Unoccupied Building Policy Update – September 2020
During the course of the UK-wide lockdown, many businesses and organisations that once operated predominantly from offices, retail units, factories and warehouses were forced to either close or operate remotely in order to ensure their workforce is complying with government guidance. This resulted in an increase in Unoccupied Buildings which, in turn, led many insurers to edit their policies to reflect this. However, as lockdown measures ease, and staff return to their previously vacated premises, policies are once again changing.
For 120 days, the majority of insurance providers did not apply certain standard restrictions in their policies for unoccupied properties. Some insurers are using different dates for the flexibility to end. This means that buildings that still remain closed will now be treated in line with the insurer’s normal approach to unoccupied buildings and the terms and conditions of the policy will remain the same. Other policy conditions will apply but if you are a client who has any questions about your policy we encourage you to speak directly to your dedicated Griffiths & Armour broker.
We have listened to our clients’ questions and provided answers and guidance in relation to their insurance programme. We would like to share some of those frequently asked questions and hope they provide some clarity.
What are the circumstances where exemptions may be considered?
- Government Guidance
Where government guidance states that premises cannot reopen and must remain closed, insurers will consider waiving the requirement that combustibles be removed from the building.
- Single Owner Businesses
Single owner businesses that are forced to close for two weeks due to the owner having to self-isolate will likely be granted an exemption. The premises will not be treated as empty or not in use for the period of short term closure.
Another circumstance which will be considered is if a building has to close due to an occupant reporting that they have COVID-19 symptoms. If this occurs, buildings will be expected to reopen as soon as the cleaning is completed. The closure for cleaning will be considered as a short-term closure and the building will not be treated as empty or in use for this period.
- Local area lockdowns
The original concession held by brokers on buildings closed as a consequence of the UK-wide lockdown will apply to any buildings that are forced to close with an area that is locked down to control a spike in COVID-19 infections. However, this will only be available for 30 days or until the date upon which the local lockdown restrictions end.
In some instances, additional premiums may be required.
We have manned security in our premises – how does this impact our policy?
Offices that remain unoccupied as a result of COVID-19 must comply with a security and inspection condition. If an office has manned security or a building manager then this would be deemed as occupied. However, having other tenants in the building does not.
I own a business and our offices still remain closed due to staff working from home. Is my office classed as an unoccupied building?
If a property remains empty as a result of businesses choosing to work from home then they need to comply with a security and inspection condition with immediate effect. An empty property is a change in circumstances that insurers would normally be advised of and at that point insurers will underwrite the risk and apply terms or restrictions.
It is common knowledge that during lockdown properties have been empty and as a result many insurers extended this cover with no imposed terms or restrictions. Insurers are using different dates for this cover to end, but it is still important to ensure that properties remain secure and inspected.
Peter Maher, Client Services Director, said:
As businesses return to their offices, factories and shops following, in many cases, a long period of unoccupancy, insurers are now looking to remove the flexibility regarding unoccupancy conditions which they previously provided. It is therefore vital that we as your brokers, are advised of any continued unoccupancy. It is clear that many businesses are adopting different strategies regarding their return to their place of work dependent upon their requirements at this current time, however armed with all of the relevant information your broking team can negotiate with insurers to ensure the widest protection and clarity of both unoccupancy requirements and cover.
If you have any questions about your policy, we recommend that you get in touch with your Griffiths & Armour broker who will be happy to assist and offer guidance. Alternatively, you can submit your enquiry to Peter Maher, Client Services Director, by clicking below.