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Gas Explosion Destroys Block of Flats- Time to check your buildings insurance?

Buildings insurance may not be at the top of your mind when buying a flat, but dramatic accounts of a block damaged by a gas explosion should act as a reminder to all flat owners to check their buildings insurance.

When buying a flat or similar leasehold property, your conveyancer will have checked that proper insurance is in place, and should have explained who is responsible for arranging this. Nevertheless, problems and misunderstandings can occur afterwards, so it is vital to check the details of the insurance as soon as possible.

Photos of this incident show a substantial part of a building in Clacton-on-Sea was ripped apart. Fortunately no-one was killed, but more than 60 people had to be evacuated from their homes. Often when such extensive damage is caused, especially in older properties, it is necessary to rebuild, or demolish, the whole building.

Although destruction of this sort is thankfully rare, think how much worse a flat-owner’s problems would be if it is then found that there are problems with the insurance.

No standard building insurance procedure for flats

There is no standard arrangement for insuring leasehold property such as flats and maisonettes, which is why property lawyers must always investigate the situation during a purchase.  

For large apartment buildings, the freeholder (or usually a managing agent) will almost always make the necessary arrangements and recover the premiums as part of the regular service charge.  

However, this is not always the case with smaller properties, especially where a house has been converted into a number of apartments. Here the owners of individual units may each be responsible under the terms of the leases; if one such owner then fails to insure then there will be difficulties should damage occur.

Absent landlords and insurance

Even when the freeholder is required to insure, they may fail to do so, or not arrange proper cover. This is obviously a particular problem in the case of an absentee landlord.

Flat owners should check what arrangements are in place for their property, and if in doubt, your solicitor will be able to advise. They can also help with problem cases and can arrange indemnity insurance where applicable.

It is also advisable to check that policies are renewed each year – just because everything was OK when you bought the property, does not mean that this will continue to be the case indefinitely.

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