Escape Of Water – Its Causes, Effects, And The Mitigation Strategies

Traditionally the expression ‘Escape of Water’ has not struck quite the same level of fear into the heart of an underwriter  than the word ‘Fire’. However, this peril is actually the single biggest cause of claims under property policies. In 2018, 27% of all claims submitted listed Escape of Water as the proximate cause. In addition to the high frequency nature of these claims, the impact is also often very high. After Fire, Escape of Water is known to generate the highest claim payouts in large loss situations.

There is no doubt that Escape of Water is a peril which is now very much on the radar amongst insurers, and this has become increasingly true as the property market continues to harden and capacity shrinks. The result as far as policyholders are concerned is that the cover is harder to get, it can be more expensive, and its provision may be dependent on additional subjectivities.

Causes:

Escape of Water occurs primarily when a breach occurs in a plumbing installation, but can also be caused by leaking appliances and poor seals around shower trays and baths. As a general rule of thumb, leaking appliances and poor seals will not generate huge claims, whereas burst pipes do have a significant potential to cause very large amounts of damage. This is particularly true when properties are unoccupied, and when the plumbing elements in question are fitted behind walls. A lack of accessibility and visibility can greatly increase the time it takes to identify that water is escaping. Pipes will burst for a number of reasons, but the primary causes are either breaches as a consequence of wear and tear to old installations, or a physical bursting of the pipe caused by the expansion of water which freezes within a confined space.

Effects:

After fire, water has the greatest potential to damage the physical structure of buildings and the contents within them. There can be significant damage to decorative finishes, electrics and contents almost immediately, there can be further irreparable damage occurring over durations measured in hours and days (for example, the blowing of a parquet floor submerged in pooling water), and finally, there can be long term issues around the presence of damp if structures are not dried properly. These physical realities can be incredibly expensive to rectify, but more than that, the effect of a large escape of water can be emotionally devastating for a property owner, and the time and effort required to reinstate can be huge. It is fair to say that having a good quality insurance policy which will pay out in an escape of water situation is going to offer a degree of comfort, but there are so many reasons beyond the smooth operation of an insurance policy to seek to mitigate risk. The mental toll and the disruption to life of a big escape of water is a huge cost which rarely gets factored into insurance procurement processes.

The Mitigation Strategies:

New purchasers and renovators would be well advised to commission a full structural survey within which, an analysis of the existing plumbing situation would be advisable. The first step to any risk management and mitigation strategy is to understand the risk you are faced with.

Renovators in particular will increasingly find themselves being asked to supply ‘water management plans’ as part of the pack supporting their application for insurance cover. Insurers have always been hot on obtaining fire risk management plans. Escape of Water is now getting the same treatment. The purpose of these documents is to identify, assess and mitigate risk. It is worth re-stressing that, whilst a water management plan will often be crucial to ensuring the smooth operation of insurance cover, it is actually just basic common sense to reduce the risk of incidents which come with so much cost beyond the purely financial.

Renovators might want to consider locating water storage vessels on lower floors if it is practicable to so. In the event of a breach, the upper floors would avoid the effects of the escaping water.

Renovators should consider building their water management programme around the best practice detailed in the Construction Insurance Risk Engineer’s Group’s (CIREG) “Managing Escape of Water Risk on Construction Sites” document. This guidance considers escape of water from design stage all the way to testing and commissioning. Any confirmation of adherence to this framework would be viewed very favourably by the insurer.

In unoccupancy situations it will almost always be a requirement that water installations are drained down, and the water supply isolated at the mains entry point. This is particularly true over the winter months when the water within pipes is more likely to freeze and split the pipe. Insurers will often make an exception where the water is required to maintain a level of heat within the system which would prevent freezing.

Commercial risks will also have to consider not only heating systems, but also sprinkler systems. In the sense that a sprinkler system is just another closed water system, the same strategies you’d apply to pipes would apply to sprinkler systems.

