In Biba’s latest manifesto themed ‘Resilience’ launched today, the trade body has deemed the ongoing problems with cladding for professional indemnity insurance and buildings insurance “vital to resolve”

In the aftermath of the Grenfell Tower fire, Biba has pledged in its latest manifesto to work with the government and the insurance market to address two problems that concern cladding on high-rise buildings.

The first issue involves the professional indemnity market for surveyors which has been evaporated, this has left a lack of this kind of insurance for the surveyors that sign off EWS1 forms. As this is part of the process when buying and selling property, leaseholders are being left in limbo and subsequently with properties that are unsellable and uninsurable. 

Biba’s latest manifesto states: “It is vital to resolve the issues around both PI and property insurance for cladded buildings.”

Steve White, Biba’s chief executive pointed out that that this issue has escalated to such an extent that it now has ministerial interest.

And secondly for buildings insurance, after the Grenfell Tower fire insurers have been concerned about the fire safety of cladding. Although there is a re-mediation plan to remove all unsafe cladding, the government have not put enough money behind this for it to happen quickly enough.

White continued: “Because of this, insurers have got very nervous and stopped writing cover all together.”

Incredibly complicated

Biba has been having ongoing meetings with government on these matters, Graeme Trudgill, Biba’s executive director said that although the trade body has looked at various interventions, “it’s incredibly complicated”.

This is because these buildings are dotted all around the UK and a solution will take time to roll out.

Biba believes that government needs to create a temporary PI solution to unlock the delay in making cladded buildings safe, the trade body has also submitted several papers to the Ministry of Housing, Communities and Local Government to spell out the problem.

The manifesto stated: “Biba believes it is imperative that government widens the scope to include buildings below 18m in height and to increase the size of the fund to cover the total cost of remediation – which could be in excess of £10bn.”

Trudgill said that Biba has seen a strong reaction from insurers appetites with the risks changing significantly.

However, he is hopeful, Biba has submitted various proposals to government.

“The government has spent £30m on automatic fire alarms to do away with waking watches – which was a very expensive issue for policyholders and leaseholders.”

Waking watches involves someone patrolling the building to make sure it does not catch fire. 

Although he admits that the solution to the problems around PI could be very different to those around buildings insurance.

“It is the fire engineers that have the biggest risk on the PI –they are the ones that have to do the work to say what is required to re-mediate the buildings.”

Meanwhile the Building Safety Bill is progressing in parliament, which Trudgill deemed a “good thing” as it introduces a new Building Safety Regulator.

“It has been the wild west out there for a few years. Long term there will be a more permanent and sensible market for this, but right now its in the worst possible situation, hence so many meetings with government,” he said. 

In terms of re-mediation for cladding, approximately £10bn of work needs to be done but this pot is only £1bn in the Building Safety Bill.

Biba believes that this should be increased.