Risky business: don’t risk underinsurance in a tough market

buildings-insurance-valuation

Mark Briggs discusses Benchmark, the cost effective e-valuation service from insurance valuation specialists BCH that ensures your buildings insurance cover is set at the right level.


Damage to property is a fact of life. During the pandemic, fires, floods and water damage may not have made the headlines while we have all had other, more pressing problems to deal with, but they have still cost businesses thousands of pounds to put right. These emergencies are still the most common cause of major loss – and they haven’t gone away just because our thoughts have been elsewhere.

The other issue that has not gone away is that, despite the best efforts of brokers to highlight the problem, well over 80% of all property we see is still underinsured. So now, more than ever, it is important for anyone responsible for securing buildings insurance to make sure their policies are regularly reviewed to ensure cover is adequate. Not many of us are in a position to fund any shortfalls in insurance pay outs that could result from underinsurance.

Here at BCH, the launch of our Benchmark E-valuation service in early 2020 was an immediate solution to the fast changing situation brought by the pandemic last year by offering our customers desk-based advice on property insurance values when we were unable to carry out in-person valuations.

Before the pandemic, we had been working for some time on an e-valuation service. Our soft launch during 2020 and the positive response from customers has driven our decision to extend this service more formally in 2021. Branded as Benchmark, the BCH e-valuation service aims to meet demand in the market for a more cost effective, quick-yet-still-accurate service to verify building insurance values, without the need for a site visit.

“Being able to offer the BCH service to clients is a great benefit to both our customers and us. When quoting for a nurseries’ insurance we are often able to comment on whether we think their sum insured is too low based on our knowledge of the sector and other comparable nursery settings. With buildings, it’s different and needs an expert. We are delighted to be able to recommend the services of BCH to our clients.”

Melanie Smith, Marketing Manager, Stanmore Insurance Brokers

Our service has proved instantly popular with all parties to the insurance contract; insurers, brokers and intermediaries and, of course, property-owners. Benchmark will never replace a fully RICS compliant, site-based reinstatement cost assessment (RCA). But, for smaller, simpler commercial risks and blocks of flats up to £5m and for residential houses up to £2million, it is an alternative which should help customers ensure their property insurance values are set at acceptable levels.

The launch of Benchmark has coincided with a tougher stance being taken by insurers on underinsurance, which is generally only discovered when a claim is made. Loss adjusters and brokers have reported that cases of application of Average (which means claims are reduced related to the level of underinsurance), are increasing. At BCH we are now being instructed by insurers to check the adequacy of insurance values after losses to assist them in considering reducing claims pay-outs. We are also asked by policyholders to challenge the values being used by insurers to reduce claims after loss. Sadly, this is often a desperate attempt to reduce the impact of underinsurance and rarely helps.

Policyholders continually need reminding pre-renewal that the responsibility for setting insurance values ultimately rests with them. Should the values submitted to their insurer be found to be lacking at the time of claim, there are consequences. These are laid out in their insurance contracts and the value of their claim is likely to be affected. What will follow is at best disappointment and, in the worst case scenario, leaseholders and business owners could be looking at financial ruin.

“Not only does our comprehensive Benchmark service utilise the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) and our database of over 50,000 site-based surveys, we are also introducing a new data source – SPONs, it provides the most accurate, detailed and professionally relevant construction price information for the UK. All our Benchmarks are carried out by surveyors who continue to complete site-based Reinstatement Cost Assessments.

Our desk-based e-valuation is quicker from instruction to report; considering this and the limit on liability, Benchmark’s fee is lower than a traditional, fully compliant site-based RCA but not suitable for all buildings.

With the substantial uptake and growth since our soft release in early 2020 we are setting ourselves up for an exciting 2022.”

Lee Bond, Benchmark Principal Surveyor

Even for Insurers, times are hard and the current market conditions and prospects, are about as tough as they get. The attitude to underinsurance at the time of claim is getting tougher. Adequate insurance levels should ensure that policyholders making claims don’t end up victims twice….suffering a loss and then having their pay-out reduced.

You can call us on 01455 293510, email info@bch.uk.com or order a benchmark directly on our website.

If you are a broker, insurer or managing agent, you may benefit from our Portal which through a log-in, enables you to request, manage and track the status of multiple RCAs and Benchmarks for your customers – ask us for more information!