Perhaps the most effective tool in the box when it comes to the management of the escape of water risk is what we would call the leak detection/suppression system. There are now various products on the market ranging in cost and functionality which will, to a greater or lesser extent, manage and reduce the risk of escape of water within a property. These systems, generally fitted to the mains riser, can offer simple detect and alert functionality (where changes in flow, pressure or humidity would seem to indicate a breach), through to the ability to actually shut down water systems and isolate parts of water systems automatically following escape detections. Such systems can often also be programmed to take account of unusual water flows (perhaps when a large number of visitors are present and placing increasing demands on the water system) so that the system is not shutting off when it shouldn’t be. Similarly, you might programme the system to shut down immediately if any flow is detected in situations where the property was unoccupied.

These leak management and suppression systems represent a fantastic risk feature as far as insurers are concerned, and will likely result in a discount on the insurance premium. They are generally pretty easy to source and fit as well. A requirement to have such a system in place is increasingly likely to be an insurance requirement, particularly in the high net worth and commercial sectors.

When it comes to escape of water, a small investment in time and money now can save a huge amount of cost and pain later. Working with Renovation Underwriting, we can discuss your options, and any potential obligations if you are in any way concerned. Please contact Cyrus Wakefield on 01306 734 102 for further information.


Renovating Thatched Properties: What You Need To Know

It will come as no surprise to the owners of thatched properties that finding comprehensive and effective insurance cover during a renovation phase is challenging. But whilst the vast majority of the specialist contract works insurance providers will decline to insure such a risk, we do have access to a market who will provide All Risks cover for thatched properties undergoing works.

As you would expect, the insurance of such properties is dependent on heavy underwriting, and some fairly stringent subjectivities. Renovators can also expect to pay a significant premium for the cover for exactly the same reasons as they are required to pay higher premiums in the standard property insurance market. It is obvious, but it bears repeating. Thatched properties pose a greatly enhanced fire risk, and when such properties do catch on fire, they are frequently completely engulfed, leading to more costly claims.

Before our market will offer a quotation to insure a thatched property undergoing works, they will need to be completely convinced of the following:

  • Project management is being undertaken by experienced and qualified individuals
  • Contractors are of high quality, and are familiar with the additional risks a thatched property presents
  • There has been a thorough risk assessment undertaken in respect of Fire. This risk needs to have been identified, assessed and managed, and this process needs to have been well documented
  • The project has been budgeted and planned, with a relatively firm end date. Whilst we appreciate that projects do overrun, our markets will not consider projects where the planning is vague
  • There needs to be adequate water supplies on site to tackle a major blaze
  • The risk needs to be otherwise ‘clean’, which is to say that there are not additional enhanced risk factors present which tip the risk out of appetite. For example, if there was a poor history in relation to theft, or if it was felt that the project management function was being taken on by someone without the requisite experience, the combination of these factors and the enhanced fire risk might mean that the total risk presented exceeds the insurer’s willingness to accept it.

To ensure the best chance of achieving a reasonable quotation for cover during a works phase, it is therefore essential that the proposer is able to demonstrate stringent risk management procedures, particularly in relation to fire, and that in the broader sense, the project will be managed professionally.

Quotations for this cover will invariably include the following subjectivities:

  • Where thatch replacement is occurring, confirmation that the provisions of the Dorset Model (a best practice guide for works being undertaken to thatched properties) will be adhered to, or alternatively, that an alternative model is being utilised which is at least equivalent, and which is documented
  • Compliance with the content of the UK TFA 16 Steps Guide. This is a best practice guide issued by the Timber Frame Association. Whilst this does not relate specifically to thatch, its provisions represent a very good framework for the management of fire risk, and our markets will require it as part of the insured’s risk management obligations. Again, if the renovator cannot confirm adherence to the Guide, they will need to provide evidence that they are applying a set of risk management steps which are at least equivalent, and which are documented
  • An increased excess in respect of the Fire peril

