Grenfell effect made our flats’ insurance premium ruinous

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I bought my first flat in a four-storey block in 2017. The building had been fitted with insulating cladding two years previously using the government’s Green Homes Grant. The cladding has been certified as fire safe and is still widely used. Despite this, and the fact that the block is only 16 metres high, our existing insurer, Covéa, has refused to renew our cover.

We have found a new provider, Aspen, but it insists that we first remove the cladding at a cost of around £400,000 and then pay a premium of £109,000, which is 600% higher than what we were paying before. The sums have to be divided among 40 flats, which could be ruinous for some leaseholders. Our premiums, if anything, should have gone down because the building has undergone extensive remedial works to improve fire safety.

It appears that, post-Grenfell, insurers and others have been given carte blanche to punish leaseholders for negligent policy-making over the last few years.
JB, Southend-on-Sea, Essex

Thousands of homeowners are stuck in uninsurable or unsaleable flats since the Grenfell Tower inferno exposed the dangers of some cladding materials. Your case is concerning because the block is low-rise and the cladding has been certified by the construction certification body, the British Board of Agrément, as being of “very limited” combustibility.

The problem is that, since the catastrophic regulatory failures that led to the Grenfell tragedy, insurers are wary of any clad buildings and it’s residents who are paying the price.

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The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says insurers can no longer be certain that materials certified as safe in a laboratory would withstand a conflagration in a multi-occupancy building.

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“We have called for an overhaul of the current processes to test products like cladding to ensure that they reflect real-world conditions and the potential for fire to spread,” said Laura Hughes, manager of general insurance at ABI.

Covéa told me information about the safety of different materials and construction methods was constantly changing, and fire-resistant cladding could still be a risk if there was a chance it could be breached in a fire, exposing combustible materials. Aspen said: “We consider each risk on a case-by-case basis and the premium in this one reflected the increased risk associated with this type of building.”

You have now found a lower premium with another insurer, but each flat faces a £1,600 increase in annual service charge to pay for it.

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