Business

England riots: Insurers pledge a swift rebuild

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Media captionGraeme Trudgill from the British Insurance Brokers Association on whether you are covered for riot damage

Rebuilding riot-damaged homes and businesses will start as soon as possible after areas are cleared as crime scenes, insurers have pledged.

They are sending specialists to affected areas to assess damage and contracts with builders are in place.

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that home insurance should cover fire and looting, and accommodation for those forced out.

The uninsured may be able to claim for compensation from police authorities.

Commercial policies may also compensate for interruption to trade.

The key points raised by insurance experts are:

  • Those who are insured should be covered, although the extent of this cover - and how much excess they pay - depends on the terms and conditions of a policy
  • The uninsured may be able to claim for compensation, by notifying their local police authority within 42 days
  • Crisis loans are available from the government for some of those affected financially in the short-term
  • Some businesses will be able to claim for disruption to trade
  • Only holidaymakers who return home at the advice of police to inspect homes and businesses can claim on travel insurance for extra travel costs
  • Cover for motorists whose car has been damaged depends on their insurance policy

'Enormous stress'

Insurers are expecting losses to reach more than £200m following nights of violence.

Monday night was described by the Metropolitan Police as the "worst in current memory" in terms of widespread looting, fires and disorder in London. Tuesday then saw the unrest spreading to other towns and cities.

Numerous businesses suffered losses as the result of damage, looting or areas being cordoned off by police owing to the disorder.

Some policies also cover those businesses that were not damaged, but whose trade is affected by the aftermath.

A number of incident response teams attached to insurers are in the areas affected, and those affected are being told to contact their brokers or insurance companies.

Image caption Property has been damaged during the nights of violence in London

"This is a time of enormous stress for them and their insurers will be on hand to answer any questions that they may have," said Nick Starling, of the ABI.

"It is important for people to contact their insurer to check what they are covered for and arrange for immediate help."

Steve Foulsham, technical services manager at the British Insurance Brokers' Association, said: "The majority of insurance providers operate a 24-hour claims line and can help people arrange for emergency repairs and the damage to be inspected as quickly as possible."

Deadline

The Association of Convenience Stores has urged shopkeepers to make any claims swiftly. The ABI repeated the plea to householders, some of whom may be required under the terms and conditions of their policy to claim within a certain time period.

The definition of the disorder, such as whether it is categorised as a riot, should not directly affect the cover provided to individuals or businesses. The categorisation of a riot under law depends on whether 12 or more people are engaged in a common purpose.

This was mainly relevant in terms of whether insurers might later be able to claim back their costs from police authorities, according to Keith Lewis, of Zurich Insurance.

However, businesses that have suffered riot damage and do not have property insurance could also make a claim directly to the police under the Riots (Damages) Act 1886, according to City law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain. Notification of a claim must be made with 14 days.

This could also be true of those householders affected who were uninsured, or vehicle owners whose cars have been damaged but only have third party, fire and theft cover.

To claim, people must state the time and date of the riotous behaviour, the address of the property and the claimant's interest in the property and the events that occurred leading to the damage, according to law firm Boodle Hatfield.

The compensation is determined by the relevant police compensation authority. Any insurance payouts will be deducted from the sum, and applications cannot claim for legal costs.

There is some help from charities and local authorities for those affected, especially for those who have had to evacuate their homes.

There are also crisis loans available for those who do not have enough money to cover their short-term needs following an emergency. The loan, from the Department for Work and Pensions, must be paid back, but no interest is charged.

'Leniency'

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) called on the UK tax authority to show some leniency to shopkeepers affected.

"Our cities simply cannot afford for this to continue and it is impossible to estimate how much this is going to cost the business community," said John Walker, of the FSB.

"Until things are brought under control, and businesses are able to claim insurance and open their doors in safety, HM Revenue and Customs must extend leniency to affected businesses - especially to those that have been cleaned out by thieves, or burnt and lost their records."

Business people returning from holiday early, unless advised to do so by police, are unlikely to have any of these travel costs covered by their travel insurance policy.

The British Bankers' Association said that banks had special arrangements in place to assist businesses affected, possibly by offering short-term loans.

Has your property or business been affected by the riots? Are you concerned about claiming insurance? Send us your comments using the form below.

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