Time of upload: 21.05.2018 – 8.52
We will continue to update this page regularly, as and when is necessary.
The recent events at Grenfell Tower are tragic with wide-reaching impact and we have had a number of queries from customers, brokers, government and other parties.
We have created a multi-disciplinary group to collate and review customer queries and to provide specific technical support and guidance where appropriate.
In response to the customer queries we have received, we have provided the following information, which you may find useful. If this information does not answer your queries, please speak to your usual Zurich representative.
1. The relevant fire safety regulations* provides that your fire risk assessments of buildings should be reviewed and updated as required, and should include the following actions:
- An understanding of and completion of outstanding actions
- A review of fire evacuation and emergency plans to ensure that they are up to date. The maintenance of fire safety equipment and systems (i.e. through the use of a suitable checklist)
- If you are a Zurich customer, you may also find it helpful to review any Risk Improvement Actions we have issued to you
(Please note: fire risk assessments should be carried out by a competent person with due consideration to their experience relative to the nature of risk, including any appropriate expertise and specialisms held. See question 8 for more information).
Specific guidance around fire risks assessment can be found in the Local Government Association guidance document – ‘Fire Safety in Purpose Built Blocks’ https://www.local.gov.uk/fire-safety-purpose-built-flats.
*Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005; Scotland – The Fire Safety (Scotland) Regulations 2006; Northern Ireland – The Fire Safety Regulations (Northern Ireland) 2010
2. All relevant findings or changes should be communicated to residents and other key stakeholders.
- All resident actions and / or changes in responsibilities, actions or procedures should be communicated effectively with a confirmation that the communications have been understood.
- Typically, your Local Authority, Fire Authority, Tenant Management Organisation or Landlord Managing Agent would be available to support these communications and should also be made aware of any findings.
3. Review your building, construction and materials
A. In accordance with government guidance customers should check existing buildings, including the testing of existing cladding systems.
B. Customers may find it helpful to compile a list of properties over 7 storeys high for additional focus.
C. Construction and refurbishment contracts should also be reviewed to establish the type of cladding systems used.
D. Any concerns around either the cladding systems or fire risk assessments should be raised with your local Fire Service and the Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) to formulate guidance on future steps.
E. For all contracts and/or construction of this nature, please contact your usual Zurich representative who will be happy to provide support where required.
We welcome the Hackitt Review’s recommendation for a new regulatory framework which is more coherent, consistent and not subject to commercial pressures. We were actively involved with the Review process, submitting evidence which looked holistically at the building regulations landscape.
Whilst this is a positive step in the right direction we remain concerned that issues surrounding the use of combustible materials or untested cladding have not been fully addressed and will be responding accordingly to the Government consultations.
Q1: How did Zurich respond to customers impacted by this event?
We proactively identified any customers that were in close proximity or who may have had a relationship to this tragic event, and we have reached out to them to offer our support and guidance. This included:
- Appointment of specialist remediation companies to assist with debris and contamination clean up;
- Extending our cover free of charge on local buildings to house hundreds of individuals;
- Engagement with our panel of alternative accommodation providers to understand what their capacity was in case our customers needed to call upon them;
- The offer of media support and guidance; and
- Offered specially trained counsellor services via our medical management unit.
These were accepted to varying degrees, and we remained focused in flexing our responses according to the individual requirements of our customers.
Our major loss proposition centres on the appointment of a properly resourced and mobile team of experts from day one, early determination of policy coverage, clear communication strategies, site visibility, consideration of broader community implications and individuals’ needs, provision of early interim payments where appropriate and clearly signposted milestones and check points. It was not a requirement to deploy all of these elements, but our proposition was deployed and utilised where it could provide customer and community benefit.
Subsequent to the initial, customer focused activity we have formed a cross-functional working group to ensure a single focal point for all Grenfell related activities, both internal and external.
Q2: What involvement do you have in the Public Inquiry? What information have you been asked to provide?
