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DIY SOS for elderly couple

Hob fire

An air fryer left on a hob caused a kitchen fire in the home of an elderly couple, aged 92 and 88, on 3rd December 2023.

Our client’s in-house loss adjuster was quick off the mark and appointed us the day after the incident, requesting that we appoint one of our best performing contractors in that area, Property Services SDS.

Clearly these customers were very vulnerable and the normal claims management process would have been too stressful and confusing for them, so a senstive approach was agreed between all the parties – we agreed to oversee the claim without contacting the elderly couple, contrary to client procedures. The loss adjuster and SDS would be the only ones to talk to the couple.

The fire had caused major damage to the kitchen and ideally the couple should have been moved out into alternative accommodation. However the couple did not want to move out of their home so a plan was needed to accommodate their wishes.

Also, Christmas was just three weeks away so quick action was needed before the holidays arrived.

Skilled planning

SDS and the loss adjuster met on site the day after the incident and agreed on a plan.

They looked at what was needed and SDS made the relevant calls to the office, kitchen design company and an electrician. SDS quickly co-ordinated all the different parties and activities and promised to get the house habitable by 22nd December.

The loss adjuster gave them the go ahead there and then – removing any delays that can be caused by the authorisation process.

Before leaving the property, SDS discussed all the material choices with the couple and where to source them. But then the couple decided to make things a bit more challenging for the SDS team by asking if they could swap things about and change the layout of the kitchen! SDS agreed to do the private works alongside the insured works and still get the kitchen working by 22nd December.

The following day, SDS had a kitchen designer on site along with various trades to start stripping out. The private works and associated costs were agreed with the couple.

Six days later SDS had submitted the insured costs and started the reinstatement works. The loss adjuster approved the costs pretty quickly, knowing that the priority was to get the house safe and habitable for the couple in time for Christmas.

Respect and kindness

SDS’s project managers were excellent, treating the couple with respect and kindness. As the couple were still living in the property they had to make sure the couple were kept safe and still had their privacy.

They led the couple through everything, step by step, so they knew what was happening and who was visiting their property each day.

Materials were sourced and delivered on time and SDS did 

what they had promised. Their trades cleared up at noon on 22nd December and left the couple at home for Christmas with a fully working and redesigned kitchen installed, and with all flooring installed throughout the affected rooms. They had also managed to decorate the hall stairs and landing.

SDS returned to the house on the 2nd January and the remaining works were completed on the 5th January, just 19 working days from the date of the fire.

The elderly couple were over the moon, and so was the loss adjuster! But even more remarkably, the client’s Claims Supply Chain Director was impressed too and sent a personally written thank you note to SDS.

Nick Knowles would be impressed

The loss adjuster sent us this feedback:

“Thank you for stepping back on this – just to highlight that this case was as well handled by the builder as anything I have seen in the last 25 years. There is a morality to this job which many often forget, and when we are dealing with customers aged 92 and 88 we have a responsibility to do what we can. They absolutely didn’t want to leave their house as the disruption would be so significant for them and I don’t think I am being alarmist if I say that it would be the sort of thing that would have serious detriment to their health.

For a builder to turn up on a joint visit at no notice, to see the situation and, just before Xmas, go to extraordinary lengths and with some enormous pride to see if they could turn it round quickly was remarkable. I wouldn’t have given this a 0.1% chance of having key works done by Xmas but the way that the builder “held their hand” through material choices and somehow got it sorted was exceptional.

We are all too quick to moan but this job was truly remarkable for a decent kitchen fire (although with relatively limited damage outside of it) to turn it round in the timescales. It was actually more “DIY SOS”.

Well done to Property Services-SDS.”