Hiscox has begun emailing its agent database to confirm that few if any agents are to get a pay-out.
The email quotes the recent Supreme Court decision which it claims enables insurers to refuse pay-outs to estate agents, depending on the wording within their policies, and the type of cover offered.
Referring to the various regulations brought in by the government during the pandemic, Hiscox says: “The Supreme Court found that Hiscox’s policies can provide cover for businesses that were subject to mandatory closure restrictions if those businesses suffered an interruption to their business due to an inability to use their premises as a result of the restrictions.
“For those businesses not subject to mandatory closure, the Court found that it is likely that it will be difficult to demonstrate an inability to use their premises.”
But one agent has been in contact with The Negotiator to take issue with Hiscox’s interpretation of the ruling, pointing out that the official guidance issued on March 27 at the beginning of the first lockdown was clear.
It said: “In line with advice for certain businesses to close, agents should not open branches to the public during this period, or visit people’s homes to carry out market appraisals.”
Ben Williams, of Wootton Estate Agents, says the guidance left him with no option but to close his branch on the Isle of Wight following this advice.
He has contacted Propertymark to ask what the trade association is going to do in order to fight for the ‘hundreds of agents’ who are now out of pocket. Its policy chief Mark Hayward has replied in person to point Ben to its own guidance issued in March last year, which quoted ministry of housing officials who urged agents to shut their branches. But Propertymark is not ready to take a public position on whether this advice is the ‘mandated’ closure Hiscox refers to.
Williams bought his Hiscox insurance through Propertymark-approved broker Gallagher. The Negotiator has contacted Propertymark and Hiscox for comment. Gallagher has confirmed it was aware of the Hiscox email and would provide The Negotiator with further information when possible.