Over two in five, or 43%, of commercial properties in the UK are currently underinsured, research by insurance broker Gallagher has revealed.
The study, conducted among business owners and commercial property claims managers, also found that businesses that have not reviewed their insurance could be liable for over 40% of the value of repairs or rebuilds on average due to underinsurance.
A vast majority, or 96%, of the claims managers surveyed reported an increase in the number of properties that are underinsured in the past 12 months, with rapid inflation in the cost of building materials often mentioned as the cause of the rise.
To back the research findings, Gallagher cited an October 2022 official government data showing a 16.7% increase for ‘all work’ year-on year. More specifically, the cost of cement had an increase of 18% between September 2021 and September 2022, the price of steel went up by 13%, and the cost of timber rose by 35% year-on-year.
Gallagher’s research also found that more properties are also underinsured in part due to rising labour costs, according to 61% of claims management experts. When it comes to what’s causing construction labour cost rises, 85% cited inflation, and just over three-quarters, 77%, said that Brexit was a major factor due to the decreased availability of labour.
Unfortunately, the majority (65%) of business leaders who own their premises have not reviewed their commercial property insurance during the past year, indicating that many could now be at risk. Some have gone even longer without looking at their policy, with one in six (16%) not having reviewed their insurance at any point in the last five years.
The most common reasons among business owners for not reviewing their property valuation was thinking that nothing had changed since last time they checked (29%), trying to keep insurance costs down while inflation is causing budget constraints elsewhere (23%), and simply being too busy with other priorities (20%).
Despite this, many who own their premises said that one or more of their properties has needed major repairs (18%) in the past 12 months.
Claims managers also noted that it is taking longer for commercial property repairs to complete – taking an average of an additional 33% compared to this time 12 months ago due to supply chain delays and the lack of available construction workers.
As a result, eight in 10 (805) claims managers said many businesses may have too short a term specified on their business interruption cover – the insurance that pays for loss of earnings while a property is unusable.
“Property underinsurance is at a record high currently because of issues, such as inflation and the rising cost of materials,” Gary Fletcher, Gallagher’s managing director for the South in the UK, said. “However, business owners also often make the mistake that the valuation of the property is based on what it would sell for – and as property prices haven’t changed a great deal over the last year – that the valuation is the same.
“In fact, the valuation is based on rebuild costs which have unfortunately risen dramatically over the last year. As a broker we advise our clients on their insurance, and the need to review their cover when issues like this arise, but some businesses won’t necessarily realise the extent of the issue.”
Fletcher added that business leaders have a range of increasing costs to cope with, as inflation remains stubbornly high.
“The knock-on effect of inflation on commercial property and business interruption insurance shouldn’t be ignored,” he stressed. “Your insurance broker can advise how to go about a valuation to ensure that cover is valid.
“With construction and labour costs as they are – and supply chain issues meaning businesses who need to repair or rebuild might be closed for longer than expected – it is currently very important to make sure you take time to check your cover.”