Ceiling Collapse

Reporter: Natalie Bonjolo

"f I'd been sitting there when it collapsed it would have killed me" Imagine coming home to this? Your living room, a demolition site.

"What did you think had happened? Well I thought maybe a bomb had gone off or an earthquake" Within hours of seeing a hairline crack, Delia Malloy's ceiling came crashing down ... one hundred kilos ... a potentially deadly disaster.

Kim Proud from the Association of Ceiling Contractor's says it's a hidden danger, "over time with the actual ceilings being strapped, those straps can perish" Like every home built before 1970, Delia's ceiling is fixed with a type of plaster ... known as a saddle. Over time it can give way, without warning.

Saddles have slowly been phased out since the eighties, even so it's estimated more than 300 000 West Australian homes have them, three million, across the country. Kim says "if it's a strong strap it could stay there for a long time, if the straps not quite strong enough it will either let go or it could perish like I said, or it could be eaten away by a little critter up there"

"Everybody has never heard of this before, they're all going home looking at the cracks in their ceilings" had Delia been sitting in her favourite chair, she would have been crushed ... THAT came later. "At the back of my mind I thought well I'm insured, it's okay, it's going to be okay"

Wrong. When Delia got in touch with her insurance company ... she certainly wasn't 'dancing on this ceiling' "He says we don't cover this ... and I just, I just said your kidding?" "No household insurance policy covers you for deterioration over age, or fair wear and tear" the RAC's John Beattie makes no apologies for not paying. "The condition of the building is primarily the responsibility of the building owner, the building occupier"

In other words, if your old ceiling simply falls down ... it's your fault for not having it fixed, John says "it's not uncommon, we have a number of these events occur each week" In fact, in WA alone, the RAC deals with about two hundred ceiling collapses a year, none of them covered ... and that's just one insurance company, in one state. Delia says "had the RAC told me this was a daily occurrence I would have done something about it"

John says "it is well known in the building industry" maybe so, but how many families are aware of it ... especially those who pay home insurance for something they assume will be covered? Kim's says "of course they should let home owners know definitely"

We did a ring around of some major companies to see if ANY of them would cover it ...

SGIO only pays claims caused by storm, fire or theft, not structural failure or wear and tear.

as does Western QBE

HBF

and in most cases, Alliance

Unhappy customers can take their complaints to the Ombudsman, but be warned, disputes resolution manager Graham Warner reckons, your probably fighting a loosing battle. "You wont get any insurance company that will provide maintenance cover, the cost would be formidable for the consumer if that's the sort of cover they wanted"

Delia says "I would have been better putting the money into a bank account, saving it and I would have had the money today to do my own repairs"

While the experts reckon a saddle ceiling should last anything from twenty five to one hundred years, it's important to keep an eye out for tell tale signs.

  • Bowed cornices
  • Droopy light fittings
  • Cracks or sagging in the ceiling

It's too late for Delia, who'll have to pay thousands to repair her ruined lounge room, which is why she's warning others to beware. "This is a warning to everybody, this could happen to them"