Insurer battles housebuilder over timber frame fire

18 October 2010

Taylor Wimpey and others are facing a £2.6m court battle against their insurers for the catastrophic fire that destroyed a residential block in west London in June 2008, Building magazine reports.

Insurer Brit Insurance Holdings and Heathside (Hounslow) Management Company are also pursuing George Wimpey and timber-frame erector, Brendan Flynn Construction for the costs of rebuilding the blocks, accommodating the displaced residents and damage to residents’ property.

Brit Insurance alleges that cavity barriers were either improperly installed or missing and that flats did not meet building regulations. If fire barriers had been installed correctly, only two flats would have been destroyed, it says.

In June 2008, 75 fire-fighters battled for over a day to extinguish the fire that swept through newly-completed Bennett Close in Hounslow. The roof of the four-storey building collapsed and the first, second and third floors were damaged. Around sixty residents were left homeless for several days.

Experts warned that, if successful, the claim could drive up insurance premiums for timber-frame buildings and put increased pressure on industry.

Jim Glockling, the Fire Protection Association’s technical director and group chair of RISCAuthority, a technical research group set up by insurers, said the action might mark the beginning of the insurance industry’s attempt to limit its losses in such cases.

“If this does form a landmark decision, all future fires in timber-framed buildings will be investigated with this in mind,” he told Building. “When new timber-frame buildings come up to be insured, if there is a suspicion the fire stopping measures aren’t installed properly, a survey may be needed before an insurer will cover it. 

A spokesman for the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said that the single action would not necessarily drive up premiums, but agreed that it was “a timely reminder that will add further pressure on builders using timber frame”

Taylor Wimpey declined to comment to Building and Brendan Flynn Construction was apparently unavailable. 



In the 1970's it was not possible to get a mortgage as an individual for the same reason.Additionally resdual values of timber framed housing -were valued at a lower cost in the market place.In some areas timber framed dwellings were unsaleable due to the condensation problems within the cavity construction due to poor insulation qualities of insulating materials used ,the poor quality of timber and cold bridgeing .The developer took the risk -poor quality control resulted in that risk coming home back to the developer.Accountability should be enforced. The UK thermal conditions do not support timber framed construction even with a brickwork skin.The Developer and his sub contractor should pay the future premiums and pay for the damages if they are negligent - let us see the outcome - I used to be an agent for the import of high quality Nordic timber framed houses. I would never own one :-))

Dr.Keith G Skelton , 18 October 2010

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