Business Insurance

How to calculate commercial building insurance

Wondering how premiums are calculated for commercial property insurance? We discuss some of the most important factors that insurance companies use when pricing coverage for a commercial property in the UK.

Insurance companies in the UK use many factors to calculate premiums for commercial property insurance. Here's what policyholders should know about the calculations so they better understand the rates they're quoted for coverage and why the cost for one property can be higher than another property.

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1. Rebuild Cost

One of the biggest drivers of commercial building insurance premiums is the rebuild cost of a property. This is because insurance companies face the largest payouts when a building is destroyed or severely damaged, for instance in the case of a flood or fire.

A property that is destroyed must be demolished and a new building constructed in its place. Demolition costs include charges to safely bring down a building and remove materials and rubble. In addition to demolition costs, rebuild values include the material, labour and professional costs needed to rebuild the property. Professional costs include architect fees, surveying fees, local authority, etc.

The rebuild cost is nearly always less than the market value of a property. Rebuild costs reflect the cost of reinstating a building if it's destroyed, but won't take into account the value of the underlying land. Market values reflect the value of the land underneath the property, so will be higher. This is especially true in areas like the capital where land values are highest.

Using a reinstatement value should result in the right amount of commercial building insurance coverage. On the other hand, a quote built upon the market value would surely result in a limit of insurance that is too high—so the property owner would end up paying a higher premium than is necessary for coverage. To avoid overinsuring and overpaying for insurance, a building owner should hire a qualified professional to assess the building and provide an accurate rebuild cost, which they use for their insurance quotes.

2. Previous Claims History

The previous claims history is also a factor that will impact commercial building insurance rate calculations. Any history of claims could be indicative to an insurance company that an owner is not careful or that a property is prone to incidents that could lead to a claim. As a result, premiums might be higher than for a property where the owner hasn't had to make any claims.

However it's not just claims that matter; situations where one could have claimed but didn't can also affect premiums.

3. Location

The location of a property has a bearing on commercial building insurance rates also. Local area can impact the odds that a property will be burgled or vandalised, for example. Buildings in higher-crime areas will therefore cost more to insure.

Flood risk in an area also has a big impact on commercial building insurance costs. Properties in higher flood-risk areas will not only cost more to insure, they will be harder to insure for flood risk as primary insurers might exclude coverage for floods altogether.

Unfortunately, FloodRe (the joint government and insurance industry initiative to help homeowners get more affordable flood insurance) is not open to commercial properties. For this reason, anyone contemplating buying a new commercial property should check the risk of flooding in the area here first.

4. Building Security

Insurers may offer discounts for commercial properties with higher levels of security. As part of the quote process, commercial property owners will be asked about the types of locks, gates, cameras, alarms and other security measures.

While we normally associate building security with the risk of burglaries, it also can affect the odds of a fire because some burglars set fire to a property to destroy evidence as they leave, or to further vandalise a building.

5. Building Occupant

The type of business occupying a building also factors into a commercial building insurance calculation. This industry of an occupant, whether a tenant or owner occupier, can affect the chance of a claim. For example, businesses with higher foot traffic might be more at risk of a property owner liability claim (liability insurance is usually included with commercial property building insurance). Liability claims can occur when a member of the public is injured or their property is damaged and the building owner is to blame.

The industry of the occupant can also affect risk of a flood or fire. For example, a fast food shop with a deep fat fryer might pay more for commercial property insurance due to increased risk of a fire. On the other hand, an office building would present a lower risk of fire so typically be cheaper to insure.

In conclusion

There are dozens of factors that affect the cost of commercial property insurance. We've discussed a few here, but as you go through any quote process you'll get a sense of what an insurer cares about. The information you need to provide as part of getting quotes is all data that will affect the cost of coverage. While one insurer might request slightly different information from another, the factors discussed here will surely factor into any commercial building insurance quote.

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Erin Yurday

Erin Yurday is the Founder and Editor of NimbleFins. Prior to NimbleFins, she worked as an investment professional and as the finance expert in Stanford University's Graduate School of Business case writing team. Read more on LinkedIn.