Soaring premiums force RICS to prepare PI spin-off scheme

Surveyors will lobby insurers for cover against asbestos liabilities, as new government regulations look set to send their professional indemnity (PI) premiums skyrocketing.

The Department of Work and Pensions' Control of Asbestos at Work Regulations came into force at the end of November.

They require employers to identify, record and monitor asbestos in the workplace.

Surveyors are likely to be used to carry out the requirements, although most insurers currently exclude asbestos, as a contaminant, from their PI cover.

Hammond Suddards Edge solicitor Iain Corbett warned the regulations could be a liability minefield for surveyors, commercial landlords and institutional property owners.

"Some employers will not own or control the business premises in which they work and, in many instances, the duty will be fulfilled by their commercial landlords," Corbett said.

"Commercial landlords and institutional property owners could face claims from employer tenants.

"They, in turn, may have recourse from so-called accredited asbestos inspectors, who are more than likely to be accredited members of the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS).

"This could have a huge knock-on impact on their PI cover."

The RICS and the Asbestos Removal Contractors' Association are currently setting up an accreditation programme for inspectors.

RICS insurance manager Emma Hastings said she hoped to establish an insurance scheme alongside the
programme, enabling surveyors to separate the asbestos liability from their PI cover.

"We've talked to a few insurance companies and syndicates and we're reasonably confident we'll get something together," she said.

"We're hoping to launch in the early New Year."

However, she warned that the regulations did not require employers to use an accredited inspector.

She said this meant surveyors who carried out inspection work without accreditation would have to negotiate individually with their insurers for additional asbestos liability cover.