The lack of knowledge in contractor networks gives property policyholders a raw deal

Over the years insurers have changed their approach to handling property claims. The most worrying switch has been to the use of contractor networks, supposedly to improve efficiency and claims spend. While supporting the basic principles involved, I believe that this shift removes the opportunity for customer choice.

Contractor networks can give the policyholder a raw deal. Far too often, building schedules have been discarded in hedgerows or sub-contractors have ended up confronting the main panel contractor, or their own nominated sub-contractors, about the level of remuneration. Listed properties, local authority and conservation requirements all complicate the reinstatement process, often requiring detailed changes to a previously approved scope and method of work.

Further, the requirements imposed by these various bodies can present challenging decisions about the level of policy cover available. The current technology-based contractor network operations find themselves unable to address these ever-developing issues, especially with the trend to use bespoke design, and eco-friendly properties and materials.

Insurers appoint loss adjusters because of our experience of handling and adding value to the claims process.

The role of the adjuster, most importantly, is to listen and observe, then investigate, enquire, research, negotiate and compromise to get to an appropriate and amicable building solution.

How can this be achieved when decisions regarding any variations to the work are left in the hands of an inexperienced desktop handler who has limited or no detailed knowledge or experience of building matters?

Good loss adjusters are familiar with the various mechanisms that cause damage, the different forms of construction and how best to deal with them – in restoration and with new work.

They also take the time to ensure that the policyholder understands the nature of the work and, if there is no cover under the policy, explain why not.

What’s more, the loss adjuster has a duty to keep the broker/ underwriter advised of any developments so that they are up to date if they receive any awkward questions from their client.

Domestic and commercial properties remain our largest and most valuable single asset, so surely they must be treated with respect. For the sake of the policyholder and insurer, why not insist that a suitably experienced adjuster is appointed to ensure the best possible outcome for all parties in the claims process.

The insurance market is always evolving and changing. The changes that I have experienced in property loss adjusting alone have been, and continue to be, very challenging.

But however difficult it may be for the individual players to respond to change, the winners are those who provide the customers with what they want – a reliable and professional service that delivers for the broker, insurer and claimant. Evolution or revolution has come but can only work if customers are better off for it. IT

Keith Curling is a partner at loss adjuster Carmichaels.