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Riots: remembering the events of 2011

Mark Shepherd

15,000 people involved; 5,000 crimes committed; 1,860 incidents of arson and criminal damage; 1,649 burglaries; 366 physical attacks and five deaths.

These are the shocking statistics from two years ago when tensions in society in parts of England came to the surface and resulted in serious rioting for five days and nights.

From day one, insurers and loss adjusters were on the ground with those affected, assessing damage and helping customers in their homes and businesses get back on their feet as quickly as possible.  While the cost of the 2011 riots, estimated at £200 million in direct claims, is significant, during the 2007 floods the UK insurance industry handled claims totalling approximately £3 billion.  As an industry we are able to deal with incidents of widespread property damage and customers should feel assured that we have the experience and infrastructure to handle large scale events when they do occur.

Reforming legislation

With virtually all insurance claims across the country settled, now is the right time to review how things could be done better, should a major riot happen again. It is clear that the Riot (Damages) Act 1886, at more than 100 years old, needs updating for modern day society. This is currently the subject of an independent review, after which it will be the turn of the Government to have an input and set out the much-needed improvements.

The process for claiming compensation set down in the Act needs renewing to ensure the most vulnerable receive the most appropriate help at what is inevitably a distressing time. Only then will people, especially those without insurance, get back into their homes and businesses quicker.

Helping those who need it most

Despite its age and the need for modernisation, the existence of the Act is vital in helping the most vulnerable.  Not only does it provide important compensation to the uninsured, it also allows insurers to continue to cover for riot damage in all areas of the UK as a standard part of both domestic and commercial property insurance.  This is not the case in much of the rest of Europe. Those who would prefer to see the Act abolished overall should consider the likely serious consequences for people in riot-affected areas accessing property insurance at a competitive price.

ABI guidance for homeowners and business owners

So if a riot happened tomorrow, what should an affected homeowner or business do?

Today, the ABI is publishing a guide to help homeowners and businesses through the claims process. It answers questions such as what to expect from your insurer during and after a riot and how those without insurance can claim compensation.

The insurance industry will continue to do all it can for its customers. It is now time for the Government and the Police to work alongside us in providing adequate protection to the most vulnerable under the Riot (Damages) Act and committing to those communities that need this legislation to work for them.

Mark Shepherd is the ABI's Policy Advisor, Property

Last updated 29/06/2016