They might also include:

  • A requirement to survey
  • A requirement that water-storage tank capable of storing several thousand litres of water is present on site. This would be imposed when the proposer could not confirm that there are adequate water supplies on site already (a pond, a swimming pool, a river, a hydrant accessible by the fire brigade)
  • A requirement to supply a full scope of works document and a gantt chart (primarily to demonstrate that the project is well planned with a defined budget and a start and end date)

In conclusion, peace of mind insurance for thatched properties during the works phase is achievable, but it does require a certain commitment from the renovator around stringent risk management and broader project management professionalism. If the insurers get the sense that one or both of these factors are not present, they will have no hesitation at all in declining to offer a quotation.

Working with Renovation Underwriting, we can provide cover for thatched properties for our existing clients or on new projects. Contact Cyrus Wakefield on 01306 734 102 for details.


Party Wall Insurance – What Is It & When is this actually required?

Renovators can be forgiven for failing to appreciate the importance of party wall insurance. We all tend to have a basic understanding of how liability to third parties works so it is often assumed that the contractor’s liability policy will deal with any party wall issues which arise. This is true to an extent, but for the contractor’s liability policy to operate, the third party must demonstrate that the contractor has been negligent in some way. Standard liability policies only operate in the presence of negligence.

The Party Wall Act imposes what is known as a ‘strict liability’ on those undertaking works. In plain English this means that so long as the third party can demonstrate that they have suffered structural damage, and that the damage stems from the works being undertaken by the renovator, then regardless of whether or not anyone has actually been negligent, the renovator is liable to reinstate the damage. If we follow this to its natural conclusion then we can see that the contractor’s liability policy is not going to cover off the full scope of the renovator’s liability. It will only cover damage which results from negligence and not damage which has occurred, but is nobody’s fault.

Specialists in the contract works insurance arena will be able to identify when a ‘non-negligent party wall liability’ exposure exists, and offer an insurance policy to cover off this exposure.

To further confuse matters, renovators may conclude that party wall insurance is not actually required in respect of structures which are not attached, or even proximate to third party property. This may not be the case for 2 reasons:

  • Third party property which is not attached to the contract site, but is sufficiently proximate to be at risk may still be protected by the provisions of the Act. If the third party property is within 3 metres, the Act will almost certainly apply, and even if it is more distant, it may still be at risk from the works
  • A good quality party wall policy will protect areas of the contract site not being worked on. So, if contractors are working on the front elevation and, through no fault of their own, there is movement which affects the rear elevation, a party wall policy would operate to reinstate this damage whereas the contractor’s liability policy would not

If a renovator is insuring the structure with a standard property insurer, then our advice where they are undertaking significant structural works would be that a party wall policy would have some value. The simple truth is that most, if not all standard property insurers will exclude damage to the existing structure caused by the contractor whether this was as a result of negligence or not. A party wall policy would therefore step in where areas of the structure not being worked on were damaged as a result of the works, but not as a result of the contractor’s negligence.

Specialist contract works packages tend to provide direct cover for accidental damage to the structure being worked on whether this is the result of negligence or not. If the renovator has taken out such a package, they will find that there is actually no need for party wall insurance in respect of the structure being worked on, but it must be understood that this accidental damage coverage does not extend to third party property. The contract works package will do the job of a party wall insurance policy as far as the renovator’s property is concerned, but it will do no such thing in respect of neighbouring property. To ensure neighbouring property is fully protected, the renovator must ensure that the contractor has adequate public liability insurance for negligent damage, and that there is a party wall policy in place for structural damage which is not the result of anyone’s negligence.

