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Owners of heritage properties warned to check contractors’ insurance

  • “Worrying” number of contractors have limited or no insurance cover 

  • Processes which can trigger fires often excluded from cover 

  • Property owners must check contractors’ insurance

Issued: 20 May 2015

The combination of a set of bulldog clips, a halogen lamp and an uninsured plasterer has prompted specialist insurer Ecclesiastical to warn owners of heritage properties to check that tradespeople are properly insured before appointing them to carry out any work on their homes.

The claim that prompted the warning was for a fire which was started when the plasterer, who was uninsured, set up a halogen lamp using bulldog clips to fast dry plaster he had applied. 

Andrew Brown, Ecclesiastical’s Church and Heritage Claims Director, said: “Quite apart from the fact that anyone attempting to dry wet plaster with a halogen lamp should be treated with deep suspicion, this case highlights the fact that owners of heritage property should take care to employ only competent contractors who are able to produce a public liability insurance schedule showing at least £1 million of cover.”

In Ecclesiastical’s experience, a worrying number of contractors either have no insurance cover or have purchased the cheapest available policy with a long list of exclusions.  The biggest problem area – and most common exclusion on insurance policies – involves ‘hot work’.  This is the term applied to any process, such as welding or brazing, which generates sparks which in turn could ignite a fire.

Andrew Brown added:  “We commonly see incidents of fires caused by plumbers using blow torches, painters using hot air guns or blow torches, and contractors using angle grinders to cut up metal fittings.  Flat roof felting applied with a large gas burner is a particular cause of large fire claims. 

What mostly happens is that cobwebs, bird nests or leaves trapped behind what is being heated catches fire and can’t be extinguished because the fire is more or less enclosed within an inaccessible part of the building.”

Advice to property owners appointing contractors is to:

  • Ask to see the contractor’s schedule of insurance.

  • Check that the level of public liability cover is at least £1 million.

  • Make sure that there are no exclusions listed, such as hot work or working at height. As that would make the policy invalid for the work being carried out.

- ENDS -

Media enquiries
Adrian Oldman, PR Manager, Ecclesiastical Insurance
Tel: 0800 783 8141 
Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester, GL1 1JZ.

Adrian Beeby, Ellipsis Communication
Tel: 07879 403564

Notes to editors

About Ecclesiastical
Owned by a registered charity, Allchurches Trust, Ecclesiastical is a unique financial services organisation. With its main operations and headquarters in the UK, Ecclesiastical also operates in Australia, Canada and Ireland.
Ecclesiastical is a specialist insurer of charities, the education and faith sectors, heritage buildings and fine art.
Founded in 1887 to provide insurance for the Anglican Church, the company now offers a wide range of commercial insurances, as well as home insurance, selling through brokers and directly.
Ecclesiastical also offers a range of ethically screened investment funds through its award-winning investment management business, Ecclesiastical Investment Management. Ecclesiastical is one of UK’s Top Company Donors to Charity according to the 2013/2014 UK Guide to Company Giving.
Ecclesiastical’s Group vision, launched in January 2014, states that the Group intends to give £50m to charity between 2014-2016. In 2014 alone the company donated a total of £23.5m towards the  £50m goal.
    Ecclesiastical Insurance Group plc (EIG) Reg No 1718196. Ecclesiastical Insurance Office plc (EIO) Reg No 24869. Ecclesiastical Life Ltd (ELL) Reg No 243111. Ecclesiastical Financial Advisory Services Ltd (EFAS) Reg No 2046087. Ecclesiastical Underwriting Management Ltd (EUML) Reg No 2368571. E.I.O. Trustees Ltd Reg No 941199. EdenTree Investment Management Ltd (EIM) Reg No 2519319. All companies are registered in England at Beaufort House, Brunswick Road, Gloucester GL1 1JZ. EIO and ELL are authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 113848 (EIO) and 110318 (ELL). EFAS and EIM are authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. Firm Reference Number 126123 (EFAS) and 527473 (EIM). EUML is an appointed representative of EIO who is authorised by the Prudential Regulation Authority and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority and the Prudential Regulation Authority. Firm Reference Number 402228.