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Whilst all premises are potential targets for arson, some property types are statistically more vulnerable than others, and come with a number of risk factors of which insurance brokers need to be aware.

Unoccupied buildings, farms, newspaper premises, schools, places of worship and animal research establishments all face a higher-than-average risk of being targeted by arsonists, indicating specific motivations for the crime.

According to recent Government statistics, 20% of fires in dwellings are caused by arson. When it comes to business premises, that figure rises to 28%.

So what do insurance brokers need to know with regard to arson and protection by insurance?

Brokers’ responsibility

Most property insurers will pay out in clear cases of arson (whereby the person who set fire to the property has been proved not to be ‘the insured’ or somebody acting on the directions of the insured). However, insurance brokers should inform their customers that they may still be held liable, in the case of arson against their property, should a combination of instances such as the following occur:

  • They didn’t conduct a risk assessment on their property, taking into account the path of potential arsonists.
  • They knew about a potential fire risk on their property (or there was a clear fire risk that they claim to not recognise), and they did nothing to reduce this risk.
  • They didn’t comply with applicable safety legislation, i.e. the Regulatory Reform (Fire Safety) Order 2005 in England and Wales, the Fire (Scotland) Act 2005 in Scotland, and the Fire Safety – (NI) Regulations 2010 in Northern Ireland.

Precautionary security measures

Many property insurers will list precautionary security measures which they recommend in order to reduce the risk of arson to a property. These measures will vary by insurer, and some will only be necessary depending on the type of property being insured (see for example the more at-risk property types listed above). Insurance brokers are in a position to highlight these measures to the customer, to help them protect their property.

These precautionary security measures may include your customer installing:

  • Fencing around the perimeter of their propertyAn intruder
  • An intruder alarm on the propertySecurity lights above the property’s doors and windows
  • Security lights above the property’s doors and windows
  • Closed Circuit Television (CCTV) to the outside of the property that can be viewed and operated from a remote location

There are also less obvious ways in which your customers can reduce the risk of arson to their property, including ensuring that all letterboxes have a metal receptacle that catches anything that comes through their letterbox, sealing up all unused letterboxes, and sealing any gaps under external doors.

In the case of business premises, brokers should advise their customers that care should be taken in allowing employees or other contacts a key to their property.

Unoccupied property insurance

When speaking with customers, insurance brokers should enquire as to whether the property a customer is looking to insure, will be left unoccupied for more than thirty days in a given year, as insurers (correctly) deem properties that are left unoccupied for blocks of time to be significantly more vulnerable to arson.

In some cases, property insurance policies may only allow properties to be left unoccupied for under thirty days per calendar year. So if your customer informs you they’ll spend several months (or even half the year) away from their property, you may wish to point them in the direction of unoccupied property insurance, which will provide them with cover during their time away from the property.

Stride Underwriting have a wealth of experience within the UK insurance market, and are committed to delivering excellence to all their clients. For further advice on how insurance brokers should provide information on arson, or any other issues, to their customers, contact us today or see our page about our broker services.