We’d just like to hammer home a point we’ve already made above. Renovators should be aware that there needn’t be a physical party wall for liability under the Party Wall Act to exist, and for party wall insurance to be a sensible option. If the works are occurring within a certain distance from neighbouring structures, even if they are detached, party wall notices may still need to be served, and the risk of structural damage to neighbouring property can still exist. Where there is risk of damage to third party structures stemming from the works, even if no liability exists under the Act, renovators can still benefit from the peace of mind such a policy provides.

Working with Renovation Underwriting, we can provide cover for building and refurbishment works for our existing clients or on new projects. Contact Cyrus Wakefield on 01306 740555 for details.


Time to Extend ?
“The perennial question do I move house to gain more space or should I extend my home?” can be an exciting prospect for some homeowners but equally it can prove to be an expensive and less than satisfying conundrum to deal with.

Having some building work done is notoriously stressful and disruptive for your home and your daily routine. Often large sums are involved and lots can go wrong – botched home improvement work is estimated to cost home-owners over £1.7 billion every year. There are over 110,000 complaints about building work notified to the Department of Trade & Industry each year and of course that doesn’t take into account the ones resolved in other ways.

So how do we find a good and reliable Builder?

The best way is by recommendation. Ask if the builder started and finished on time, kept the site tidy, cleared up at the end, struck to the agreed price and overall did a good job of work. Remember, however, some problems take years to become evident. By then the builder may have ‘vanished’. I remember well a small builder working in an affluent part of South West London some years ago who carried out a number of well executed projects, had a large order book for which deposits were paid, and then swiftly left the country.

You can find builders in your area who are registered with the Federation of Master Builders from their website. However, while standards for joining the Federation are high, it does not inspect the work of members. Beware – some unscrupulous cowboy builders put the Federation’s logo on their letterhead even though they are not members. Request to see their certificate of membership.

You can also look for a builder under the Quality Mark scheme (0845 300 8040), a government-backed register with details of more than 500 firms. Finally you might try Which Local, which has been set up by the Consumers Association to allow satisfied customers to recommend companies which have done good work for them.

Getting a price

The Old Adage “Don’t rush in” is most apt when finding someone. It’s always tempt-ing to excitedly rush into a project. But at the least obtain three quotations. The Building Cost Information Service will give you an idea of how much a job should cost. Don’t necessarily go for the cheapest quote; take into account the answers to your questions.

Planning Permission needed or Permitted development

Find out if you need planning permission or if building regulations apply to your job. If it qualifies as “building work”’, which includes everything from building an extension down to installing a new window or boiler, you are obliged to have it inspected and certified by your local council (which will require a fee).

Planning permission covers larger projects and for this you need to apply to your local council planning department, providing plans. The department responsible at your local council will either use their in-house Building Control, or you will be directed to an independent practitioner, and they will tell you all you need to know. You will need the certificates when you come to sell your house as the Purchaser’s solicitor will want to see them as part of the conveyancing process.

All of this may seem daunting and a mine field to negotiate, and it can on more complex projects be more prudent to hire an architect or Chartered surveyor to help you plan the job and then oversee it. Typically, fees of 10-13% of the value of the work are charged, but they can save you money by knowing that you have chosen the right builder, that costs are checked and quantified. By thinking of the end product, you can make sure that you can get good quality work.

Regardless of the self-imagining of a project or use of a professional to manage the project, here are the key questions to ask:

  • Could you give me the names of some people for whom you have done work so I can contact them?

Make sure you speak to them in case the builder has invented them.
Ask to see the work and forget about anyone who won’t show you work they have done.

Ask to see some older work as well as a recent job since there will have been more time for faults to become apparent.

  • Have you done a job like mine?

It’s better if the builder has done something at least reasonably similar or he could be learning how to do it at your expense.

  • How long have you been in business?

A builder can demonstrate this by producing records or other paperwork like bank statements or contracts.

  • Do you operate from a fixed address?

It’s a bad sign if they don’t. While an individual tradesman can operate from home, a builder needs space to store equipment and supplies. A home ad-dress is all right as an office address but a builder needs premises some-where.

