When it comes to making an insurance claim relating to a block of flats, the main priority is to get the matter sorted as soon as possible. So, if you are a leaseholder with a problem relating to the building and have the insurer’s details, by all means pick up the phone to their claims team.

On the other hand, it may be a lot easier to let the freeholder or management company do it for you – after all it is they who will receive any payments covering contractors’ bills etc. The insurers will in any case advise them that a claim is in progress.

We do suggest that any issues with the common areas of the block should be initiated by the block freeholders or managers, because the logistics of arranging repair works are likely to involve liaison with other leaseholders.

The important thing to remember is that, whoever you are, you should not arrange or authorise any repair works until they been approved by the insurer’s claims team. An exception would be emergency work such as plumbing to stop a gushing leak and insurers would look favourably at reasonable costs. However, you should have been given a 24/7 emergency phone number to claims specialists who can help you find a suitable tradesmen for the work quickly.

When only block managers should make claims

Some leases may specify who can initiate an insurance claim, restricting it to freeholders of building managers. In that case the broker or insurer will need to talk to them.

It’s also possible that your contract with a managing agent includes a commitment for them to manage claims. In that case, do make best use of the service you are paying for. On the other hand, some smaller managing agents, whose business does not require Financial Conduct Authority authorisation, are not allowed to help administer claims at all and will probably have explained that to you at the outset.

How complicated are claims?

How long is a piece of string? It all depends on the nature of the claim but you can get a head start if you can give the claims team as much information as possible at the outset. The address of your building should be enough for them to find your details if you don’t have the policy number to hand.

Be ready to describe exactly what has happened and what the damage is. A key question is whether the risk is under control e.g. water or electricity supply isolated, doors secured, everyone safely out of the flat or whole building as necessary. If you have already had an assessment or repairs and a quote, pass them over. That is often sufficient for small claims but for larger cases, insurers may need to send a loss adjuster and will likely appoint their preferred contractors.

Claims teams can never have too many photographs: close up, wide view and from every angle.

Who are claims handlers?

There’s no need for a claim to be a lengthy or complicated process. Getting it sorted quickly is in everyone’s interests and that’s where a good claims handling team comes into its own.

We think it’s a good idea to ask if your broker has their own dedicated claims team when you are shopping around for an insurance policy and how much autonomy they have to get the job done quickly. Here at Gallagher, the blocks of flats claims team enjoys delegated claims authority up to £100,000. That means that, for all but the biggest claims, insurers trust them to process claims, authorise repairs and make direct payments quickly and without referring back and forth to the primary insurer.

An added bonus is that you will be working with a team that is specialised in leasehold flats and fully understands all the issues around shared building and the management of flats.

Building vs contents insurance

While blocks of flats buildings insurance is usually arranged for by the freeholder block management company, with the costs then shared between leaseholders, the contents of individual flats are not arranged centrally. That is the responsibility of individual leaseholders.

While fixtures and fittings, probably including fitted carpets, can be covered in a buildings claim, damage for moveable furniture, appliances clothing and personal effects would not be covered by the buildings insurance policy. That’s even if your goods are damaged by a leak from upstairs!

As a leaseholder you do need to arrange their own contents insurance. Do not be fooled when you see insurance itemised on your service charge bills – that is almost always going to be insurance for the building(s) and any contents in the communal areas only.

What about home emergencies?

Home emergencies never seem to happen between 9 and 5, do they? Not all of them are covered by buildings insurance, either. So many people now take out 24/7 home emergency assistance policies that are written to cover a wide range of eventualities, from broken boilers to bees nests. The idea is that you can get immediate assistance without worrying about high out-of-hours call out fees.

The helpline staff of the insurer will arrange for an approved tradesperson to visit and undertake necessary emergency repairs. At up to £500 per incident for the Gallagher policy, with no excess to pay, this can usually be enough to effect a complete repair anyway. Should the matter warrant a buildings insurance claim, you can worry about that once you are safe and secure.

For people living in blocks of flats, these policies can be especially cost effective because they can be arranged as a group policy giving cover for both communal areas and for individual leaseholders, who all have a direct line to the helpline team.

Examples of home emergencies where these policies can help include suddenly having no heating, gas, electricity or running water, the only toilet being blocked, losing your only available set of key, vermin invading the property, and needing overnight accommodation costs if the flat is uninhabitable.

Find out more about how to make a buildings insurance claim here.

These are brief product descriptions only. Please refer to the policy documentation paying particular attention to the terms and conditions, exclusions, warranties, subjectivities, excesses and any endorsements.


The sole purpose of this article is to provide guidance on the issues covered. This article is not intended to give legal advice, and, accordingly, it should not be relied upon. It should not be regarded as a comprehensive statement of the law and/or market practice in this area. We make no claims as to the completeness or accuracy of the information contained herein or in the links which were live at the date of publication. You should not act upon (or should refrain from acting upon) information in this publication without first seeking specific legal and/or specialist advice. Arthur J. Gallagher Insurance Brokers Limited accepts no liability for any inaccuracy, omission or mistake in this publication, nor will we be responsible for any loss which may be suffered as a result of any person relying on the information contained herein.