As you’d expect we fully support the Public Inquiry and the Independent Review of Building Regulations and Fire Safety (the Hackitt Inquiry). We will continue to interact with both inquiries and future government consultations in an open and transparent manner, providing information where requested and sharing our expertise where applicable.
Q3: What are the types of composite panelling and cladding? And which ones are more acceptable and which are not?
There are many different types of composite panels and cladding available. As such this is an incredibly difficult topic to provide advice on without the full specifics as to the proposed use of a particular product, including where and how it is to be used.
The combustibility of insulation material, even when not part of a panel system, should be considered carefully. Insulation, and insulation within composite materials, can generally be regarded under the following ascending categories; Combustible, Fire Retardant, Approved Fire Retardant, Fire Resistant and Incombustible. Our strong recommendation is that the materials used should be fire resistant or incombustible. Ultimately we require that they comply with the relevant Building Regulations and Standards applicable at the time of installation including the test criteria for their situation, location and the circumstance they are used in.
Any concerns around cladding systems and fire risk assessments should first be raised with the MHCLG and the relevant Fire & Rescue Service. Expert opinion should be sought where there is any doubt in the potential fire performance of any cladding system, or the overall fire performance of a building, and any review findings discussed and agreed with the relative stakeholders, including the enforcing authorities. For any insurance related queries or further support required, please contact your usual Zurich representative who would be happy to provide support where required.
Q4: Are my properties and liabilities still covered, even if I have some buildings with similar cladding as Grenfell Tower and I do not make immediate changes?
Zurich continues to work with customers to use our expertise and risk insight to help you manage these exposures. It is not our intention to change or withdraw coverage for our existing customers provided that appropriate actions are taken to address the improvements required.
Specifically, where buildings have been identified as having unsuitable cladding and/or where the relevant assessments and tests have demonstrated that cladding should be removed and replaced, we expect customers to share their proposals for the remedial works, including the scope of works and proposed timeframes for completion.
As the government work progresses to implement the Hackitt recommendations and any further measures to improve fire safety, we will continually review our position in the light of any updated guidance. Safety of life must be the primary concern. Therefore, we do expect our customers to implement any government health and safety requirements. We would additionally encourage you to review and ensure that you meet all insurance requirements (including risk improvement actions and fair presentation of risk).
Q5: What information will you now need to provide me with cover? What will you do if you receive back information that causes you concern?
We will be requiring the usual information on location, the number of storeys, construction features of properties, particularly those that are non-standard, and risk management practices.
For non-standard risks a full cross-section specification of the building construction should ideally be provided. Whilst it is possible to identify potential issues with specific components of a building, a full view can only really be formed when all components are viewed as a whole (for example a wall system with external cladding may behave differently if it either has or does not have a void within it). As much information as possible in relation to the construction of non-standard risks should be presented to us, in order to ensure a full understanding of the potential exposures is provided.
Within significant property portfolios it is only feasible for Zurich to survey a proportion of the properties over the term of the policy where there is a particular reason to do so.
Each case is considered and underwritten on its individual merits. However, as a general rule, Zurich will continue to work with customers to use our expertise and risk insight to support you in managing these exposures.
Q6: We have identified a block being high risk and are looking to vacate the occupiers whilst remedial works are conducted. Can I claim for my loss of rent/increased costs/alternative accommodation costs?
The MHCLG has stated that in the case of the most serious risk, consideration must be given to moving all residents out of the block until satisfactory remedial work has been done.
Sometimes extensions to Business Interruption covers are provided which may afford some indemnity in this scenario. This does depend on the policy wording applicable to each customer. Please refer any questions you may have to your usual Zurich representative.
Even if your cover does not respond or is limited, we may still be able to help by using our network to support you, for example putting you in contact with our partners for alternative accommodation.
Should you require clarification on any specific circumstance, please contact your usual Zurich contact.
