And then there was the matter of receipts. These days it’s somewhat easier to prove a purchase through digital credit card statements, easily-accessible online bank transaction records and customer databases at some stores. Yet this presupposes that you’re in a fit state to remember when and where you bought a fridge, chair and carpet. Meanwhile, your home is gone and the benevolent company you thought would help relieve your problems has started treating you like a criminal.
Who keeps receipts? Unless you’re a Virgo or live with one, most of these scraps of paper at best go into a kitchen drawer or into the back of a diary. And guess what? The kitchen drawer and the diary were both incinerated, along with what turned out to be bits and pieces vital to allowing us to reclaim our lives.
Were you the kind of person who diligently photographed precious things such a painting inherited from a great aunt? Yes. Where was the photograph? In a drawer of the antique oak, roll-top desk later identifiable only by six twisted and blackened brass hinges amid a heap of grey ash.
What we learned bitterly over two years is that the insurance company was not ready to help but ready to fight us all the way. A simple contract to replace the contents and rebuild the house, entered into in good faith over many years, turned out not to be worth the flammable paper it was written on.
When you’ve lost everything, it’s galling to realise you are being viewed as a criminal or fraud and you have little recourse other than to spend more money and retain a lawyer. And the end result was compromise and loss: of our time, money and rights.
The end result was compromise and loss: of our time, money and rights.
So, if you haven’t already: get receipts for every item you own. Photograph everything you own. Store these in a fireproof place. Question your insurance company about the premium increases they suggest – because they will question you as to why you took their advice – and don’t under-insure either because they view that with utmost hostility and won’t pay out.
If you’re lucky and get a decent company, that’s good for you – but expect the worse. Look after yourself, because the over-arching policy of most insurance companies is to not honour their policies with customers. To our insurance company we never really mattered. At all.