Helping to keep things calm

We have all read horror stories in the press about disputes between neighbours, which involve long-running arguments over all manner of issues, from how tall hedges and trees are, to the correct position of the boundary. These disputes can escalate quickly and end up wildly out of control, often compounded by the emotional aspects you wouldn’t normally see in commercial disputes, and result in long periods of stress for both sides.

Whilst the main focus in commercial disputes is often time and money, the emotional aspects of consumer disputes means that extra care is needed when handling the claim. From the moment a consumer claim is received, the Insured is reassured that the matter will be resolved as swiftly and amicably as possible. Sometimes it is not the cost of the claim which makes the resolution ‘successful’ in the eyes of the Insured, but the time it takes to reach that resolution.

One such consumer dispute occurred in Scotland recently, where our Insureds’ access was blocked soon after their tenants moved in. The Insureds had recently purchased an indemnity policy from DUAL Asset via, as the sellers were unable to produce evidence of a deed of servitude for access over part of the road. The claimant, a neighbour, alleged that the Insureds had no right of access over the part of the road which she owned, and they should cease their use immediately. To support her argument, the claimant placed cones across the entrance to the Insured’s drive, but it was also suggested that she would be willing to resolve the matter formally.

On reviewing the file, we decided that a swift offer should be made to the claimant, in return for the appropriate servitude. DUAL Asset, via the Insureds’ solicitor, offered to pay the claimant £1,000 plus her legal costs, but this offer was rejected immediately. Whilst the claimant failed to make a counter-offer, we increased the offer to £5,000 plus the claimant’s legal costs, in the interests of a swift resolution.

We received no reply to the second offer and despite chasing the claimant’s solicitor, no further communication was forthcoming. In an effort to try and move matters along, we asked the Insureds’ solicitor to investigate the previous sales of the property, to see if there was anything that might help us. The solicitor managed to track down a previously missing declaration made over a decade prior to the Insureds’ purchase, which confirmed that the access had been used for well over 20 years. Surprisingly, it appeared that the Notary on the declaration was a senior partner at the firm who represented the claimant!

When we passed this information over to the claimant’s solicitor, they quickly accepted the Insureds’ right of servitude by long use and instructed their client to remove the cones obstructing access to the property. The Insureds’ tenants were able to use the access again and the legal costs of the claim were covered by the DUAL Asset policy.

In the end, the focus was less about the cost of the claim and more about finding a swift resolution and avoiding a long period of stress and uncertainty for our Insureds, which we achieved with an objective and calm approach.