payment are;
I no longer own my home. The costs of non payment for that flood damage and not being repaid the money I borrowed to progress repairs lead to the situation today where I have lost my home entirely. Unable even to sell it. I ran out of money. Foreclosed and no longer even live in the UK where I have no home.
Because when I needed my Insurance, it turned out #THEAXAINSURANCE did not pay.

If the AXA Insurance had paid out on the policy I paid for and had accepted by the AXA INSURANCE in the 26th year of my cover with the AXA INSURANCE, I would not have lost my home. (Upper value £2.5 million. Lower value £2 million.)

wlwTo date I have not been offered anything by the AXA. Who have not at any time even spoken with me about their decision to not payout one penny to me.

The exact details of what happened are included in a book I have authorized to use my story about the AXA INSURANCE.
It is available here.

An entire chapter of some 22,000 words with the exact timeline of events between the AXA Insurance and a client of 27 years and includes actual correspondence from the AXA. Their legal argument for non-payment beggars belief. It is a must read if only for this reason. Contender for the lamest excuse in the history of Insurance nonsense.

More than 5 years have passed since my home flooded. I have repeatedly requested contact with the AXA. However, even when I tweeted the #theaxainsurance, and received a message from their tweetmaster that they would look into my claim immediately, I never heard another word.

So here is my latest effort. If only someone senior at #THEAXAINSURANCE  would write to me and offer a written explanation of why I have not received one penny from THE AXA INSURANCE. I could then publish the explanation s a rebuttal to the version of events in the AXA INSURANCE chapter in “WHO LIES WINS”.

The Axa Insurance
5 Old Broad Street
London
EC2N 1AD
Phone:   AXA UK head office; 0843 557 3825

Dear #THEAXAINSURANCE

17 October, 2019

My flood claim. 7 Riverbank. East Molesey, Surrey. KT8 9BH

Please will you contact me to set up a communication portal to provide me and my readership with your explanation for breaching the agreement implicit in my good faith payments for your Insurance service for a 27 year period.

Continuing to refuse to speak to me must reflect on your companies good standing in the market.

I propose, for reasons of practicality, you set up an email or telephonic dialogue opportunity between your representative and myself by using the private message facility on my Facebook account. HERE.  I could then arrange either a phone talk or an email dialogue.

In turn, I assure you I will publish your treatment of my request in rebuttal to the facts surrounding my flood claim of 2014, which you know has not  paid me one single penny despite all these years of asking. I am sure the readership following my experience with the AXA would welcome the opportunity to see an appropriate and measured response from #theaxainsurance.

Sincerely,
Andrew Brel

 

 

_________________________________

 

The previous #theaxainsurance posts follow below

 

Update:  June 2017.

The AXA Insurance and my flood claim from February 2014.
I confirm that despite paying Buildings and contents cover annually, in advance, since 1986,  since the flood of my home in February 2014,  I have not received one penny in Insurance. No contents has been paid, although I had a paid for contents policy that was accepted by the AXA.

No Buildings cover has been provided and no rehousing has been paid. I have had to raise over £200,000 to effect repairs myself to make the house habitable. As a result of this personal outlay I was able to let the property out and that income is used to repay interest on the loan to effect repairs that the Insurance should have covered. However because of the delay in repairs – some two years – the effects of leaving the property standing unheated in damp conditions has led to costly breakdowns since. Most recently, June, 2016, the collapse of the staircase as the footing was standing in water and rotted, and the collapse of the bathroom flooring because the wooden frame on which the floor tiling was supported rotted through. I requested a claim for that cost. Still waiting for a reply.

After some 27 years of paying for Buildings and contents Insurance with the AXA, when the opportunity came to avoid paying following the floods of 2014, which affected many Thames side homes, #theAXAinsurance have to date, not paid one penny to me.

The AXA and the buildings and contents cover for my home

My Thames side home flooded in February 2014 in an event that made the news and was for me a traumatic experience. (BBC: 10 Feb 2014: Thousands of homes along the River Thames are threatened with flooding as waters continue to rise. Aerial footage of the river between Walton-on-Thames, in Surrey and Marlow, in Buckinghamshire show the extent of the flooding.)

Lots of poo and Thames water washing through my beautiful home. I wasn’t even there at the time, being away on holiday.

Lucky for me the freeholder to my home, a Kingston lawyer, Charlotte Adler, had buildings cover with  AXA INSURANCE .

I have had cover for my home since 1986. Fully paid up annually in advance, buildings and contents. Although in 2003 I transferred title to Charlotte Adler to take advantage of her legal advice in lowering premiums.

