Discussions between government and insurers about improving the availability of professional indemnity insurance (PII) for fire safety assessors have been “positive”, housing minister Christopher Pincher has said.
Pincher (pictured) added that a number of options were being investigated to help the situation, but did not give any idea of when a solution would be put in place.
The housing minister also admitted the government did not know how many buildings still required surveys, although its own figures suggest this could be as many as 58,000.
PII coverage has been one of the main problems holding back the risk assessment of high rise buildings, especially those with potentially flammable cladding attached.
As Mortgage Solutions reported in July, there were fewer than 300 qualified chartered fire engineers available to carry out an external wall survey (EWS1) to assess the suitability of cladding on high rise buildings.
Government has since agreed £700,000 in funding to train more surveyors to the required standard but a lack of PI insurers is also holding back availability.
Pincher was responding to a written question from Labour shadow cabinet office minister Helen Hayes who asked what the timeframe was for issuing additional guidance on indemnity insurance.
He replied: “My department has been engaging with the insurance industry to investigate commercial and government solutions that improve the availability of professional indemnity insurance solutions for key building safety professionals, including those working on the EWS1 process.
“This is a highly technical area with complex market dynamics, however, discussions have been positive and a number of options are being investigated.”
Around 58,000 buildings require EWS1
Hayes also asked what recent estimate has been made of the number of buildings awaiting a survey and what the timeframe was for resolving that backlog.
Pincher responded: “The EWS1 process is not a government form or regulatory requirement, and the department does not hold data on its use.
“Government has announced the provision of £700,000 funding to train more assessors. This will help speed up valuations where EWS1 forms are justified.”
However, according to the latest data from the Ministry of Housing Communities and Local Government, there are 88,000 buildings in the UK above 11m in height.
Of these, following the agreement last month, the department estimates that only 30,000 do not require an EWS1 form, meaning around 58,000 still do.
Owain Thomas is features and contributing editor of Mortgage Solutions and editor of Specialist Lending Solutions.
He also has experience in the protection, pensions, workplace benefits and HR areas.
Owain has won two Headline Money Awards and the Protection Review’s Journalist of the Year award.