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Property investors to be hit with even higher insurance premiums

The past two years have seen strata and landlord insurance costs soar way above inflation rates, and the next 12 months looks unlikely to deliver any respite from continued rapid price increases.

Queenslander house stands alone in a flooded area
Floods across New South Wales and Queensland pose insurance affordability risks.

Strata insurance premiums are set to rise even further over the coming year following increases in the last financial year that tripled the inflation rate.

The 2021-22 financial year will go down as the ignition year for high inflationary costs in the insurance market, particularly so in the claims repair and supply chain space, according to a report released Tuesday (12 July) by Honan Insurance Group.

Premiums rose more than 15 per cent over the past the 12 months and following the exit earlier this year of a key insurer, and with minimal new entrants expected over the year ahead, there appears to be no relief in sight.

The cost of landlord insurance has also risen by about 25 per cent over the past two years, but within the real estate sector has settled after the turbulence of 2020 and 2021.

The lockdown laws that impacted the short stay and holiday rental markets and fuelled rises in rent default claims throughout 2020-2021 have calmed.

Contractors, construction, and maintenance shortages have fuelled claims costs inflation estimates into the 2022-23 financial year (FY23) by as much as 30 per cent.

“This is mainly due to supply chain disruption for raw building materials and the influx of work caused by catastrophe events such as Victoria’s summer storms and the Queensland and New South Wales floods that have also impacted insurers’ profitability,” the Strata and Real Estate Insurance Market Update noted.

“Furthermore, supply shortages have severely delayed the average time to finalise a claim, increasing the demand for extended temporary accommodation and loss of rent, which is also contributing to the rising cost of claims.”

Flood of claims

Strata insurance price increases are set to continue in FY23 to balance the losses of the previous 12 months.

Buildings with defects or recent claims will struggle to achieve multiple competitive quotes, and the insurance markets in Singapore and London are predicted to face greater demand for hard-to-place risks in FY23, according to Honan Insurance.

Reinsurance costs will also increase for the strata and real estate sectors, set to be reflected in rising premiums, according to Kieran Drum, National Head of Strata at Honan Insurance. 

“Higher building replacement costs have become another noteworthy topic in strata and real estate,” he said.

“Increases in building material costs are likely to mean building sum insured amounts will increase, while current inflation across the construction sector means the return to pre-pandemic pricing is unlikely.”

Recent floods across NSW and Queensland also pose insurance affordability risks.

Even for homes and strata locations in northern Australia deemed ‘low-risk’ may see premium increases for up to a quarter of these properties as insurers look to subsidise higher-risk properties in these regions.

The Northern Australia Cyclone Reinsurance Pool continues to provide little reassurance around strata or home insurance savings.

Talks are scheduled between the Federal Government and large insurance companies, the Insurance Council of Australia and the National Insurance Brokers Association.

Defects are becoming more common within the building industry, particularly for new builds.

recent study of multi-unit strata housing by the University of NSW revealed more than a quarter of new apartments in Sydney are likely to have defects. 

Fire, structural defects, and the quality of building materials will dominate the strata narrative in FY23, according to Honan Insurance Group.

“Headwinds in the construction sector have the potential to further exacerbate poor building standards as builders look for cheaper materials to regain profitability,” Mr Drum said.

“Just one or two insurers are consistently providing quotes for defective buildings, meanwhile, many insurers in Australia have gone too far in their assessment of risk in buildings, with defects and taking unreasonable declinature stances.

“Many insurance professionals are doubtful that insurers will be willing to underwrite the risks of decennial liability, so initiatives like the Builders’ Warranty state schemes are therefore predicted to be the logical solution.”

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