In this guest blog, Jennifer Amphlett explains why Zurich is supporting the Healthy Homes Campaign.
Poor quality housing – affecting both new builds and conversions – is a major cause of claims. Fire damage or escape of water are common causes of claims from poorly constructed homes. These can have devastating consequences for residents, resulting in financial hardship and physical and mental health impacts.
As an insurance provider, we have tried to recognise the impact of incidents extending further than the physical and have thought beyond our traditional role of repair and replace. For example, we extend a free counselling and wellbeing service to all Zurich customers and their immediate families who make a claim.
The Healthy Homes Bill would be an important first step in driving up standards and resilience for new homes. It would send out an important message that building standards are not there to be met to the bare minimum.
Currently, the UK’s Building Regulations are limited to ensuring life-safety from fire in the home and workplace. This means that the single legal purpose for the protection of buildings from fire is to ensure that the property remains structurally stable for long enough to support complete occupant evacuation. The problem is that the low bar of ‘evacuation before collapse’ can lead to designs with little intrinsic resilience yet are legally compliant. It gives no consideration to the long-term impacts on residents who are either displaced or lose personal possessions, especially in terms of their mental health.
From an insurance perspective, this means that increasingly the result of fire is the complete loss of the building. This clearly undermines the potential sustainability benefits associated with modern methods of construction (MMC).
We hope that the future of building regulations, kickstarted by the Healthy Homes Bill, will ultimately consider a regulatory structure where property protection is a mandated objective within future planning regulations. While we recognise the need for more affordable homes, we must also ensure that these are fit for living and future climate conditions.
Jennifer Amphlett is Senior Public Affairs Manager at Zurich Insurance UK – one of the largest insurers of property in the UK, safeguarding residential, commercial and municipal building stock. The views expressed here do not represent TCPA policy.