Recent incidences of damage and looting following disturbances in England (August 2011)

The recent disturbances across London and other cities in England have shocked us all over the past few days. Very significant damage has been caused to property, both the fabric of buildings as well as contents of shops, warehouses and private dwellings. Whilst things seem to have settled down a little in London overnight (Tuesday 9th August), we can only guess if this situation will continue or if further disturbances will occur in the next days/weeks.

In the circumstances, we urge you to consider the information below, both for those of you that may have suffered damage already or those that have property which continues to be at risk.

Policy coverage for such incidents may fall under any of a number of headings e.g. Fire, Riot, Civil Commotion, Malicious Damage and Theft. These perils will generally be included in most ‘comprehensive’ policies although cover for unoccupied properties may be restricted to the perils of Fire, Lightning, Aircraft and Explosion.

Your policy may contain a condition that you notify the police within a specified timescale e.g. 7 days of the occurrence (specifically for riot damage and sometimes for malicious damage). If your property is damaged as a direct consequence of these disturbances you should notify the police and keep a written copy of that notification and also obtain an incident number from them as evidence for the insurer/appointed loss adjuster.

You should also notify your insurer/appointed loss adjuster of the loss as soon as practicable and certainly within the notification period provisions stated in your policy. You will also need to provide them with full details of your loss. Your insurer will handle the claim in the usual way and seek to recover any insured losses from the relevant police authority in the event that a riot is declared.

Under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 (RDA), the local police authority has a legal responsibility to reimburse persons who sustain damage but any claim for compensation must be made in writing and received by the local policy authority wihin 14 days of the alleged incident. The law defines a riot as “12 or more persons must be present together and use or threaten unlawful violence for a common purpose and the conduct of them (taken together) is such as would cause a person of reasonable firmness present at the scene to fear for his/her personal safety”.

Compensation under the RDA does not apply to personal injury, damage to property outside of buildings including vehicles left on public highways, goods left for repair and consequential losses.

To date, we do not believe that a riot has been declared in any of the disturbance areas in London or the other affected parts of England and the police will be reluctant to take this step as the financial consequences will then fall on them. Claims are more likely therefore to be dealt with under the headings of Fire, Malicious Damage and Theft by insurers, with little opportunity to recover their outlay.

If you wish to discuss any specific aspects relating to insurance coverage for loss or damage resulting from these disturbances or have any other queries, please contact your usual Gallagher Heath contact.

Gallagher Heath – Real Estate 10th August 2011

Gallagher Heath is a trading name of Heath Lambert Limited, which is authorised and regulated by the Financial Services Authority. Registered Office: 9 Alie Street, London E1 8DE. Registered No.1199129 England and Wales.