Questions of Cash – April 2013

Q.  I made a claim for subsidence damage in September last year to Sainsbury’s Bank on my home insurance policy.  My kitchen floor is sinking, which its surveyor said was damage caused by washing the floor!  Five months later nothing has happened, apart from a promise that my collapsing house will be “monitored”.  I was unable to safely walk on my kitchen floor or use it.  I had to replace the floor and install a new kitchen.  Sainsbury’s suggested I removed trees and vegetation from my garden at a cost of £700.  In all, I’ve spent £6,000 on repairs, paying a surveyor and removing vegetation, but the cracks in my wall, inside and outside, are getting bigger.  The ash tree that I believe is causing the problem remains just three feet from my house.  The council has no intention of removing it, unless persuaded to do so by an insurer.  VB, London.


A.  Sainsbury’s has now repaid you the £700 for the vegetation removal, but is not convinced that the damage to your kitchen floor was caused by subsidence rather than what it refers to as “decomposition”.   It will, though, continue to monitor the subsidence and pay for remedial work when the subsidence stabilises.  Subsidence problems are notoriously difficult to deal with and can involve long term disruption.  It can also be difficult to isolate specific symptoms of subsidence.  Sainsbury’s has now put a loss adjuster in contact with you and you will need to persuade the loss adjuster that the kitchen damage was caused by the subsidence.  The loss adjuster is appointed by the insurer to represent the interests of the insurer.  Given the potentially very large size of your claim, you might consider appointing a loss assessor to represent your interests in negotiations with the loss adjuster and insurer.  The Institute of Public Loss Assessors publishes a list of members, which is available at   A spokeswoman for Sainsbury’s Bank says: “We have confirmed with [the reader] that we are monitoring the subsidence on her property and will carry out remedial works as soon as it is deemed as being stable. We have also thoroughly investigated the damage to her kitchen floor and advised that this is likely to have been caused by decomposition and is not related to the subsidence.”  One other point though – in your initial correspondence to Sainsbury’s Bank you told it that you were referring your problem to this column on the basis of a claimed, but false, personal association with the column’s author as a “neighbour”.  This column is happy to take on readers’ problems – and there is no need to falsely claim a personal connection to do so.
Q.  You took up my case [Questions of Cash, 23 February] after I transferred energy supplies from First Utility to Npower.  Npower then failed to debit my bank account with the correct amounts.  I was promised – and you reported – that this had been sorted out and I would in future be charged the correct amounts.  But my payment on 1 March was again wrong and I paid £120 too little.  I needed to get the payments fully up to date to move onto Npower’s agreed monthly tariff.  I explained this in a letter to Npower on 14 March, sent with a cheque for £120, cashed by Npower almost two weeks later.  Now I find that Npower has not operated the direct debit for April, which means I am in arrears yet again.  I am at a loss as to what to do next.  JC, Ayrshire.


A.  We are promised – again – that the matter is now resolved.  A very apologetic spokesman for Npower says: “It appears that the original payment arrangement was set with an instalment plan.  However, when the instalment plan was cancelled the direct debit should have been cancelled and reset, which it wasn’t. This has now been completely cancelled and we’ve spoken to [the reader] as well as offering him a £50 goodwill gesture.”


Q.  I have spent nearly two years trying to locate my ISA that was held with Santander.  This contained my life savings.  I have made phone calls, sent letters and emails and visited a Santander branch, obtained information from other banks and took my complaint to the Financial Ombudsman.  Santander eventually ‘found’ my ISA and wrote to apologise – but this was an apology only in the sense that it contained the word “apologise”, saying that I “had difficulty locating” my account.  It said the possible reason it took so long to find my account is “your account is held on a separate system”.  There is no mention of compensation, despite the stress that I was caused in not being able to access my savings.  AF, Hampshire.


A.  Santander is not providing compensation because it does not accept that it has done anything wrong.  A spokeswoman says: “There has been no Santander error in this case. [The reader] requested the closure and transfer of his Santander ISA in June 2007. Confirmation of this was provided to [the reader] and to the Financial Ombudsman Service, who upheld our decision to decline his complaint.”


Q.  In your column last Saturday one of your readers wrote of the “former Leeds Building Society”.  I have been a customer of the Leeds Building Society for years and I’ve always been impressed with the service provided by the society.  I think your reader means the Leeds Permanent Building Society, which did indeed get swallowed up by the Halifax.  IC, by email.


A.  You are absolutely correct.  The reader was referring to the former Leeds Permanent Building Society, which was called ‘the Leeds’ and was at the time one of the UK’s largest building societies.  It merged with the Halifax in 1995 and shortly after the enlarged society converted to a PLC.  The smaller Leeds and Holbeck Building Society later changed its name to the Leeds Building Society and remains an independent and successful society.

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