When various electrical components in my Volkswagen Tiguan car stopped working, I discovered rats had chewed through the wiring and insulation in several places. This had caused nearly £6,000 of damage, rendering the vehicle unsafe. Entry seemed to be through an air vent near the boot. I made a claim through my insurer, Aviva, which declared that, as the damage must have happened over a period, it would be treated as seven incidents and seven separate claims. Each claim involves a £400 excess payment. In the event, the repair costs for four of the areas of damage came to less than the excess, so I was expected to foot the £801 bill for these, as well as £1,200 in excess payments for the three other “incidents”. My premiums will rise substantially as my claim will be recorded as several claims, when it should have been just one.
DS, Thurso, Caithness
Down in Leeds, a prized Volkswagen camper van has proved an equally tasty snack for rodents. IN’s two-year-old vehicle seized up on the road and he took it for repair under warranty. VW declared that rats had eaten through wires on the underside. “It seems that, in the interest of making their products more environmentally friendly, they have switched the wiring casings to a plant-based material and nocturnal wildlife love eating it,” he writes.
“VW is refusing to repair it under warranty and is trying to charge £1,400 to fix it. I have dreamed of owning a camper for 40 years. Given the expensive repair will not prevent the problem recurring, I’m planning to sell it. Gutted!”
Drivers up and down the land have discovered that their vehicles have provided supper for vermin. Whether rats are getting hungrier, or vehicles tastier, is contested. Some pest control experts claim that modern plant-based wire insulations are irresistible to them; others, along with manufacturers, insist it’s the warm dry cavities in engines that attract chilly rats, who then avail themselves of the wiring.
In the US, two class-action lawsuits against Honda and Toyota have been dismissed by judges. The plaintiffs claimed that the soy-based insulation had attracted rats and the manufacturers should pay for the damage, but it was ruled that vermin would gnaw any wiring, anywhere, given the chance.
Volkswagen told me: “We can confirm there are no products in the wiring or pipe coating which would actively attract animals. But rodents can seek out chewing materials and nesting places, gaining access through very small holes, and there are areas that cannot, and should not, be completely sealed.”
IN should try his luck with his insurer. Terms and conditions often exclude gradual damage over a period. However, the Financial Ombudsman says it expects firms to pay out if the damage was caused by an insured event, and the customer could not have reasonably been expected to notice it earlier.
DS did, of course, lodge an insurance claim, and what a bruising battle that was. It took eight weeks for Aviva to decide, and authorise a courtesy car. He was then obliged to make fruitless calls to customer service for a further seven weeks before his car was returned, largely, but not completely, repaired.
When he complained, Aviva eventually offered to pay the £5,643 repair bill plus £800 compensation for the delays, and agreed to record the damage as a single claim to spare his no claims bonus. Since £800 equates to two of the excess payments he was originally charged, DS feels that the gesture was merely what he was due in the first place, and that an extra sum should be paid in compensation for the poor service and incomplete repairs.
Aviva, however, is not budging, although it admitted to me that its service fell short and apologised for the “inconvenience”. It said its policy terms covered specific events, that happened at a specific time, and that as different areas of the car were damaged, the rodents must have been chomping over a lengthier period. That’s why the case was treated as several claims. Only the ombudsman would be able to overrule them if it felt DS had a case.
Wire chomping is more likely to happen in winter as rodents seek refuge, so, to avoid offering too warm a welcome, keep the inside clear of foodstuffs, consider sonic or chemical rodent repellant, fix metal mesh over any likely access holes, and avoid parking too close to favourite rodent haunts, such as bins or undergrowth.