  • Can you provide trade references?

References from a supplier about a builder’s credit facilities and payment are a good indication of financial stability and management. Also, check how long he has been with his current bank – beware someone who keeps changing his bank as this can indicate financial problems.

  • Are you registered for VAT?

Generally look for a builder who is VAT registered. The VAT threshold is currently £64,000 and someone with a turnover below that cannot be doing very much work.

If someone offers to waive VAT if you pay cash, beware. Tax avoidance is not the sign of the honest type you want and it puts you in a weak position in the event of a dispute.

  • Do you give a written estimate and quotation?

It’s essential. Never accept a verbal assurance that it will cost “about £10,000”. It’s important to distinguish between an estimate and a quotation.

An estimate is only an estimate, it has no binding force.
A quotation is an undertaking to do the job for a stated price.

You can move from an estimate to a quotation when you have established exactly what is to be done. You may want to change a few things to save money after seeing the estimate.

The final detailed quotation should include all the work to be done, date of completion, security and safety, catering and toilet arrangements, disposal of rubbish, water and power supplies, hours of working and so on. But better still, ask for a written contract.

You can download a standard one from the Federation of Master Builders website (www.fmb.org.uk). Once the builder has signed it, you will be much better covered.

  • When can you start?

Cross-examine your prospective builders on how realistic proposed start dates really are. Don’t push for an early start if this is unrealistic. On larger projects ask for a timetable so you can see if the job is slipping behind.

  • How many jobs do you have on at the moment?

You will need to relate this to the size of his workforce. A small workforce and a lot of projects could mean he is overstretched. If this means excessive use of casual labour or sub-contractors it could spell trouble – see below.

  • Do you have insurance cover?

Your builder is legally obliged to have both public and employers liability insurance and make sure you see the relevant certificates of insurance. He should have at least £2 million cover. He should also have other insurance to cover other problems which may arise – again, ask to see his certificate.

  • Do you offer a guarantee of your work?

It’s much better if he does although it can be valueless in practice if he goes out of business. The far better solution to ensure you are protected is to con-tact your insurance broker, and purchase a 10-year warranty to cover building work. While this means you will have to bear the cost of insurance yourself, you know you are covered.

  • Have you had any claims against you under Health & Safety Legislation?

Work on a building site is regulated by Health & Safety Legislation which covers things like project and risk management, maintenance of equipment, standards of work, safety procedures and the like. You are yourself liable for certain facets of a job until you can show that you have definitely devolved responsibility from your builder. Ask him how he complies with the legislation – as well as any claims against him.

As a supplementary question, ask if the Construction (Design and Management) Regulations 2015 or CDM for short, applies. A project is notifiable for CDM when: The construction is scheduled to last longer than 30 working days, and it will have more than 20 workers working at the same time at any point in the building project.

  • Do you expect a deposit?

If he does, forget about him. The builder should be in sufficiently good financial shape to purchase supplies without needing your cash up-front to do it. The only exception would be where some rare kind of very expensive initial purchase has to be made, for instance bespoke glass works.

  • How do and when do we pay?

If the job is big enough – for example, if it lasts four weeks or more – then agree stage payments which should be precisely defined.

Agree what percentage of the total bill you will retain until you can be sure that all the work is satisfactory, which should be 10-20%. If you pay in cash, you will be in a very weak position in the event of any dispute. It is better to pay by bank transfer, cheque or credit card. If you can use the last, then the card provider will be jointly liable for payment which may help you in the event of a dispute. Check that your builder will accept payment by credit card. Many do not – understandably, because of the fees charged by the card.

Using a professional to administer the project will mean that works are valued and the amount of each stage payment is quantified.

  • How do you deal with changes to the specification?

Any changes should be put in writing and, if there is a knock-on effect on the costs and finish date, these should be put in writing too as an addition to the quotation or contract. Please do not venture onto a project thinking you can easily change your mind as you go along – most changes of mind will cost you money and cause delay.

