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New insurance terms to increase fire safety cover for chartered surveyors

26 April 2021

MORE CHARTERED surveying firms will now be able to obtain improved fire safety cover in their professional indemnity insurance (PII). The new approved minimum wording and insurance rules that came into effect earlier this month will mean that, from 1 May*, insurers must provide cover for fire safety** claims on a property of four storeys or less***.

Since 2020, insurers have imposed a blanket fire safety exclusion on PII terms provided due to concerns following high-profile fire safety failures, meaning that chartered surveying firms have increasingly been left uninsured for fire safety exposure on all aspects of their business.

Hugh Garnett, senior policy specialist at the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) commented: “In recent years, PII has become increasingly more expensive and difficult to secure, especially so for smaller firms. In the past 18 months, we’ve seen increasingly stringent fire safety exclusions being placed on PII policies, reducing the protection for chartered surveying firms and the number of firms who have been able to offer professional advice in relation to those properties with fire safety issues.”

Garnett continued: “The change in the approved minimum wording will provide a welcome relief for chartered surveyors who’ve been unable to obtain fire safety cover and will mean that firms renewing their PII policies from 1 May will have greater coverage.”

Further, Garnett stated: “We continue to work with Government and other industry stakeholders to find practicable and affordable solutions for the profession for properties over four storeys, with the Government’s commitment to developing an indemnity scheme for EWS-1 Form completers.”

According to Garnett: “RICS professionals have a vital role to play in helping to find resolutions. These new terms will mean firms are better protected for their work to navigate this current crisis.”

Clarifying cyber cover

In addition, there is a new insurer requirement from the Prudential Regulation Authority for insurers to clarify cyber cover in PII policies.

The RICS has just issued a new guidance note entitled Risk, Liability and Insurance. The guidance note replaces the 2015 edition for valuers and provides advice to all regulated firms to help them understand and manage the main risks and liabilities associated with professional services provided by RICS members.

The guidance aids RICS-regulated firms on some of the main risks and liabilities associated with surveying work. It also aims to further improve relationships between firms and clients as it sets out clearly where liabilities lie, creating greater transparency between the client and surveyor.

Garnett concluded: “This guidance will help professionals better understand the issues that can arise from providing professional services and take the appropriate steps to control and manage those risks and avoid litigation.”

*Minimum policy wording came into effect on 1 April, but insurers have a dispensation for a month on fire safety and the improved fire safety cover will come into effect on 1 May

**Insurers may apply for a dispensation to exclude such claims

***Fire safety coverage must be provided as a minimum on an aggregate defence cost inclusive basis