First large insurer breaks ranks to say new flood insurance deal unfit for purpose

14 Feb

From Western Morning News (link at end of article)

The Government has been urged to re-think its plan to provide insurance for flood-hit properties after a major under-writer warned some in the Westcountry could be left exposed.

Hiscox is the first insurance firm to publicly raise doubts about the planned Flood Re scheme, the deal negotiated by the industry last summer and currently going through Parliament.

Flood Re is designed to put a levy on most households to keep down the premiums of the 2% homes at highest risk.

Hiscox said Flood Re actively excludes one-in-six households in flood-affected areas, including many properties currently under water in Somerset.  Customers would be at the mercy of the open market, which would mean flood insurance is unlikely to be affordable for many of those excluded. Properties excluded included new homes built after 2009, buy-to-let properties, and higher value properties. Businesses will also not be covered by Flood Re.

Bronek Masojada, chief executive of Hiscox, said: “This week’s events show that the Government’s proposed flood insurance scheme would leave many homeowners in a desperate situation.  What made sense in the heat of negotiation just won’t work in the real world.  “Flood Re is great for Britain in concept, but the Government’s proposals fall short in practice. An urgent rethink is needed.  “We absolutely support a sustainable, mutualised solution to the problem of insurance, but the Government must listen to growing concern from insurers and the public.”

The Federation of Small Businesses (FSB) has called on the Government to offer more insurance protection for businesses when floods strike.  Many small businesses in the Westcountry have been severely damaged in the current floods sweeping through the UK. And with the potential of more flooding to come in future years, the FSB has called on the Government to provide better insurance safeguards to flood-threatened firms.

Flood Re places a cap on the  total cost homeowners in high flood risk areas would have to pay. So a householder in the average band D property will pay no more than an estimated £800 a year.  Adrian Penter, chairman of the Cornwall FSB, said: “We feel is it vital that the Government has a rethink and includes small businesses in its Flood Re scheme.  And it would obviously be a very timely and welcome thing for the Government to do at the moment.”

When visiting Exeter on Thursday, Labour leader Ed Miliband warned that the Government’s deal was full of “holes” and could leave many thousands of Westcountry households without cover.  He met a flood-hit family whose insurance premium has rocketed almost eight-fold in recent years.  He said: “There are lots of people worried about the costs of insurance being driven up and up and so we are looking at how the scheme can be improved.”

The deal agreed this summer followed the end of the “statement of principles”. In essence, the industry pledges to insure the properties at the highest risk in return for guarantees from the Government over investment in flood defences and other pledges, such as the state being an insurer of last resort.
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