Hundreds of home-owners are still waiting to receive interim damage payments from insurers as the industry struggles to cope with the aftermath of the worst floods for decades.
Richard Hanson-James, managing director of independent loss adjusters Claims Ex, said although insurers managed to maintain their service standards in the immediate wake of the floods, levels of after-care service had steadily deteriorated.
The former board director of loss adjusters Graham Miller said: “It is an open secret that the claims industry has been left undermanned and the recent floods are testing it to its limits.”
He said that as a result, many homeowners in the worst affected flood areas were still living in temporary accommodation, including caravans.
His firm is handling a rising number of complaints relating to delays to interim compensation payments, but he estimates hundreds are affected.
Hanson-James continued: “Householders want certainty about when they will be able to move back into their homes, but they have gone from severe trauma into a void of uncertainty.”
He gave the example of a recent claim, a pub in Hampshire, that was hit by rising flood waters on Friday.
Despite being appointed to the case on Monday afternoon, Hanson-James said he was still waiting for the insurer to notify him of which loss adjuster would be dealing with the case – more than 48 hours later.
Frustrated by this delay he has stepped in and instructed a disaster restoration company to begin removing the pub's carpets.
He said: “It may be three to four weeks before the pub can open again, which means it will miss most of the Christmas and New Year trade.”
Hanson-James said he did not think the problem was lack of planning. But he drew attention to the increasing number of loss adjusters who are forced to work independently following a wave of job cuts in the industry – leaving a legacy of undermanning in the larger adjusting firms.
He added that insurers' tighter fraud prevention controls had slowed down the process of issuing payments to policyholders.
A spokeswoman for Norwich Union, the UK's largest insurer, said it did not make interim payments to policyholders. Instead, it pays contractors directly for policyholder repairs.