How to make a watertight insurance claim
Picture the scene: imagine the powerless, soggy, sinking feeling as you look up.
Water is pouring through your ceiling, creating a big ugly bulge in the plaster, saturating everything below.
You put down a couple of buckets to catch the worst of the deluge, turn off the electricity, move everything you can out of harm's way, but you can't locate the leak.
What do you do next, aside from putting your efforts into not panicking?
There are numerous options.
The best one, in most situations, is to call your insurance company.
We don't always do that straightaway, for whatever reason.
Some of us don't want to be a nuisance or seen as the kind of person who shouts "Insurance!" as soon as anything goes wrong.
So we try to sort things out ourselves and abandon thoughts of a claim until later. We perhaps think our insurance company will think better of us for it. They'll know you're not the type to see flashing pound signs in every minor catastrophe and they'll be more inclined to cover our loss without a fuss. You might think that. You might well be wrong.
Your insurance company wants to be in the loop as soon as possible, says Craig Monks, a claims investigation expert from insurance provider RSA Group - a trusted partner of The Nottingham.
"The important thing to remember is your insurance company is there to help," says Craig. "Let them help."
Water flooding through a ceiling provides a case in point.
If you pick up the phone to your insurance company they'll perhaps have contracted, reputable and on-call emergency plumbers who can come out and deal with the leak. If not, they'll give advice about what to do and who to call.
What you don't want to do, in a mad panic, is bring in a cowboy plumber who will charge way over the going rate and perhaps carry out unnecessary work that an insurance specialist - known as a loss adjuster - will later view as unnecessary. Work that is unnecessary or overpriced will not be covered on your insurance.
If you do bring in your own contractor, Craig strongly advises speaking to your insurer first.
Tell them what you are proposing to do. Find out if your policy will cover it. Get your insurer to agree that your course of action is reasonable.
"If you have water coming through your property, you have got to try to stop that because the damage is only going to get worse," says Craig who manages a team of 15 loss adjusters. "We accept that."
Craig advises getting as much photographic evidence as you can: before, during and after work is carried out. And don't throw anything away.
"It is difficult for an insurance company to make a judgement on a claim without anything to look at," says Craig. "Was the problem caused by storm damage, a fault or an ongoing maintenance problem? Was it wear and tear?
"Don't dispose of items. It can prejudice your position if you dispose of items.
"Was the rug completely wet and ruined or just wet in a corner? Could it have been repaired or cleaned? Allow us to make that decision.
"Our job is not to try to catch you out or stop an insurance company having to pay-out on a claim. We assess the evidence professionally and impartially. The customer needs to help us with that.
"The single biggest thing I can recommend is to contact your insurance company as soon as possible. I can't say it enough. Let them point you in the right direction."
Find out more about home insurance service, or get an insurance quote online. Alternatively you could book an appointment at your local branch to talk to an adviser.