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Homeowner’s collapsed carport claim blown away

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A homeowner whose carport collapsed after it incurred storm damage will not have his claim reimbursed after losing a dispute ruling.

The claimant said gale force winds caused sustained damage that eventually knocked down the carport.

Suncorp said pre-existing damage to the carport, including termite damage and wood rot, were leading factors in the collapse. It said the owner’s home and contents policy included exclusions for poorly maintained structures and declined the claim.

The Australian Financial Complaints Authority (AFCA) ruling agreed the insurer was entitled to deny the claim, saying the storm would not have caused significant damage if the homeowner had adequately preserved the carport’s wooden structure.

Suncorp provided a builder’s report from September 16 2020, which stated termite damage significantly diminished the framings’ strength, allowing the winds to knock the structure down.

The insurer also appointed an engineer, referred to as JH, to inspect the damage. JH concluded on March 22 last year that the carport should have been able to withstand the velocity of the winds observed on the day.

JH said wind speeds of 61km/h typically did not cause structural collapse and reported that the roof fell because of pre-existing and long-term deterioration.

The complainant accepted that parts of the carport had deteriorated but said that the top was unlikely to be rotting as it received enough sunlight and termites generally cause damage at the bottom of structures.

He referred to a property inspection report from 2011 that stated the carport’s ceilings were functional and in typical condition for their age.

AFCA said that the proximate cause for the collapse was the pre-existing damage outlined by Suncorp’s experts and was satisfied with the insurer declining the claim.

The homeowner said the builder made cuts to the beams of the structure during their inspection, making it impossible to rebuild. JH’s report observed the same cuts and noted that the damaged beams were unsalvageable.

AFCA determined the claimant suffered a loss because of the cuts and required Suncorp to cash settle costs for a replacement beam.

Click here for the full ruling.