First off I needed rehousing. Obviously living in a excrement flooded dwelling with black mould appearing on the walls was not going to be an option for me, with family members including a 5 year old son and my 79 year old mother. The building not only stank. The boiler was damaged beyond repair by flood water and the electrics did not work for some time.

After initially inviting my hotel bills and quotes for a 6 month lease while works were undertaken, following a meet with the Landlord, Insurers reversed their position. Saying the house was habitable and as such they would not pay the rehousing stipulated in the policy. I was assured that I should put my fears that it might be a breach of health and safety law to one side and consider living in the flooded property as ‘adequate rehousing’. That there was no heating, as well as no electricity initially, did not seem to the AXA to be at odds with providing ‘like for like’ housing. It seemed clear there was some collusion between the Loss Adjuster and the Landlord in undermining the policy cover.

The market rehousing equivalent of my home is £4,000 per month. Given the urgency with which I needed rehousing, I was staying in Hotels, paying on my credit card, while I waited for a suitable lease.  I took the first feasible option, a 3 month lease at £4,000 pm. I was prepared to pay 25% of the cost difference myself and made this offer to the Axa. I thought at worst the repairs would be effected within 6 months. I had an identical flood situation in 2008 and knew the procedure well.

Not for one second was it an option to live in the flooded and unheated property. It stank of poo for starters. For another, the AXA buildings policy provides for like for like rehousing when the property becomes uninhabitable.

When the flood happened (I was out of the Country) and sent in my building handyman to try and mitigate the damage. He successfully blocked the back flowing waste pipe that was spewing excrement into the incoming water by sticking his hand under water into the drain to block it with a towel, effectively plugging it to stop further waste egress. He spent several days at the property working to mitigate damage, place dehumidifiers in, assist with drainage and so on. Vital work in mitigating the damage. 8 months later his bill was still not been paid by the AXA. To date, December 2016, that bill has never been paid. Including the bill for the truck to pump out the flood water.

Throughout this first 8 month period the AXA did not pay me one single penny. Apparently because I am not named on the Insurance and the decisions reside with the named party, the Landlord, Charlotte Adler. I paid all my rehousing myself, with unsurprising financial consequences. My home meanwhile rotted away with black mould enjoying a good 8 months to take hold of the entire property. Without heating and through the cold winter months damage to the plumbing and electrics was to be expected.

At the time I began writing this blog, (8 months after the flood) I still had no indication of when the restoration works might begin, let alone a completion date for me to aim at moving back home on.

I suggested to the Axa that their proposal that I house my family in an uncleaned foul water flooded property where they know black mould is present might represent a breach of Health and Safety Laws which would bring the Axa into disrepute.

Their reaction was to give me a written assurance that I ‘be advised that Black mould does not represent a health and safety risk‘. This is the AXA Insurance writing to a flood victim who has a 4 year old child and a 79 year old mother visiting a property with sprouting black mould.daddybabyb45573fa_k

With my family’s health at stake I thought it reasonable to request sight of their qualified experts report confirming that black mould is not dangerous to health. A professional document from someone who had visited the foul water flooded black mould infested dwelling, just to reassure myself that I would not be placing anyone’s health at risk by living in a contaminated property (Even though it was transparently obvious to anyone visiting that living in this space was clearly not possible).

I thought that surely the AXA would not provide this reassurance that no Health and Safety laws were being breached by their rehousing arrangements without first taking the precaution of a professional report and so imagine my surprise when it turned out that they had no report to send me, because they had not commissioned a report.

Instead of a report by an Environmental Specialist in Health And Safety I got Lars the Gab Robbins Loss Adjuster assuring me that his mate told him  that it was OK to house a family (with young and elderly) in a poo infested untreated black mould rich property without hot water or heating.

This is not an exaggeration. The words relayed to me in the absence of a reliable and credible specialist written report were; “Lars Richter has clarified there is no written report but an assessment by their surveyor who attended the property as to risk which was in turn reported back to him then to me. There has been deemed no risk by a professional surveyor.”

The ‘professional Surveyor’ to whom they refer turns out to be another employee of Gab Robins who rebranded toxic black mould as Mild Mildew. It seems that Lars from Gab Robins is making it up as he goes along. If this is not the case, then, obviously, I would have seen the report I requested confirming that Lar’s assurance is based on reliable and credible professional evidence. To date – December 2016 – I have never had sight of any confirmation that the property was professionally evaluated. Although I paid an environmental health inspector to review the property. He commented as follows:

“In terms of the Housing Act 2004 ‘Housing Health and Safety Rating System (HHSRS)’, I have identified a Category 1 Hazard, this is because the extent of the hazard in this case cold & dampness and its potential to cause harm being high, warrants immediate action in regards to remediation. As a result of this defect your property fails to meet ‘the Decent Home Standard’ and is uninhabitable in its current state. I recommend that you engage a damp proof specialist who can undertake the necessary work to remedy the situation. You will need to provide heating and electricity to the property, therefore I would recommend that approved contractors are used to test and repair both systems.”