Variations on a project are the prime cause for going over budget, so when planning a project have you allowed a contingency? Some cost increase may be unavoidable, such as deep foundations being required and cost of materials escalating. In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire the price for insulation materials went skyward, given the shortage of certified products available.

How to measure progress of the project, easy if you are living in the building being altered or extended.

Stipulate that you want to turn up regularly to inspect work and come when-ever any particularly important element of the work is underway. Drop in un-expectedly from time to time – is the builder happy with that?

At certain times given the nature of works, such as lifting heavy steel joists into place, or when deep foundations are being dug, Health and Safety issues may need to be observed, but generally it shouldn’t be an issue.

Also ask when particular tasks are to be done which involve things like pipes, wiring or damp-proof membranes being covered up and make sure all is well before they disappear. Dropping in unannounced from time to time may not catch anyone out but the knowledge that you might should at least be a deterrent to a bit of cheating. If a builder seems negative about this, don’t employ him. You want someone who is proud of his work, and will also be pleased to have the opportunity to sort out minor alterations or challenges which crop up.

  • Specialist advice, and how to get the help needed?

If help will be required from a specialist like a structural engineer, to design roofs, calculate the size of lintels required for openings and removal of walls to form, for instance, open plan accommodation, or a drainage consultant or central heating engineer or Independent Building Control, you must ask your builder if he has access to someone, how he proposes to use them and ex-actly where responsibility lies for their contribution.

This neatly brings us on to what may be considered one of the most important questions when planning your project.

  • Always ask your prospective Builder if they have trades and skills in-house with an experienced and established team or do they hire casual labour and sub-contractors?

It is much better if your builder has an established team. He may find it difficult to impose his own standards on people he has never seen before, like migrant tradesmen. If he is starting off someone new he should supervise him long enough to confirm his competence before leaving the site. Additionally, if a builder needs to hire sub-contractors – e.g. for plumbing, electrical, central heating – these should be tradespeople whose work he knows well.

  • Insurance cover

Make sure you have your own Public Liability insurance in case something affects neighbours or passers-by. In the first instance call your broker and en-sure your insurance company are informed about the proposed building work. Having builders in may affect the terms of your Buildings and Contents policy.

  • What to do if something goes wrong?

Speak to your builder as soon as you spot something you don’t like the look of. The longer you leave it, the more difficult it will become to sort things out.

If you can’t resolve matters, you can seek help from the Federation of Master Builders or the Quality Mark scheme which run arbitration services. Otherwise, you will need to engage a Chartered Surveyor, which will send costs shooting up – and could leave you living in a building site for months if matters aren’t promptly resolved.

For further advice please contact our team of Chartered Surveyors and Architects:

Arbiter Adjusters
10 Kimbers
Petersfield
Hampshire
GU32 2JL

info@arbiteradjusters.com


It’s an ill wind…… How the world’s windstorm losses may affect your insurance costs in 2018

2017 has been the worst year in monetary terms for windstorm damage since 2005. That was the year when Hurricane Katrina caused so much devastation.

In 2017 the insurance costs of Hurricanes Irma and Maria alone in the United States are estimated to exceed US$100 billion. In total more than US$ 350 billion of windstorm losses will be paid by insurers over the next two years.

There is no question that most insurers will be able to absorb these losses, because there was excess catastrophe reinsurance capacity available this year.

However, there is only one way for insurers and reinsurers to pay their claims and to reserve for future losses and that is to spread premium increases across the whole of their insurance book. While the bulk of the increases will fall in those areas of the world that have been worst affected by the storms, premiums for general business elsewhere will have to rise to persuade insurers to continue to provide cover for risks where the returns on capital have historically been small or negative.

Motor business is always a soft target, because without it we cannot drive our cars. But other forms of personal and commercial insurance, where insurance companies have been scrambling over themselves to provide as low premiums as they can, have effectively been subsidised by the past profits of catastrophe insurance.

