Reimagining Reinstatement For Insurance Claims

21 August 2017

There are many ways to rebuild a business after a fire or a flood, but there are considerations when it comes to reinstatement before settling with the insurer.

No one wants to suffer a major loss. But, if it happens, you don’t have to reinstate exactly what was there before.

In many cases policyholders have used insurance proceeds to rebuild on an alternative site, or turn premises that start off as a temporary solution into a permanent home.

Most standard commercial property insurance is flexible enough to allow the insured to do this. Insurance aims to put a business back to where it was before the loss. But policy wordings will allow an insured to “reinstate” in a different manner or on a different site.

Alternative reinstatement opportunities

There are good reasons why a business that has suffered a loss may wish to reinstate on a different basis, explain Ian Fulton and Adrian Brennan, both Partners at Echelon Claims Consultants.

It may be that an alternative reinstatement is an opportunity to make changes to a business premises or to minimize business interruption.

Pitfalls of reinstatement

A few years ago, a leased warehouse and production facility caught fire, greatly inconveniencing the business. Rebuilding the business premises was expected to take two years: six months longer than the insured’s maximum indemnity period.

Rather than suffer a six-month uninsured loss, the policyholder decided to lease alternative premises on a permanent basis.

According to Brennan, the claim highlights a common pitfall with reinstatement claims. “People tend to take an over-optimistic view of how long it takes to reinstate a business. In this claim the insured leased the premises, so the rebuild was in the hands of the landlord, who will often have a different agenda,” he says.

In this instance, the landlord wanted to rebuild in a different style, which would have taken longer than a like-for-like build. The demolition of the site was also complex and took four months.

“While it is good that insurers are flexible when it comes to reinstatement, policyholders need to be mindful of the potential issues,” advises Fulton.

For example, relocating to a new site or temporary premises will come with additional costs that may not be covered by insurance.

In the case of the warehouse fire, the insured had to fund the residual value of the capital expenditure incurred in upgrading the energy supply at the new premises.

And while business interruption cover should fund a temporary workaround, insurers will test the economics of the additional costs incurred in mitigating the loss.

The policyholder can purchase additional increased cost of working cover to recover any uneconomic expenditure incurred.

As noted, insurers will also expect to realize any residual value of assets, such as purchase of temporary equipment.

Paying the price to reinstate

While usually willing to be flexible, insurers will limit their liability to the cost of reinstating at the original site.

“Insurers may be prepared to offer a cash settlement that allows you to relocate or reimagine the business. But if you intend to do something radical then this should be raised as soon as possible,” says Brennan.

Fulton agrees: “Reinstatement clauses give insureds considerable flexibility and the opportunity to make changes to their business. But you will need to make decisions quickly and communicate with your adjuster and insurer at all times."

For further information on Business Interruption insurance, please contact Jason Trimble, Managing Director – National Broking Leader, at ClientFirst@jltcanada.com.