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Insurance costs triple despite cladding safety works at Pym Court





Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner met residents at Pym Court to discuss the ‘rapidly escalating’ building insurance costs faced following the completion of post-Grenfell fire safety remedial work.

Pym Court resident Seema Sharma with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the site. Picture: Keith Heppell
Pym Court resident Seema Sharma with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the site. Picture: Keith Heppell

Rules brought in after the Grenfell fire tragedy have seen surveyors acting for mortgage lenders making extra checks to ensure a building’s construction is free of combustible materials and as a condition for approving mortgage applications. A fire safety survey was conducted at Pym Court which did not find serious fire safety problems nor flammable cladding on the building.

The building was granted EWS1 certification, though some remedial work – paid by the leaseholders – was undertaken to meet compartmentalisation requirements, ensuring the building be considered fire safe. However, leaseholders have been hit with a near threefold hike in premiums, from £226.30 per leaseholder per year to £639.34. The insurance broker, Cox Braithwaite, says the decision related to the presence of three materials posing a significant fire risk – timber cladding, wooden balconies and rockclad render, a supposedly Euroclass-graded combustible material.

This is strongly disputed by residents who insist timber cladding comprises a small proportion of the building – a point conceded by the broker (the insurer is Zurich) – and that many residents do not have timber balconies, plus the rockclad render is classed as Euroclass A1, the highest available ranking.

Mr Zeichner believes this case is indicative of a systemic issue with insurers hiking renewal rates. Which? has also identified this as a potential systemic issue, though most of the cases it identifies are ones in which an EWS1 certificate could not be issued as remedial works were not completed.

He has since raised the matter with the Financial Conduct Authority which insisted it could not comment on underwriting decisions, although it has since been instructed by communities secretary, Michael Gove, to review the buildings insurance market for multiple-occupancy residential buildings, together with the Competition and Markets Authority.

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This followed a letter sent by the Labour MP to the communities secretary and business secretary raising his concerns about the case.

Mr Zeichner said: “I am extremely concerned to hear from residents about the pressures they face from rapidly escalating insurance premiums. This is through no fault of their own. Indeed, it is clear to me that the insurance market is not delivering for leaseholders, with residents facing costs incommensurate to the level risk involved.”

A spokesperson for Borehamwood-based Cox Braithwaite said: “In this climate we have found it more difficult to obtain insurance for those buildings in our portfolio where we have the responsibility to insure, although I should stress we are aware of some resident-led developments which have been unable to source any insurance whatsoever because of the make-up of the building.

“We have reviewed terms, negotiated at length with insurers in order to obtain the best terms available, and reduced commission where possible.”

Pym Court resident Seema Sharma with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the site. Picture: Keith Heppell
Pym Court resident Seema Sharma with Cambridge MP Daniel Zeichner at the site. Picture: Keith Heppell

Resident Seema Sharma said: “What we are doing is trying to highlight a potentially bigger problem in the insurance industry for leaseholders across the country. As it stands we cannot appoint our own insurance for the buildings. The freeholders have selected them.

“We, as resident leaseholders, have gone through all the hoops to get the necessary fire safety checks and certification in place. We paid for compartmentalisation works as well. After that was done, the insurance company has responded by nearly trebling the buildings insurance. One thing they mention is timber balconies in some of the building. These have been there from the outset. How is this sensical and how does this justify a trebling in insurance, given the remedial works and certification now in place. Is this profiteering across the board?”



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