With a Health and Safety concern as significant as the one described and as you see pictured on this page, do you not think any responsible party would consider as a minimum precaution the commission a professional report, including a laboratory analysis of the black mould, which has the potential to be toxic, before insisting that a family should be forced by their decision to live in these conditions? And if so, what kind of professional loss adjuster decides to go ahead and say ‘there is no risk’ just to defend not paying for rehousing?

image

The answer in law is, they knew I was not named on the policy. They were answerable to the named policy holder. Adler. Who, clearly, encouraged them to not pay out on the policy wherever it was in her power to do so, for the advantage it gave her in causing me financial distress at a time when she was litigating furiously.

She was probably unaware, or unconcerned by any fiduciary responsibility relating to her name on the title, because she knew the title was not in fact hers. She held it only in trust and could change her position in that regard at any time.

I found the AXA’s position to be unreasonable. At least they could have made the effort to get a certified environmental health expert to go in and take a look at any health issues before dismissing my concerns out of hand. It may be that I was not named on the policy, but they would know from their records that I had paid buildings and contents in good faith since I bought the building in 1986. It’s not that hard or that expensive, as I found out when I commissioned a site visit and professional report with analysis of the black mould by an accredited professional with a Phd. Which cost about £500. Surely the AXA could have taken this basic precaution?

Imagine my lack of surprise to learn that the AXA’s assurance that their policy was not placing my family at risk  based on nothing more than a heresay opinion by a loss adjuster (Gab Robbins) and motivated by the will to avoid paying out at any cost, encouraged by the Insured party toward this end.

Although assuring me that it is safe to house my family in the presence of trichothecene mycotoxins has enabled Gab Robins and the Axa to avoid paying me one single penny in rehousing in 8 months, I remain convinced that it brings both of these organisations into disrepute.

My hope then was that this is the work of a few bad apples at the AXA #theaxainsurance rather than the policy of the company they represent. Now, in December 2016, I have grave concerns.

image[1]

Even at that stage, (8 months in) given the total failure to provide any reasonable insurance cover, either by way of my rehousing costs until the works are complete, or by paying the mitigation works invoice, or by actually completing the remedial works to enable me to return to my property, I had very little confidence that the A

xa actually would make any payment. For a period they suspended all dialogue in relation to the flood claim while they investigated the Landlord (Adler, the Lessor of my property) for fraud. An issue that is between Insurers and the Landlord, and has nothing to do with my claim as the Lessee. None the less, while that investigation went on, I continued having to rehouse myself at my own expense and my home continued to decay as mould rose up untreated walls. And wooden frames remained untreated after foul water intrusion.

Whilst we are accustomed to Insurers trying to pay out as little as possible, especially given that many people were affected by the flood, I think that in my case the Axa have taken avoiding liability to a new high and I do not feel that I have been treated fairly.

8 months. Not one penny. No rehousing. No works underway. No completion date.

Thank you kind reader for letting me share my tale with you and I hope it helps in some way next time you need to Insure your property.

Andrew

https://twitter.com/andrewbrel

PS: Now its 9 months later. Still no payment. Just nothing at all.

PPS:  Now it over 2 years later. And not one penny has been paid. The financial consequences have been dire. I believe fraud has occurred in which The AXA, Gab Robbins and the named Freeholder of my home have conspired to fraudulently avoid payment

PPPS: Three years later. Two further claims for damage. One a tree fall from next door property causing £15,000 damage to fabric of building and another £8,000 damage when staircase left in standing water and bathroom floor wooden bracing collapsed having never been treated post flood. Neither claim was even triggered and AXA declined speaking with me as I was not named on the policy. The Policyholder, my ex girlfriend, deliberately did not trigger a claim for either, acting in bad faith, although as a member of the Law Society one would expect a higher ethical standard to apply, in this case Charlotte Adler has deliberately fouled three Insurance claims leaving me with costs far in excess of £200,000, whilst refusing to return the Freehold title that gives her the control over the Insurance despite being in a trust agreement requiring her to do so.  The AXA have at no time spoken with me directly about the fact that I am the property owner relating to the cover they provide, and have paid the costs of Insuring with them for the past 29 years, never once late in payment, always the full year ahead of time. To date, 2017, I have not received even the repayment of the bill for pumping out the property after the flood.

Tags: , , , , , , , ,