Early estimates are that most premiums will rise next year by between 10% and 15% and for some budget policies the increases are likely to be more.

Comparison sites are largely geared towards offering clients the best price. Some insurers are likely to cut back on the benefits of their policies in order to continue to appear competitive.

When thinking about renewing with your existing insurer or choosing a different policy at your next renewal, please do not simply concentrate on what it will cost you, but on how adequate the cover will be for your needs. A good insurance broker will advise you how to get the best value from your insurance policy and give you quality protection as well.

 


Insurance Premium Tax v Value Added Tax for insurance

Next June Insurance Premium Tax is due to rise from 10% to 12%. It already stands at 20% on Travel policies.

Is it now time to consider scrapping Insurance Premium Tax altogether and replacing it with VAT, as applies to most other services?

Rather than increase everyone’s premiums this could in fact lower them!

At present insurance providers cannot recover VAT, so every claim that is paid costs insurers 20% more than it should. Insurers cannot recover VAT on their overheads, unless they have some other source of income that is VAT registered and even then they would have to prove that their costs directly relate to that area of their business.

If claims were to cost less to insurers and other overheads reduced they would reflect these in their premiums. At present customers have to bear the inherent VAT costs plus the Insurance Premium Tax.

We have seen Insurance Premium Tax creep up steadily with spurious reasoning for its increase. Prior to BREXIT it seemed logical to equate this tax to similar ones on the Continent, but now this reasoning is redundant.

Comments, please!


Insurance Premium Tax

Insurance Premium Tax is yet another tax that has to be paid with little or no benefit for the people that pay it! Originally set at 5%, by small steps it has been increased until, as from 1st October 2016, it now stands at 10% of all general insurance premiums (apart from Travel and some other specialist covers where it is 20%), including alterations and additions.

This makes it all the more important for you to ensure that you are insuring your home or business for the correct amount. Buildings insurance needs to take into consideration the rebuilding cost of the property, not the commonly held misconception that it should be the resale price.

Our recommended professional valuation consultants can give you the peace of mind that you need by assessing your precise insurance requirements and also recommend improvements to your risk protections that will save you money on your insurance costs.

They can also assist you with Contents and Fine Art valuations.

Call 01306 734105 for further details.


Flood Protection – Should we be building an ark?

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FLOOD PROTECTION – SHOULD WE BE BUILDING AN ARK?

In the past ten years there have been at least 13 incidents of serious flooding in the UK with only 2006 and 2011 offering respite. So frequent have these occurrences been that up to five million homes are considered to be at risk. The recent storms Desmond and Eva flooded 16,000 homes in England alone.

In December 2013 severe flooding in Mole Valley and elsewhere in Surrey made a misery of Christmas for around a thousand people.

Surrey County Council published a draft Local Flood Risk Management Strategy document in August 2015. There are several types of flooding that have to be considered, including River (fluvial), Surface Water, Groundwater, Reservoir and Sewer.

The main concerns appear to relate to surface water run-off and sewer back up, which affects properties on high ground as well as those close to rivers or reservoirs. In fact properties on higher ground are more likely to be exposed to these dangers, as surface water is likely to take longer to dissipate due to the composition of the soil and the lack of exposed soil that can absorb the liquid.

Surrey is currently undergoing a rapid domestic building boom. However, due to Green Belt restrictions this means that new houses are mostly constructed within existing housing boundaries. So we are witnessing higher density of housing, greater levels of run off and increased pressure on the capacity of aging sewers.

While the Environment Agency and other bodies seek to discourage new homes being constructed in fluvial flood areas, no such incentives apply to other properties.

We all owe a duty to our neighbours not just to protect our own homes against flooding, but to consider the effects that paving over drives and patios, pouring grease and fat down the sink, or removing trees and shrubs may have on the ability of local flood defences to cope. Perhaps we should also ask Local Government to consider the consequences of allowing unfettered construction in the ever encroaching suburbs of London.

