Removal of Support: How far does the liability extend?

Author – Symone Robinson

Insurance is there to make sure you are prepared for even the most unexpected. But not even the best insurance product can cover absolutely everything. One such unexpected event during construction, that your regular Contractor’s All Risk and Public Liability Policy may not cover, is Removal of Support.

What is removal of support?

One can broadly define the removal of support as ‘the act of weakening of, interference with, or removing support from third party property / buildings / structures’.

Removal of support can be Lateral, which is usually done by excavating near an existing structure or retaining wall, or Horizontal,  which is removing load bearing walls or pillars during renovations.

In 2018 the Removal of Support made news headlines after an excavation destabilized a slope in Camps Bay and caused structural damage and serious financial headaches for surrounding neighbours. The court ultimately found the construction company and the owner of the property where excavation took place, liable. The judge found that the contractor and property owner had breached their duty to provide lateral support and ordered both parties to cover the damages.

To avoid the above situation, a construction company should provide ‘temporary and / or permanent lateral support’ to the neighbouring property. The support would need to be designed by an engineer and in alignment with the construction and design code.

What can be done to mitigate the risk in instances of Removal of Support?

  • The contractors’ experience in such a case will decidedly impact the outcome. If a contractor is inexperienced the risk may be higher.
  • Material changes can increase risk and must be carefully considered.
  • Insufficient underwriting information can impact the claim and transparency is vital to ensure sufficient cover.
  • Contract conditions.
  • Geotech and soil samples are often limited but can give a clearer picture of the risk involved in cases of Removal of Support.

What cover is needed in cases of Removal of Support?

Consort Technical Underwriters is an Engineering Specialist UMA and can offer extensive knowledge and expertise to assess the risk accordingly.

Contractors will need to take out Removal of Support cover which is an extension to the Liability Section of the policy. Due to the nature of this risk and abundance of information required to properly assess the risk and rate it accordingly, it is not automatically included in the Public Liability section of the Policy.

Underwriting this type of risk requires comprehensive information. Considerations include:

  • Proposal forms
  • Geotechnical reports
  • Crack surveys
  • Photographs
  • Method statement or what temporary support is being utilised
  • Engineer drawings
  • Weather conditions
  • Vertical or horizontal support
  • Contract conditions
  • Site survey to evaluate the risk exposure

Does your client need Removal of Support cover? Consort offers it under our Public Liability Policy. To learn more, contact us today.