Private homeowners in West Lothian facing potentially catastrophic bills for RAAC

Thursday March 21st 2024

RAAC in MIdlothian Schools

Written by Local Democracy Reporter, Stuart Sommerville

Private homeowners in West Lothian facing potentially catastrophic bills over the presence of unsafe concrete in their houses have been warned any work is unlikely to be covered by insurance.

Concerns have been raised that some residents facing the possibility that their homes may include RAAC have suggested that insurers are actually withdrawing policies or refusing to renew.

And a national insurance association advised that work to remove the concrete would not be covered by standard home insurance.

West Lothian council voted yesterday to ask the Scottish Government to fund surveys for home-owners. It maintains that private home-owners need to contact their buildings insurance providers to fund repairs

Campaigner Kerry Mackintosh, who had to fight for almost two decades after her home became part of a ‘ghost estate’ when RAAC was discovered, has said she stands with home-owners affected by crumbling concrete in fighting for justice.

And she called on the council and social landlords to repair homes found with RAAC.

Kerry told the LDRS: “West Lothian Council and Almond Housing are liable for structural reports for tenants and home-owners and they are liable for repairs. They sold the houses to the people.”

“I will stand by these people and support them and campaign for them. The council needs to stand up and do the right thing for the home-owners because this could happen to you.

“I am and I will be supporting all home-owners in this campaign. We will get our voices heard and we will get justice for the home owners of West Lothian.”

During a debate on what the council should provide for home-owners Livingston North SNP Councillor Andrew Miller said that home-owners Livingston’s Deans South estate had been treated “abysmally” by successive Labour council administrations after the estate was found to have Siporex roofing panels in 2004. Siporex is a trade name for RAAC.

“It was a shameful episode,” he added.

Kerry Mackintosh bought her former council house in Deans South in 2002. Two years later the entire estate was condemned and tenants moved out.

Only a handful of home-owners were left on a rapidly crumbling estate with boarded up buildings on either side.

Kerry started a campaign that would run 18 years for a new home to replace the three bedroom home which had been condemned for having a brand of RAAC in its construction.

The homes had been built – like many neighbourhoods in the town including Craigshill in the late 1960s by the then Livingston Development Corporation. They were taken on as housing stock by West Lothian Council.

Kerry told the LDRS: “I wouldn’t have bought my house in Deans South had I been told it was structurally unsafe, None of the home-owners now told they might have RAAC would have done.”

She said that many of those who had bought former council homes were now elderly and were frightened by the costs – around £1,500 a time – and the nature of structural surveys needed for their homes.

Many who had such surveys carried out to find their homes clear of RAAC would likely have to commit to regular surveys, with costs mounting to thousands of pounds.

And some home-owners could find themselves living next to empty council homes.

Kerry said: “Common sense tells you the minute they move people out and the house is boarded up, then that puts the house below a tolerable standard. What about those home-owners who live next door, who share a roof and a wall. What happens with their properties?”

Kerry disputed current council advice for home-owners to contact their building’s insurers, saying that many insurance companies would not honour policies where RAAC was discovered.

She added: “A lot of insurers are now withdrawing policies or may not renew. A lot say that RAAC is wear and tear, but it is not it is structural”

Kerry believes many home-owners are scared to contact their insurers fearing they won’t get financial support.

“The of Deans South had the same problem. Some companies wouldn’t insure,only contents and like personal stuff. They wouldn’t insure the building because of RAAC,” Kerry told the LDRS.

A spokesperson for the Association of British Insurers told the LDRS: “We appreciate that discovering RAAC within your property can be incredibly distressing.

“However, domestic buildings insurance policies are generally designed to cover damage from named perils such as storms, floods, subsidence or damage from theft. They’re not intended to cover design or build defects, or to replace construction materials that are gradually deteriorating over time. So, the replacement of RAAC is not likely to be covered.

“If you’re a home-owner with cover in place, you should still be able to claim on your insurance policy if your property suffers damage from named perils or theft. If you’re concerned about the presence of RAAC in your building, you should contact your insurer.”

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