“I Predict A Riot”

The popular indie rock band Kaiser Chiefs may have predicted such events occurring in the UK as far back as 2004 with the title of this song, but I’m sure this was far from the minds of residents and commercial tenants across the country until the events of last week.

The Metropolitan Police have called the events that occurred during the London Riots as “the worst in current memory”, with scenes of looting, destruction, arson and vandalism rife throughout the capital.

Such disastrous events even reached the affluent West London suburb of Ealing by Monday 8th August 2011. Cars were torched, homes destroyed, businesses wrecked and tragically even life was lost. Upon my arrival into Ealing the following morning on my way into Prince Evans Solicitors LLP, I was able to see first hand the devastation that had been caused in the area (to see the photos, please visit our Facebook page, “like” us, click on the ‘photos’ tab and finally click on the “Ealing Riots” album).

Such shocking events can have a long-lasting and devastating effect on a local community, but it was with a great sense of pride that I discovered the residents of Ealing had begun a collective “clean-up” as early as 10am on Tuesday 9th August 2011, and held an open-air multi-faith vigil later in the week to strengthen its resolve in the face of such tragic adversity and to boost its community spirit.

Over a week has now passed since the events of the London Riots, and thoughts in Ealing have turned to one of re-build and repair. For many residential and commercial tenants this has meant looking over their insurance policies. The Association of British Insurers have urged all those affected to contact their insurer as soon as possible, with many insurance providers operating a 24-hour telephone helpline to offer support and guidance.

For residential premises, standard home insurance polices should cover fire and theft, as well as the cost for alternative accommodation for those who found their homes uninhabitable. But what about the commercial tenants who were to find their livelihoods destroyed when they turned up for work that fateful Tuesday morning?

Commercial tenants must immediately notify their insurance providers as to any riot damage found. Actual damage caused to commercial premises will need to be assessed by insurance companies before repairs can begin. This can take time and the speed in which things can start to be put right will often depend on the level of insurance in place.

However, many commercial tenants may discover that they have inadequate insurance, and are not covered for incidents of “civil commotion”. Businesses that find they are “under-insured” for incidents of rioting, or even un-insured altogether, may be able to apply for compensation under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 to include the cost of damaged property, or items stolen or destroyed. It is also possible for “under-insured”, or un-insured owners of residential premises to apply under the 1886 Act.

In this type of situation, commercial tenants are always best advised to seek specialist legal advice before re-opening their premises. Any further trading without proper insurance or legal advice may result in further problems arising, such as potential injuries to staff members wishing to return to work to get things back to normal.

It is with some irony then that the Kaiser Chiefs’ popular song was released on an album entitled “Employment”, a lack of which has commonly been cited as a reason behind the riots in the first place.

Let us hope then that through the continued repair of the many businesses affected in the area, Ealing will be able to continue to provide sustainable levels of employment for its community. Judging by the number of “Open as Usual” signs I have seen on damaged shop-fronts, early indications are certainly promising.

Ben Davies