For larger claims, most insurers would expect a building surveyor’s involvement and they may suggest one. You may be surprised to hear that the surveyor’s appointment is independent of the insurer. The policyholder – your client/leaseholder – is free to choose their own surveyor, so you may wish to appoint one that is familiar with the building and the client.
What is the building surveyor’s role?
The surveyor’s job is to assess the damage to the apartment/building ahead of reinstatement. For ‘insured perils’ such as an escape of water, storm or fire, the surveyor will be on hand to liaise with contractors to make the building safe, organise the strip-out and assist with the dehumidification process.
In a similar manner to when a surveyor acts as project manager for major works at a block of flats, they will create a specification of works, gather tenders, and agree a chosen contractor with the policyholder and insurer. The surveyor will continue their contract administrator role through to completion of the project and the policyholder moving back in.
Surveyors can bring in other professionals as needed, such as M&E and structural engineers, H&S consultants, drainage engineers, material experts and tree specialists.
Surveyors can carry out surveys on behalf of a managing agent and their client (e.g. if a worrying crack appeared), and if the issue is then deemed to be an insured peril, a claim can be opened and fees reimbursed by the insurer. Surveyors can help with ‘trace and access’ too.
Surveyors are often invaluable when inexperienced loss adjusters are appointed, as they can guide the adjuster. This happens in times of ‘surges’, when loss adjusting firms are pushed to the limit by multiple claims caused by a weather event. Surveyors can assist with insurance mediation when the insured and policyholder are at loggerheads.
Crucially, the surveyor will ensure all parties are content to sign off on an insurance claim. Would you, a leaseholder, or RMC director be comfortable doing so without a surveyor?
Does the policyholder have to appoint a surveyor?
No, but there are undoubted benefits, such as ensuring the works are completed to the required standard and removing the policyholder’s (leaseholder’s) obligation to monitor and supervise the contractor – difficult to do if the leaseholder is in alternative accommodation.
For claim damage to the common parts, the surveyor will be looking after that too. Remember that the insurer will pay for the surveyor’s services as part of the claim and their participation should put the policyholder at ease.
Does this cross over with the loss adjuster’s or loss assessor’s role?
No. For larger claims, a loss adjuster is appointed by the insurer to administer the claim. The insurers will not want to pay out any more than is necessary for reinstatement, so the adjuster’s role is to safeguard the insurer’s interests. A policyholder can appoint a loss assessor to manage the claim. Their role varies in scope but a core element involves liaison with the appointed building surveyor.
Why types of claims do surveyors deal with?
Just as loss adjusters and assessors get involved when the claim is substantial, surveyors are most often called upon when the loss is large. In a blocks of flats setting, this is most commonly escape of water from one flat into several, flooding, storm, fire, and subsidence.
Earl Kendrick have been involved in numerous claims over the years for which we have acted as first responder and contract administrator, including a fire at a block of flats in St John’s Wood which entirely gutted the two top floors. The reinstatement took months but was ultimately successful.
Earlier this year, a vehicle struck a concrete column of a block of flats and left the scene. The managing agent called us first. We mobilised emergency contractors which led the way to our comprehensive role, the cost of which was entirely covered by the insurance company. There have been numerous escapes of water in the last few years, the latest one causing over £600,000 of damage.
If the building is large, complex, grade listed or all three, the role of the surveyor is likely to be pivotal in ensuring the claim proceeds successfully.
Chris Stansell MRICS MAPM
Earl Kendrick London
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