A COUPLE’S dream has turned into a nightmare after tree roots caused gaping cracks in the walls of their home.
Now James Meyer and Linda Camp, who bought their home in Eldorado Road, Cheltenham, for £1.5 million in April 2008, have been told they cannot claim on their insurance.
Thinking it was the ideal place to spend their retirement, the couple made plans to renovate part of the detached Edwardian property, starting work to install a kitchen and a patio, where they could sit and enjoy barbecues in the summer.
But when cracks started to appear in the side of the building, they realised tree roots from a neighbouring garden were causing subsidence.
They contacted insurance company Liverpool Victoria, with whom they had taken out a policy on the home, but were shocked to be told it was invalid.
The Bournemouth-based insurance giants claim they should have been told about the subsidence when the policy was submitted – even though the couple had carried out a survey revealing no evidence of the problem.
Mr Meyer, 57, said: “Words cannot express our anger. We did everything by the book. There has been no history of subsidence at the property before, as our survey showed when we bought the house.
“There was evidence of historic movement, but that is common to almost every house of a certain age. Movement and subsidence are two very different things.”
After a long-running dispute with Liverpool Victoria, the couple have not been able to overturn the decision, leaving them more than £50,000 out of pocket.
They have been forced to live in a tiny portion of the house while the refurbishment project is put on hold, and the part-completed patio is little more than untidy pile of rubble.
Mr Meyer added: “Our dream home is still a long way to becoming a reality.
“The whole episode has been a nightmare.
“It has put us back by more than a year and driven a coach and horses through our budget.
“To compound our problems, the house is now uninsurable and would be almost impossible to sell.”
Ms Camp added: “We feel Liverpool Victoria have reneged on a contract we made in good faith.
“We did nothing to mislead them. It doesn’t seem right.”
The couple’s view has been supported by industry professionals.
Gloucester-based structural engineers EPOC said the subsidence had occurred during the lifetime of the policy.
The couple contacted the Financial Ombudsman Service in a bid to overturn LV’s decision, but were told they should have told the company about previous movement at the property.
A letter from the ombudsman said: “Whilst I have genuine sympathy for your predicament, I must reach the view that the insurer is entitled to void your policy from inception.
“It was unreasonable not to disclose information relating to past movement at the property.”
Liverpool Victoria maintains it was right to void the policy – a decision it claims was vindicated by the ombudsman’s findings. Emma Holyer, media relations manager at the company, said: “The customer told us that there was no subsidence on this property even though they were aware of existing problems of this nature.
“Had we known this, we would never have insured the property.
“And we would have recommended they stay with the previous insurer. The key message for people buying a house is to ensure they get a survey done and make sure they read all the details carefully.”