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Dublin: 18 °C Friday 23 August, 2019
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Irish Insurance Federation before committee over flood insurance failures

Representatives from the IIF were before the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht today.

Flooding in the Kilmainham area of Dublin in 2010.
Flooding in the Kilmainham area of Dublin in 2010.
Image: Eamonn Farrell/Photocall Ireland

THE IRISH INSURANCE Federation (IIF) has said that the Office of Public Works (OPW) should come up ‘with a coordinated action plan’ in order to deal with flooding issues in the future.

Speaking before the Joint Committee on Environment, Culture and the Gaeltacht today, non-life insurance manager for the IIF, Michael Horan responded to the difficulties which people who cannot get flood insurance continue to face.

What happens at present is that everyone seems to have an equal say… and in that time residents have to live with the stress of possible flooding at any time.

He went on to say that despite suffering from manpower issues currently, the OPW should be given “the tools to do the job and make them the lead agency”.

Two per cent of people are currently unable to get adequate insurance cover in Ireland.

Chairman for the discussion, Ciarán Lynch TD, asked the representatives from the IIF whether they have a code in place for their members in order to ensure that geocoding (the process of associating latitudinal and longitudinal values for a given address) does not result in the blanket prevention of certain residents getting home insurance.

If I live in an area that’s geocoded, tell me one [insurance] company that I could approach to get out of being geocoded? How can they [owners] get out of the tyranny of geocoding as it applies to them?
We already have a mortgage crisis in this country. This is contributing to that crisis because there are people who cannot sell their homes.

Responding, the chief executive of the IIF, Michael Kemp, said:

Our members tell us that they treat each application on an individual basis. There are different underwriting decisions taken by different insurance companies on the same risk.

Describing where problems have arisen in the past, Kemp said:

The difficulty had been that we operated in isolation. There is much more engagement now on a bilateral basis with the OPW and we would acknowledge that the flow of information has improved a lot.

Responding to the flooding in June of this year, which resulted in 1,260 claims, Horan believes that Irish companies have started to provide a greater service, such as 24-hour helplines and the organisation of alternative accommodation.

“Insurers are seeing more frequent and costlier weather-related losses,” Horan said. “In the boom years there were expensive fit-outs [to homes], resulting in larger flood claims”.

Warning systems

In order to further reduce flood losses, Horan said that the “development of better warning systems were required” and that there were currently too many groups involved where flood-related issues were concerned, including the “OPW, 34 local authorities, Waterways Ireland, the ESB, as well as various other groups”.

Horan reiterated that getting flood insurance ‘is not an issue for the vast majority’, with no more than two per cent of premises effected.

Having been in talks with the OPW over the last year, Horan believes that the management of flooding risks can be improved:

It’s important that the OPW communicates reliable information regarding flood defences in a format that is easily accessible so that underwriters can ensure that flood defences comply… insurers need to have confidence in the OPWs review of standards and the commitment to maintenance of flood defences, once completed.

Aodhán Ó Ríordáin TD said that he wanted to put on record ”the trauma that those affected have been going through”.

They are effectively living in homes that are worthless. In relation to works that have been done, planned, signed off on and completed, the attitude of the insurance companies has not changed one iota.
He went on to say:
The shift in culture and attitude is going to have to change after today. The attitude from the federation seems to be a hands-off, hands-in-the-air, wish-it-was-different attitude. These families have once again been left at the mercy of savage market forces.

Read: House flooded? Insurance advice from the experts >

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Paul Hyland

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