When it comes to a self build project, planning is key

Deciding to build, renovate or extend a property involves a lot of planning. The risks associated with such a project are quite varied and diverse. It is a serious investment that requires the protection of the right insurance package and specialist risk and insurance advice from a construction professional.

There are a number of online ‘self-build’ insurance ‘products’ that can be purchased with a minimal question-set and with little or no advice around how to assess risk, your legal duties, which aspects are insurable and your options as to how you can effectively transfer the risk economically.

If something does happen, it is important that you have the support of a broker throughout the claim process to ensure your losses are covered in the most cost-efficient way.

The first thing we discuss with clients looking to manage a renovation, extension or a completely new build is awareness of the CDM Regulations and how they apply to the project. Unless experienced in the construction industry, most people are unaware that since 2015, these regulations now apply to all UK construction sites, regardless of size or value.

Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015

The Construction (Design & Management) Regulations 2015 (referred to as CDM) are the main set of regulations for managing the health, safety and welfare of UK construction projects and apply to all building and construction work and includes new build, demolition, refurbishment, extensions, conversions, repair and maintenance.

The CDM regulations place responsibility for managing the health and safety of a construction project on three main duty holders as outlined below.

The client has overall responsibility for the successful management of the project and is supported by the principal designer and principal contractor in different phases of the project. For the successful delivery of a project, good working relationships between the duty holders are essential from the start.

  • The client ensures that the construction project is set up so that it is carried out from start to finish in a way that adequately controls the risks to the health and safety of those who may be affected.
  • The principal designer manages health and safety in the pre-construction phase of a project. The role extends to the construction phase through the principal designer’s duties to liaise with the principal contractor and ongoing design work.
  • The principal contractor manages the construction phase of a project. This involves liaising with the client and principal designer throughout the project, including during the pre-construction phase.

Depending upon the nature of the project, the principal designer and principal contractor may be supported by designers, sub-contractors and workers.

Project phases

There are three important phases of a project: before, during and after construction or building work.

They are outlined as –

  • The pre-construction phase: the inception, design and planning stage of a project (before the construction or building work starts), although it is acknowledged, design and planning continues into and through the construction phase.
  • The construction phase: the start-to-finish stage of the construction or building work
  • The post-construction phase: the practical completion of the construction or building work, including handover.

Designers and contractors should be appointed at the earliest opportunity to help prepare and plan your project. You should also get involved so you can give your views as and when required.

Experience has shown that, when designers and contractors are involved early in the project, everyone is better able to plan ahead and solve problems together to deliver a more successful project.

Even the simplest tasks, such as arranging routine maintenance or minor building work, require adequate time to plan and manage the work safely.

We have a CDM Pack of helpful documents to help you understand your responsibilities under these important regulations. Can these be digitised and made available on the website / as a download?

Insurance for your Project – the right insurance product and cover

Now the CDM roles have been clarified, we can now discuss how best to insure your project.

At this stage, packaged insurance products are useful in combining the various elements of cover required, but we would always advise you to seek the advice of a construction specialist broker on which product and cover options are best for you and your project to prevent underinsurance, gaps in cover and dual insurances.

If you are the ‘client’ (or employer), you must consider whether you intend putting a formal contract in place between you, the ‘contractor’ and possibly the ‘designer’ too.

Contracts for all types of projects are available from various sources (e.g. JCT, trade associations), however we would recommend that you seek appropriate professional legal advice when considering which contract is most suitable for your project.

Contracts can help all parties agree and clarify insurance responsibilities for a project. They certainly help us understand the insuring responsibilities on a project and ensure we provide the right advice.

The JCT Minor Works Building Contract (Minor Works) is designed for smaller, basic construction projects where the work is of a simple nature. The insurance provisions are therefore shorter and simpler than those in other contract forms, such as the JCT Design & Build Contract. However, it is still very important to carefully consider the insurance provisions contained in Section 5 of this contract form and ensure you meet project requirements.

See here for more detail on the insurance requirements under JCT Minor Works Contract (2016)

Insurance Options

Public Liability Insurance

Once a plot of land for a new build project has been purchased you have a legal duty of care and are legally responsible for it.

Public liability (or land owners liability) insurance protects you against the cost of unanticipated incidents that can occur and where property owners are legally liable –  such as trip or fall injuries to third parties or visitors – whether the injured party is there for legitimate purposes or not.

Public liability insurance for a plot of land only is not compulsory, but it is important to protect yourself for your legal duty of care as a property owner, whether it contains existing structures, material storage or even if the land is vacant with little or no apparent hazards.

Public liability insurance provides cover for claims from third parties for injury or property damage.

Most contractors already carry public liability insurance however this doesn’t protect you if you are found at fault for an incident on site, unless there is a contract in place to make the contractor responsible for insuring against third party injury and property damage for the duration of the project.

It is not unusual for public liability insurance limits of £5 or £10 million to be carried or requested for public liability insurance. The cost of injury claims on construction sites in the UK can currently reach as much as £25 million.

Employers Liability Insurance

If your project involves directly employing trades you will require employers liability insurance. It is also a legal requirement for all UK limited companies to hold employers liability insurance.

This insurance cover is much like public liability but designed to cover contractors working, or ‘employed’ for your site. This works in two ways in that it will cover a contractor should they have an accident on site you are held negligent for but also acts as contingency cover for injuries to employees of contractors should your contractors insurance fail.

In a self-build project, you may be held legally liable for a contractor’s injury on site. Something as innocuous as providing a set of ladders to a contractor, who subsequently falls and sustains injury can, and probably will, lead to a claim against you. Claims of this nature can be expensive in providing compensation for potentially long-term injuries and high legal costs.

Although the current legal limit of cover is £5,000,000, insurers will provide you with a limit of £10,000,000 as standard. No excess applies.

Contract Works (or Contractors All Risk) Insurance

This insurance is designed to cover the new ‘works’, materials, fixtures and fittings involved in the project on an ‘all-risks’ basis. Correctly and comprehensively insuring what you are building from start to finish is a key part of managing the risk of any building project.

You should also be aware of the high risk of site theft of tools and materials as well as malicious damage.

Once your materials arrive on site, they are vulnerable, particularly if you do not have a facility to store them securely. Small domestic projects are targeted due to the relative lack of security compared to a larger site development. The right contract works insurance is therefore an important part of your insurance package.

Contract works cover also covers you for weather events such as storm and water damage as the property is unlikely to be completely weatherproof and secure. Risks of fire and water escape are also common for project nearing completion and as internal fit-out is completed.

Your contractor may hold their own annual contract works insurance. However, as you may not be able to ascertain the cover limitations, you should consider placing this insurance yourself. Sometimes policy limits and conditions are insufficient for your project. Sometimes banks or loan financiers will request their interest to be noted on the contract works insurance to protect their financial investment.

With all insurances on an ‘all risk’ basis, our advice is always to carefully consider the policy terms,  conditions, warranties and especially exclusions – ‘all risk’ insurance policies can be defined by what they exclude, not what they can appear to cover. Again, speak to a broker to fully explain the limitations of these polices to you.