Playing possum: homeowners lose dispute over collapsed ceiling
18 November 2022
Complainants who say a possum caused their ceiling to collapse will not be covered for their loss after a dispute ruling determined they had not established a valid claim.
The homeowners said they heard “loud thumping and banging” coming from their ceiling about 10pm on February 1 before spotting a “large one-metre crack” that appeared shortly after.
They said that the entire ceiling collapsed a few hours later and that they heard a possum running towards the other end of the house.
RACQ Insurance said the claim was not valid, noting there had been no sightings of the possum or physical evidence that would indicate how it entered the roof.
Experts appointed by the insurer reported that the accident likely occurred because roof fixing or glue had separated.
The insurer contended that a ceiling without defective glue should have been able to withstand a possum’s weight without collapsing. The policy did cover animal damage, while excluding damage by pets or pests, but the insurer said even if the ceiling had been brought down by a combination of a possum and deteriorated glue fixings, the loss would still not have been covered.
The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) acknowledged that the claimants may have heard something but said this was not enough to establish a valid claim.
It said the insured provided “no independent or objective evidence that establishes a possum was in the roof cavity”.
The complainants said one of the insurer’s builders who inspected the damage said a possum could have “possibly” caused the accident. The ombudsman said this was a speculative answer and that the builder did not “positively” assert this explanation.
“Considering these matters, I am not satisfied the complainants have successfully shown a possum entered the roof cavity and caused the lounge ceiling collapse,” the ombudsman said.
The claimants wanted RACQ to pay for non-financial losses relating to how the claim was handled, including its decision to accept and reject the claim several times, which they said caused distress and confusion.
AFCA agreed that the insurer took a “flippant approach with the claim” and ordered it to pay the complainants $500 in compensation.
Click here for the ruling.