Housing crisis set to worsen as fire experts unable to secure insurance

Fire experts are key to the completion of almost every residential and commercial building, but they won’t be able to approve fire detection systems, fire resistant materials, and electrical smoke controls without first securing personal indemnity insurance.
Housing crisis set to worsen as fire experts unable to secure insurance

Digital Desk Staff

The housing crisis is set to deepen because fire experts cannot get proper insurance that will allow them to sign off on houses, flats and nursing homes, an Oireachtas committee has been told.

Engineers Ireland – the professional body that represents 25,000 building experts across the island – said the crisis has become worse in recent weeks as a handful of British insurers that dominate the market have either hiked premiums, excluded building work from their policies, or withdrawn offering personal indemnity insurance altogether.

As the Irish Examiner reports, fire experts are key to the completion of almost every residential and commercial building but they won’t be able to approve fire detection systems, fire resistant materials, and electrical smoke controls without first securing personal indemnity insurance.

That in turn means everything from individual house refurbishments to whole housing estates cannot be certified and handed over as delivered.

John Power, a chartered engineer and vice-president of Engineers Ireland, told the Oireachtas Finance Committee the insurance issue was deep-seated but had become worse following the collapse of the UK property giant Carillion three years ago, and the 2017 Grenfell Tower fire that claimed 72 lives when its exterior cladding went ablaze.

Personal indemnity insurance

Mr Power said that without a solution “the housing problem will only get worse”. He described it as “a crisis” that will affect “housing, flats, nursing homes, and factories”.

The crisis over personal indemnity insurance is another part of the troubles facing customers of all types of insurance.

It comes after the roster of mostly British-based insurance firms also pulled out of public liability insurances in the Republic that hit creche owners, in particular. The ongoing row about the elevated costs of all types of insurances led to business groups successfully campaigning for the reduction in the payment of personal injury awards.

But the committee heard that engineers and fire certificate experts can’t sign off on almost any building project without the key insurance cover in place.

It may mean that newly built housing estates will not be handed over if fire experts cannot renew their personal cover during the project, Michael Lyons, chair of the fire and safety division at Engineers Ireland, told committee chair John McGuinness.

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