independent

Sunday 20 April 2014

AIB offers storm victims breathing room on loans

Overall, initial estimates indicate the Government could be left with a bill exceeding €100m. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins
Initial estimates indicate the Government could be left with a bill exceeding €100m. Photo: Arthur Carron/Collins

AIB is to offer temporary loans and flexible repayment terms for customers facing a shortage of cash from damage caused by recent bad weather.

The lender "wishes to reassure customers that where they may be facing difficulties as a result of the recent weather damage, the bank will take a flexible and sympathetic approach in assisting them", it said.

The state-owned bank will offer flexibility in repayment schedules on existing loans -- like repayment holidays, interest-only periods, or extending a loan's term -- pending the resumption of normal trading conditions and payouts from insurance claims.

It will also offer temporary credit to affected customers.

Gale force, and in some cases hurricane force, winds as well as widespread flooding, have caused chaos around the country in recent weeks. Businesses and homeowners have reported unusually high levels of damage.

AIB is the first Irish bank to say it will take this damage into account when dealing with borrowers.

Its offer will apply both to people and businesses who are facing clean-up expenses, and to those who have lost income because storms damaged their business premises or equipment.

Customers who want to avail of the offer should visit their closest branch as soon as possible.

The total cost of the damage caused by the high winds and floods is only beginning to emerge, as claims start to filter in to insurers.

Insurance Ireland said it will not be able to estimate the cost for another three to four weeks, but provisional estimates suggest a total of around €300m.

The last major flood to hit the country, in November 2009, cost the insurance industry alone about €244m. That excludes costs borne by the State and non-insured people.

Home and business owners in coastal towns like Lahinch in Co Clare and Salthill in Galway have been hit particularly badly by the latest period of inclement weather, as high tides contributed to flooding.

One Galway-based businessman, jeweller Niall McNelis, was forced to close his shop for around a week-and-a-half after floods destroyed his floors and cabinets.

In Cork, traders have demanded emergency government action on a long-stalled €100m flood-defence plan after floods swamped a number of busy but low-lying retail areas.

REPAIRS

The Society of Chartered Surveyors has warned that reimbursement for those with insurance may take weeks or months, meaning those who have had to pay for repairs upfront could be out of pocket for quite some time.

"Due to the sheer number of claims, it may take some time for your claim to be processed," the organisation said.

Insurers' body Insurance Ireland has asked affected policyholders to contact their insurers as quickly as possible.

Homeowners have also been warned not to dispose of damaged items until a loss-adjuster has inspected them.

Other experts have warned that many homes and businesses will be forced to pay for repairs from their own pockets in areas where flood insurance is not provided.

'Geo-profiling', a practice whereby insurers blacklist certain locations or properties based on predictions and historical data even if they are not prone to flooding, means that for some people insurance was never an option.

Irish Independent

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