Fire-hit family in financial ruin after insurers refuse to pay out

A family in East Devon say they've been left in financial ruin because their insurers refused to pay out after a fire destroyed their home. Paul and Sophie Weldin's house in Uplyme was insured but the company says failure to count two attic rooms as bedrooms means there was a 'misrepresentation' - the policy was cancelled and the family will get nothing.

Paul and Sophie Weldin bought Abbotswell for £760,000 as a dream family home for them and their four children.

Just two months later, in April 2017, fire ripped through the building. It took 12 fire crews to put out the blaze. The family were on holiday when a security light at the front of the house sparked. It spread throughout the upper floors destroying their home and belongings.

Then they learned that their insurers had refused to pay out.

Sophie told ITV News, "We had a letter to say that they'd completely voided our policy and were going to give us our money back in light of the fact that there was a discrepancy over the number of bedrooms".

The dream home before it was destroyed by fire. Credit: Sophie Weltin

Although Abbotswell was advertised as a seven bedroom property, when the Weldins made an offer it was agreed the two rooms in the attic were not proper bedrooms because they didn't meet building regulations. As a result they bought it, mortgaged it and insured it as a five bedroom home.

The insurers say not counting the two rooms in the attic as bedrooms in the policy was a misrepresentation - something the Financial Ombudsman agrees with and a decision that has left the whole family devastated.

The insurer Ageas told ITV News that this crucially comes down to Paul and Sophie buying the wrong product.

The Financial Ombudsman Service ruled that the Weldins didn't intentionally do anything wrong BUT that they had been 'careless' in filling out the online form on the price comparison website they used,

Sophie Weldin insists that they weren't careless, "We bought it as a five bedroom house. The estate agent agrees with us that they weren't proper bedrooms. There's not a day we don't wake up with a pit in our stomach".

She adds, "We've borrowed a bit of money so we can afford to get into part of the house but we can't afford to rebuild our house as it was and it just seems desperately unfair".

The Weldins fear they will never be able to rebuild Abbotswell fully. Credit: ITV West Country

The Weldins say they'll continue to try and put pressure on the insurers to change their minds but if nothing changes for them they at least hope others learn from their situation.