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What lies beneath?

As the fight for space in our cities and towns increase – disaster restoration issues are too

Research from the Royal Institution of Chartered Surveyors (RICS) shows that the “don’t move, improve” option is a growing trend, due to a combination of high prices and the upheaval that comes with changing mortgages and moving. As a result, the nation’s householders are building downwards, sideways and upwards.

Nearly three in four (73 per cent) homeowners have made improvements to their properties over the past five years. It’s a trend that leading drainage, leak detection and reinstatement specialists to the insurance industry Drainage Advisory Services & Assistance (DASA) has identified that this has led to more unusual and complex claims as homeowners are choosing to build over drains or mains water apparatus.

Andrew Greatorex operations director at DASA explains:

“Where homeowners are planning development, or an extension, water companies require that they make sure that there is no apparatus underground that could be affected.

“These companies will all offer services whereby specialist teams supply maps which show the location of their assets, however following the Transfer of Sewers and Laterals of 2011 (What is this?), these records cannot be relied on as the be-all and end-all as to ownership, as hundreds if not thousands of kilometres of ‘newly’ water-company-owned pipework remain undocumented.

Andrew continues: “Over the last few years we have seen 75% increase in the number of cases where a remodel or property alteration has seen drainage or mains water apparatus concealed.

“This is particularly apparent in London, where space is at a premium, some of the work we have seen is quite unbelievable and particularly challenging to manage effectively.

“It can lead to myriad issues, particularly when disaster strikes. These issues include removal of high-specification, bespoke kitchens and bathrooms and the halting, revision and even demolition of partially completed (or completed) building extensions. Setting aside the disturbance, inconvenience and emotional impact of this kind of development, the financial and environmental cost, whether to insurers or the homeowner themselves, is enormous.

And, it seems the industry in many cases is not prepared when issues occur.

Continues Andrew: “In many cases a loss adjuster will have to call upon multiple trades to coordinate the sanitisation and clear-up following an escape of water or drainage issue when a build over has taken place”

“This increases not only the claim lifecycle but the cost and adds to the inconvenience of the policy holder as they welcome different trades at different times.

“It is a particularly outdated model and there are other options which need to be utilised more frequently. DASA can assist loss adjusters and insurers by managing the entire process, from fixing the escape of water to carrying out any decontamination and subsequent clean up and repair.

This not only has a huge impact on the overall lifecycle of the claim but significantly reduces the cost of the claim, reduces the impact on the environment that ripping out and replacing items creates and most importantly has a positive impact on customer satisfaction”

Homeowners are also spending much more on the improvements they are making in the home.  Over the past five years UK owners spent £295 billion on renovation costs, with the cost of a kitchen now running into tens of thousands of pounds. This in turn leads to more costly and complex claims, its “something that needs to be looked into by the industry as the amount spent on improving homes continues to increase.”