The Insurance pandemic that will affect anyone wanting to insure their home extension, garage, swimming pool or new build / pre purchase I am told by over 35 insurance compnanies, is nothing new.
Everyone will be affected by the way Insurance Underwriters, Companies and Brokers have acted, and it didn’t start at the beginning of 2020.
Here is a very basic example of what I am talking about. By law, you must have a Geotechncial assessment of the land you want to build on to make sure your dream construction will stand the test of time.
All too often it doesn’t and you will want to approach your builder, they will pass it to the structural engineer, you will be billed at every stage. Everyone will deny wrong doing. Mostly the the first port (Geo) will be blamed. I know this from personal experience. Have gone to mediation for such claims and been the only practitioner in the room. The rest are the insurance companies representing their clients. The ‘commercial decision’ is that everyone pitch in a few thousand and the people will accept the $100k or so, enough to fill the cracks, paint the place and sign a no further claims agreement. This is a true story.
Geotechnical Engineers are not required by law to hold Professional Indemnity Insurance. The global insurance industry has decided that they will not insure anything that mentions Geotechnical, because, they had so many enormous claims. The head of the Insurance Council of Australia told me “…to be frank, no one will touch anything with geo in it. They are wishy washy and all ways blame the weather or some other non tangible cause.” “The industry does not have the capacity or appetite for this sector”. “You don’t need to be a rocket scientist or read the financial times to know that the industry has been in crisis since 2011.” Lost their appetite and capacity - maybe the are suffering from effluenza
After 33 years on continuous insurance as a Professional Geotechnical Engineer, our insurer for the past 10 or so years has declined to renew. Firstly, they sent through three forms on financial and risk topics then another form about how we are doing in the Covid stakes and a third one that put us in the Architects and Professional Engineering category. After paying our Chartered Accountant to produce the correct figures, they took a week to consider and said they wouldn’t cover anything with Geotechnical in the title.
So. We don’t have the minimum cover to work with our clients of $1,000,000. Our clients are trusted builders and insist on siting insurances a month before they are due. We won’t work with anyone who isn’t covered either. We asked for the $5m possibility so that we could work with an Airport Authority and no less than 20 insurers knocked us back without question.
As the biggest asset you have is probably your house, it would be a pity to go through it collapsing and getting blood from a stone, because no one is insured. We have walked away from putting in a few bucks to make the problem disappear. Why would we pay money, when the very act of doing that is admittance that you were in the wrong. We were not wrong. It was certainly not our fault that the architect, structural engineer, builder etc. did not read the comprehensive report we provided which states what the depth and type of foundations and footings are required, as indicated by the type of land where the structure would be built. We go out to more sites to fix shonky jobs than do the job right the first time / every time than we do for those who must get it right the first time. Repeat business is terrible for us.
We are the type of service that everyone must have, but if no one will insure, then we are out of business. We have kept all our staff on, we are investing everything we have (and don’t have) as a family business to keep it all going. Made it through GFC, Covid so far and packing up next week if we can’t get insurance. Everybody loses their job Even though they are warning that we can expect a 400% jump in premium (we pay $4,500 pa. IF anyone would take it up, but even a $100k excess - still no one is biting. THEN, unless we make over $2m we won’t be touched!
To add insult, I am told by several brokers that this situation has arisen because all insurances come from Europe. They had a terrible time following the incineration of public housing following cladding issues. Oh, and the bushfires were terrible. Poor us. That’s what Geotechnical Engineers do isn’t it?