The Building Research Establishment (BRE) is introducing a national quality mark for new housing that it claims should give home buyers and renters a clear indication of the quality and performance of a new home.
The BRE says it is a “world leading building science centre that generates new knowledge through research. This is used to create products, tools and standards that drive positive change across the built environment.” The BRE claim its ownership structure enables the BRE to be “held as a national asset on behalf of the construction industry and its clients, independent of specific commercial interests.” Allegedly protecting the “impartiality and objectivity of the BRE Group in providing research and guidance.” The BRE Trust is a registered company limited by guarantee and also registered as a charity in England.
A number of stakeholders are currently working with BRE on the development of their Home Quality Mark from its beta testing stage. Of the housebuilders, only Galliford – with its perennial ‘four-star’ HBF-rated Linden subsidiary, ‘minnow’ Cala, and Kier are currently involved at present.
CALA Homes, plan to trial the Mark. Cala Chief Executive Alan Brown said: “Independent benchmarking of new homes is hugely important. For CALA, it provides third party recognition of our commitment to consistently build high quality, sustainable homes. For homeowners, it offers a simple and reliable measure of the energy performance of the property they are buying. We look forward to working with BRE on the new Home Quality Mark.”
The BRE say “the new national quality mark will transform the way consumers choose the homes they buy and rent and will provide house builders with a valuable independent quality mark they can use to highlight the innovative features of their homes and differentiate themselves in the marketplace at a time of rapid growth.”
Is insurance just for peace of mind?
Most people realise how important it is to insure their home and possessions as a safeguard against their worst nightmares becoming a reality. Be it burglary, storm damage, fire or flooding, virtually everyone has insurance which enables them to sleep at night, not worrying about being left out of pocket or with nothing after a major disaster.
Or so you would think. But as keen as the industry is to collect premiums from you, things are quite different when an insurer has to pay a claim. Even a simple small claim such as a handbag loss can result in a disputed claim requiring proof of original costs (receipts) and police crime number etc. Even when the claim is eventually paid (ours took over a month) the following years premium increased by over 30%.
So it is hardly a surprise that this grubby industry is dragging its heels in settling claims from those flooded in January. This, despite the Prime Minister David Cameron saying on national television that he was “putting insurers on notice that they needed to pay up the money fast” So how can it be that, according to the Association of British Insurers, 7,480 householders, that is 40% of those who made a claim for flood damage this year, are still waiting to be compensated by their insurer? The ABI figures also highlight that 2,600 will still be waiting at Christmas! Around a 100 families on the Somerset Levels are still in temporary accommodation, often living in caravans.
The ABI says it does not know the exact number of people living in temporary accommodation and insurers say not all outstanding claims are disputed and think that 85% of the flood claims submitted will be settled before the New Year. That would still leave 15% (nearly a sixth) who are still waiting!
Against expert advice and clear objections from the Environment Agency, local authorities across the country are giving developers planning permission to build new homes on flood plains. In England alone, around 197 developments have been approved on flood plains since 2002 against the advice of the Environment Agency. Around 200,000 homes built on flood plains in the UK, with 38,000 new homes having been built are in areas regarded as high-risk – in other words likely to be flooded.
Even if new homes being built on flood plains are raised above anticipated flood levels, the floodwater will just be channelled elsewhere, perhaps to areas that would have otherwise escaped flooding.
New flood risk maps have been produced by the Environment Agency that, for the first time, also include areas at risk of flooding from surface water in addition to the risk from rivers and the sea. According to The Independent, new mapping techniques used by the EA have reduced the number of homes shown at risk of surface water flooding – when the drainage system cannot cope with extreme heavy rainfall – by 800,000 to 3 million with a further 2.4 million properties are at risk of flooding from rivers and/or the sea.
The new EA flood risk maps will give insurance companies more information to set premiums and could alter the risk profile of homes now shown as at risk of flooding, with some homeowners seeing their premiums increase.
For homeowners that search for the best deals using comparison websites, the average annual premium is £130 according to the AA. However, those that live in areas deemed at risk of flooding pay huge premiums and have excesses that can be thousands of pounds, with insurance companies setting premiums to fully reflect the risk of flooding.
In the past, homeowners in high-risk areas have been subsidised to some extent by those living in regions with a low risk of flooding. However, this has now become unsustainable, with the increasing frequency, number and cost of claims arising from damage caused by flooding since 2007. Some policyholder’s premiums have risen substantially, by as much as 35%, after a revised flood risk assessment by their insurers. Many homes that had been flooded in the past have become virtually uninsurable.