Q7: What is your position regarding the provision of cladding on an existing property?
We accept that there are many reasons to clad an existing building. We strongly recommend that all refurbishment contracts are reviewed to establish the type of cladding systems being proposed, that the specifics of the property are considered and appropriate cladding system and components are used.
We strongly advise against the use of combustible materials in such systems including materials described as “Fire Retardant”. Our strong recommendation is that the materials used should be fire resistant or incombustible. As with any building systems, it is essential that the materials, systems and overall installation, comply with the relevant technical standards and meet the appropriate test criteria, both at design stage and once installed/completed. Installations must be in strict accordance with the regulatory requirements and technical guidance. Robust measures and procedures are also required to ensure this compliance is maintained throughout the life of a building.
Any concerns around cladding systems and fire risk assessments should be raised with the relevant Fire & Rescue Service, the MHCLG or your Building Control provider.
For all contracts and/or construction of this nature, please contact your usual Zurich representative who would be happy to provide support where required.
Q8: What information can you provide regarding sprinkler systems?
A number of organisations are considering the provision of sprinkler protection in High Rise Residential Accommodation. The following Q & A’s may offer some assistance to those considering the benefits of sprinkler protection:
Are all sprinkler systems the same?
No, some are designed primarily for Life Safety and some for Property Protection.
Presumably systems designed for life safety are the better quality installations?
Zurich endorses systems that are capable of protecting both people and property because life safety is paramount but the disruption to lives and communities can be unfathomable until it happens.
So for a Zurich compliant system, what should I know?
Zurich typically recognizes sprinkler systems designed, installed, and maintained in accordance with LPC Rules for Automatic Sprinkler Installations Incorporating BS EN 12845. While this standard does not specifically address the use of residential sprinklers, their use in residential occupancies is acceptable to Zurich for property insurance purposes and may be also acceptable to any authority having jurisdiction such as Building Control or the Fire Authority.
If I only want to install a system for life safety only, where can I go for help?
Zurich does not specify, assess or approve sprinkler systems that are designed in accordance with ‘BS 9251:2005 Sprinkler systems for residential and domestic occupancies’ as we are not the ‘authority having jurisdiction’ for systems of this type. However a number of agencies can assist, including the local Fire & Rescue Service, your appointed Building Control provider, The Fire Protection Association and the British Automatic Fire Sprinkler Association.
Q9: Who is qualified for undertaking Fire Risk Assessments?
A competent person for Fire Risk Assessments is someone who is listed on a register of fire risk assessors operated by a professional body or certification body, or, preferably, by a company that is certificated by a third party certification body, that is, itself, accredited by the United Kingdom Accreditation Service to operate the certification scheme). Guidance on choosing a competent assessor can be found here: https://www.cfoa.org.uk/19532
It is strongly recommended that in selecting or appointing an assessor, due consideration is given to their experience relative to the nature of risk, and any appropriate expertise and specialisms held by the assessors.
Q10: What are Zurich’s thoughts on Theresa May’s announcement that the Government will fund recladding works for councils and housing associations
Whilst full details of this arrangement have not yet been made public this is clearly very good news for many of our customers. We hope that the funds will be available in good time so as not to delay these essential works, which in many cases are already underway.
We do however remain conscious that this announcement will not benefit many of our customers in the private sector who will remain liable for meeting such costs and for whom the financing of these works remains a major concern.
Q11: There has already been negative reaction to the Hackitt report in respect of its failure to ban the use of combustible cladding, what is Zurich’s view on this?
We would always advocate the use of non-combustible materials wherever possible and, as such, would support changes in regulation that move toward this position.
Whilst we would expect all risks presented to us to have been constructed in accordance with the regulations applicable at the time of their construction or redevelopment, our appetite and terms will reflect the features of an individual risk.
Our most preferential terms will remain applicable to those buildings incorporating the most favourable features, which would include the use of incombustible materials in place of other less resilient but permissible options.