Pregnant Sacha and kids forced out of home after insurer's 18-month delay
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Pregnant Sacha and kids forced out of home after insurer's 18-month delay

It took insurer Youi 18 months to repair the roof of heavily pregnant Broken Hill resident Sacha Murphy after a savage hail storm, with the delays and poor building practices resulting in further damage to her home to the point that it was uninhabitable, the royal commission heard.

The length of time taken by Youi has also delayed the removal of lead particles from her backyard, which needs to happen because two of her children have high lead levels.

Youi customer Sacha Murphy gave evidence at the royal commission.

Youi customer Sacha Murphy gave evidence at the royal commission. Credit:AAP

Ms Murphy, a data administrator and a witness in the royal commission for its hearings on misconduct in general insurance, said a hail storm in November 2016 damaged the roof of her house and her car. But trying to get the building repaired with Youi led to months of frustration and delay.

After making a claim soon after the storm, the builder suggested by Youi was not able to start until October 2017. When they did start, they removed much of the roof, including the air conditioner, but then did not finish the job because they said they needed more money.

"There was dirt and leaves in my hallway, in my kitchen, in my bathroom, there was no air-conditioner, it was in the mid to high 30s, I was pregnant, I had bad morning sickness, and I just didn't want my kids in that house any more," she said.

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It took insurer Youi 18 months to repair the roof of heavily pregnant Broken Hill resident Sacha Murphy.

It took insurer Youi 18 months to repair the roof of heavily pregnant Broken Hill resident Sacha Murphy.Credit:Royal Commission

Ms Murphy and her family stayed in a cabin in a caravan park for four nights, before being told they could move back into their home because the roof had been temporarily fixed and air-conditioner reconnected.

“The temporary job they had done was woeful,” she said.

The royal commission heard the builder Youi used to fix Ms Murphy’s home was one of the cheapest in the market and had ongoing issues in work quality. Emails showed Youi staff often fought complaints from customers with one staff member telling Ms Hughes' builder to "ignore the emotional notes in the email" after Ms Hughes wrote to explain her distress over Youi's tardy response.

Later that month it rained, which meant water leaked into the house, damaging the floor and furniture and pooling up in the bathroom.

Ms Murphy's car and home were severely damaged in the 2016 hail storm that battered Broken Hill.

Ms Murphy's car and home were severely damaged in the 2016 hail storm that battered Broken Hill. Credit:Michael Clayton-Jones

Following more complaints, another builder was appointed to fix the house this year, and the roof was permanently fixed in May - 18 months after the initial hail storm.

Ms Murphy has not been able to deal with the high levels of lead in yard until all the repair for her damaged home is finished.

Another Youi customer, Glen Sutton, told the royal commission about the delays that he and his wife experienced after they tried to claim on their policy after Cyclone Debbie in March 2017 tore a hole in the roof of their family home at Airlie Beach.

A local resident pedals his kayak through flooded streets in Rockhampton, during the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

A local resident pedals his kayak through flooded streets in Rockhampton, during the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.Credit:Dan Peled - AAP

It took Youi until early this year to put tarpaulin in to cover the hole in Mr Sutton's roof. Mr Sutton said the tarp still leaked and mould grew in his house. The first assessment of the repairs of his home did not include any structural assessment to his roof.

"I was actually disgusted. It was totally inadequate, I then voiced my concerns to Youi," Mr Sutton, who used to work as a sales representative for a roofing company, said. He then hired an engineer to conduct a full report on his property.

"[The] engineer agreed with me and said that the entire roof was damaged and needed to be replaced."

Youi agreed to replace the roof. But Mr Sutton said work was still yet to start on replacing the roof on his property.

"They haven’t started. I have no idea, there is no timeframe."

Senior Counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr.

Senior Counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr.Credit:Internet

Senior counsel assisting the commission Rowena Orr, QC, later took Youi executive chief operating officer Jason Storey to the company's code of conduct which stated that the first value is "we deliver awesome service".

Ms Orr asked Mr Storey whether Ms Hughes and Mr Sutton had received "awesome service", to which Mr Storey replied: "No, I do not."

The royal commission also heard that many of Youi's calls to claimants were not recorded, making it hard for claimants to raise mistakes by Youi with the company. Mr Storey confirmed that Youi’s own compliance team said the group’s complaints handling process was considered non-compliant.

The royal commission also heard that Youi's insurance contracts states that it will only fix repairs to a home if it is fully compliant with the most recent building code, even if the building was made before the code had changed.

Mr Storey said that Youi did not always apply this exclusion to its customers.

Youi refunded 102 customers approximately $14,000 in total and paid $150,000 to a consumer group after ASIC raised concerns about its home and car insurance sales practices. ASIC’s intervention followed an investigation by Fairfax Media in 2016 into Youi’s billing practices and the hard sell tactics of its call centre staff.

Sarah is a business courts reporter based in Melbourne.

Clancy Yeates writes on business specialising in financial services. Clancy is based in our Sydney newsroom.

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