Runaway fires wreak havoc and can have crippling financial ramifications. Fire damage to residential and commercial estates is proving an increased risk for property owners and insurers alike. As such, Santam Specialist Real Estate (SRE) has seen a doubling of fire and fire-related claims over the past three years. The lesson is for bodies corporate and trustees to ensure their estates’ insurance is adequate against fire risk.
Head of Santam Real Estate Karl Bishops says, “Flames, smoke and the water used to extinguish a fire can severely harm buildings and residents’ belongings. If an estate fails to have insurance or is underinsured, it may not be able to rebuild or repair damages, which could place the onus on the owners to pay for repairs. This could lead to arguments and lawsuits down-the-line, especially as the Sectional Titles Act requires bodies corporate to insure buildings in a scheme to the right replacement value, against fire and other risks. Household contents remains the responsibility of the resident.”
He says that usually an insurance policy would have special and/or general conditions like a ‘prevention of loss clause’ stipulating the precautions body corporate must take to prevent losses or accidents. This is often very detailed in terms of fire protection, outlining conditions like the fact that all firefighting equipment must be installed, serviced and maintained in line with the appropriate regulations and bylaws.
Aside from adequate insurance, here are Bishop’s top ways for bodies corporate and trustees to properly manage fire risk for estates, starting by putting a comprehensive fire safety management policy in place which includes the following:
The use of gas for both cooking and heating has become more common. It is vital that these gas installations and connections are regularly serviced. Gas receptacles should also be stored and secured in accordance with regulations.
The provision of a valid electrical and/or gas Certificate of Compliance provides peace of mind by confirming the installation is legally compliant and safe to use.
Here are some general housekeeping tips:
“As a major fire event can have far-reaching implications for estates, bodies corporate and trustees are urged to identify what fire-prevention, early detection systems and firefighting capabilities are in place. Otherwise, there’s the real and dangerous risk of their estates going up in smoke”, concludes Bishop.