Ceiling Follow

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

It can happen in the blink of an eye ... anywhere, anytime. THIS is home owner hell. Imagine if a small child was asleep in their bed, when your ceiling comes crashing down. T these families have all had narrow escapes ... experienced first hand, the horror of ceilings which come hurtling down without warning. When we first exposed the hidden danger in people's homes ... it was estimated three million families were at risk.

Following our report on the devastation to Delia's living room ... dozens more families came forward. Within hours of watching our story ... Greg couldn't believe it, when his own ceiling also caved in. Greg had you been sitting watching the tellie when this ceiling came down, what would have happened? "Well my wife sits there, I sit under that section of the ceiling that's collapsed. Under all of this? Under all of that."

We asked Kim Proud from the Association of Ceiling Contractors to show us the tell tale signs, "having a look at it from up above the ceiling is hanging down about so much so it would need re-propping straight away" Homes built before the 1970's have plaster strapping, or saddles, to hold up the ceiling ... over time they become weak, or damaged, and break.

Kim Proud says "it's definitely wear and tear, you've got houses that are forty years old and it's had a whole lot of traffic up in that ceiling, that could be the cause of some of the problems that are happening" Electricians, plumbers, insulation people, air conditioning installers ... any services which have been in your roof, may have broken straps ... without you knowing. But here's the rub ... insurance companies won't pay, because they claim it's up to YOU to do the maintenance. Delia says "the insurance companies are very aware of it, and they will get your money, and keep their mouths shut to get the money and they won't pay out when it happens"

Property lawyer Tim O'Dwyer warns of hidden dangers in every insurance contract ... excuses not to pay. "Insurance companies often try to wrangle their way out of paying claims, the less claims they pay, the more profits they make" Last year the insurance giants made $28.9 billion dollars, $500 million up on last year. $17.9 billion dollars worth of claims were made, but how many they actually paid out? They refuse to say.

RAC told us, they alone, reject up to 200 ceiling collapse claims in WA every year, like most companies they don't cover it, because it's wear and tear.

Not only did Joan Bennet's insurance company refuse to pay for her ceiling, they also refused to cover damage to her furniture. You see ... even if you have separate home contents, insurance companies argue, damage caused by the collapse, is a direct result of your failure to maintain the ceiling ... if they don't cover one, they don't cover the other. "Obviously there's a fault, a loop hole for the insurance companies to get out of paying, and that loophole needs to be closed"

"For insurance to cover every event, every likelihood, unfortunately the premium would have to be increased significantly and insurance would become unaffordable for the majority of people in Australia" Insurance Ombudsman Sam Perino believes for the most part, insurance companies are fair when it comes to claims, although he agrees they should do more to educate policy holders. "Your paying the fee, your entitled to know exactly what your covered for"

Delia says "by withholding this information insurance companies are putting people's lives at risk" Even though her policy states they'll pay a claim if you can prove you were unaware of the problem ... Delia's angry they still won't come to the party. "Well I can tell you, I was totally unaware of what was going on in my ceiling, had I known, had the insurance company said this is a daily occurrence, I would have done the maintenance"

While Kate and Steve aren't happy their insurance company refused to cough up ... things could have been so much worse ... the ceiling cracked while their kids were playing underneath it. "They could have been severely injured, even killed I guess with the sheer weight of that ceiling"

They're warning anyone with old ceilings to look for the signs ...

  • Bowed cornices
  • Droopy light fittings
  • Cracks
  • Sagging.

Kim Proud says "there should be some pressure put on insurance companies to let the people know what they should be looking for and what they are covered for" Even if they won't pay for falling ceilings, many believe insurance companies should at the very least warn customers of the hidden danger in hundreds of thousands of homes, BEFORE they take your money.