If you live in an affected area of Surrey, or indeed any other area in the UK where there have been problems in obtaining insurance for flood at an affordable price, the newly introduced Flood Re scheme means that we have some insurers who are looking to insure these types of homes.

Please contact Anthony Wakefield or Miss Robyn Homewood on  01306 734105 for a quote.


TELEMATICS – THE FUTURE OF HOME PROTECTION

TELEMATICS

THE FUTURE OF HOME PROTECTION

We have all become familiar with our burglar alarms at home, but soon these will become as redundant as the fax machine (remember that?).

Overpriced, intrusive and inefficient. These are words that often attributed to these 20th Century devices.

Welcome to telematics, which are starting to revolutionise the way we protect our homes. Originating from the French “télématique” , this new technology combines the ease of information gathering with computer and mobile communication.

Rather than relying on neighbours or a call centre to monitor the security of your house, modern telematics can relay the information direct to your phone, tablet or computer. They also work in reverse, permitting you to control the devices in your home from anywhere in the world.

The leaders in this field are British Gas with their HIVE range of products (https://www.hivehome.com/), Google with NEST (https://nest.com/uk/) and CANARY (https://canary.is/)

Understanding the potential of these systems can only be appreciated if you visit these web sites and view the videos that explain the products.

When tied in with Smart Meters, which are set to be commonplace in the UK by 2020, householders will be able to be masters of their own homes, keeping a close eye on their heating and other utility costs and controlling the running of the house from near or far.

We see these developments as reducing the claims exposures of our insurers and, as such, can now offer between 5% and 10% premium reductions under our Homes2Insure and Connoisseur Household policies for owners of these systems.

When combined with our other premium discounts for loss history, client age and traditional security, we can offer up to 30% savings on our standard premiums.

Contact Anthony Wakefield (aw@anthonywakefield.com) or Miss Robyn Homewood (rh@anthonywakefield.com) for further details.


Barn and Mill Conversions

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Who would not like the idea of living in a beautifully converted barn or mill and having wonderful views over the Surrey countryside? You would be surprised how many!

Agricultural buildings offer a means to increase the rural housing stock without interfering with Green Belt planning restrictions. Or do they?

In March 2015, the Department for Communities and Local Government issued new planning practice guidelines because approximately 52% of prior approval applications for agricultural to residential conversions had been refused in the period between April and September 2014. Under the Permitted Development rights issued in 2014 local councils were expected to allow farm buildings to be converted to homes without planning permission.

Mole Valley District Council has an enlightened approach towards agricultural conversions and it is a credit to the Planning Department that a holistic concept of maintaining the traditional character of the area, along with the need to find new uses for redundant properties, has continued to make our Surrey Hills such a wonderful place to live in.

But there are drawbacks to owning a converted agricultural building. Access is one, with planning decisions often limiting the amount of car parking space so as not to affect the character of the countryside. Also lack of provision may mean that internet access is often poor or not available and connection to mains services either difficult or impossible.

In addition, there is the question of whether an agricultural building close to a Listed Property also has the protection of itself being Listed. In my researches this is normally a decision for the local Council to make and often hinges on whether the property is considered to lie within the curtilage of the main property.

From an insurance perspective, the construction of most converted farm buildings render them “non – standard” as far as many mainstream insurers are concerned. For those insurers that are prepared to consider such properties, clients need first to establish the precise rebuilding costs before comparing one insurance quote to another. Some insurers offer as part of their service a free survey to look at the correct reinstatement cost of a building and also advice over fire and security protection.

Remember also that many agricultural buildings have been constructed in flood plains, so unless this has been taken into consideration as part of the conversion process, flood cover may not always be available.

Contact me on 01306 734105 or at aw@anthonywakefield.com for more information.