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St Austell couple homeless after wall collapse fight for insurance

By Western Morning News  |  Posted: February 09, 2013

  • Betty and Gordon Fowle, both aged 88, outside their cottage where a wall has collapsed, leaving them homeless PICTURE: EMILY WHITFIELD-WICKS

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An 88-year-old D-Day veteran and his wife have been left "shocked" after an insurance company refused to pay out following the collapse of the outside wall their cottage.

Former Royal Navy serviceman Gordon Fowle and his wheelchair-bound wife Betty, also aged 88, from Cornwall are homeless following the disaster sparked by the appalling wet and cold weather last month.

The great-grandparents are now locked-in a wrangle with the Prudential over what exactly their £500-a-year policy covered.

It could cost around £30,000 to fix the wall, according to family members.

Mrs Fowle, who has lived in the cottage for 40 years with her husband, said: "We're really shocked and don't understand why the Pru won't help us. We've been loyal customers for years.

"When I think of what my husband did for his country I feel really upset this big company won't help us.

"I don't know how all of this is going to end – it's terrible."

As a teenager Mr Fowle took part in the 1944 D-Day landings. His MP Stephen Gilbert called on the Prudential to ignore the small print in the policy and help the couple in their hour of need.

He said: "It is nothing short of a complete scandal that Gordon and Betty are being treated like this after having paid their home insurance year in and year out to the Pru. Gordon risked his life for our nation and helped liberate Europe from Nazi tyranny and now the Pru are trying to dodge their clear moral duty to pay out to this couple. I am calling on the Pru to pay up and recognise their duty in the same way that Gordon did his duty for our country."

Mr Fowle, who is the main carer for his wife, was pottering outside the cottage in the village of Polgooth, St Austell, on January 26 when he popped inside to make a cup of tea.

Before he stepped into the cottage he had been standing near the wall and could have been seriously injured. He heard a rumbling and went outside to find the wall had collapsed. A surveyor and structural engineer from the Prudential came out to inspect the damage.

The couple said five days later the company contacted them to say it would not pay for the damage because it had been caused by frost – which they were not covered for.

Locksmith James Flynn, 43, who is married to the couple's' granddaughter said: "I understand it could cost up to £30,000 to put right which they could never pay. But that amount for such a massive company is peanuts.

"Imagine how many other people young and old could find themselves in the same position as Gordon and Betty?

"I think it's a disgrace the Pru are turning their backs on such a decent couple."

Last night Tony Hannon, PR manager for the Prudential said: "Unfortunately, the damage to Mr and Mrs Fowle's home has occurred over a long period of time. It was due to water getting in to the exterior cob wall and then expanding and contracting with the changes in temperature.

"Home insurance policies generally do not provide cover for damage caused by property age or maintenance-related issues."

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  • sjkundracik  |  February 13 2013, 7:04PM

    I know what this couple are going through, our wall collapsed in november and our insurance company refused to pay out as well. this left us with a bill for £20,000. Something needs to change as i hear it more and more that people think they are covered but the insurance company's don't pay out

  • Charlespk  |  February 11 2013, 9:04AM

    Or Cob Oliver!! . It has obviously been stood for a very long while and it looks properly externally decorated and maintained. . What good is any policy that doesn't cover frost damage to the fabric of the building. IMO, it's a classic case of mis-selling if this position is maintained. . They have been conned. £500 a year!!!! . .What for???

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  • OscarDelta  |  February 11 2013, 7:57AM

    It's not stone, it's cob.

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  • Charlespk  |  February 10 2013, 9:51PM

    I'm guessing that before too long all householders will have to pay a compulsory 'flood' premium, whether or not they are at risk, to off-set the enormous flooding problem that seems to now be with us.

  • Charlespk  |  February 10 2013, 9:33PM

    "mis-insure"!! . I don't think so. A stone building!!! . There must be many thousands mis-insured in that case. Even water pipe frost damage is mostly insured if normal precautions have been taken.

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  • OscarDelta  |  February 10 2013, 8:51PM

    Just look at this from the other side for a second, and don't get me wrong, I have every sympathy for these people, but if I heard that my insurance premiums were being bumped up by my insurance company paying out large sums for uninsured losses because the company felt a bit sorry for people, I would probably go to someone cheaper next year! Hope they get it sorted somehow but times are hard enough for the general public without subsidising people who mis-insure their properties for a cheaper premium and then plead indignant when something else goes wrong.

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  • Charlespk  |  February 10 2013, 5:18PM

    These exclusions of 'frost' and 'age' are just blatant fraud. Shameful insurance sophistry at its worst. The two things we can all guarantee our homes will be subject to are the ravages of time and inclement weather. I echo the sentiment. " "The Prudential will do themselves no favours over this."

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  • Stokietim  |  February 10 2013, 3:45PM

    The policy has specific exclusions one of them is frost, another is age related damage. It's not covered under the policy. Why should the Pru be expected to pay for something that is not covered. You wouldn't claim for a broken cam belt on your car via your car insurance BECAUSE ITS NOT COVERED. It's unfortunate yes but it's hardly the blame of the insurance company.

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  • Smaug  |  February 10 2013, 12:28PM

    If Mr Gilbert really wants to help he should resign as MP. That would force a local by-election. Mr Fowle could stand as an independent and we could all vote for him. Once elected they will be able to get the house fixed on expenses and will also get a nice second residence to live in while the work is carried out. That way at least the taxpayers' money would actually be spent on something worthwhile for once.

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  • twofeetofsnow  |  February 09 2013, 12:53PM

    The Prudential will do themselves no favours over this, there will be people in Cornwall looking at their own cover and seeking better companies to supply insurance. In these recession hit times I think companies both big and small need to remember they are one customer away from going out of business. I hope this is sorted out for this couple soon, to walk away leaving them in this predicament is criminal.

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