In the last eighteen years, Melbourne Building Consulting has provided professional and independent advice on over 4,000 insurance claims.
John personally handles every claim. Whether it’s establishing the cause of reported damage, defining the scope of works or providing detailed cost estimates, he brings a lifetime of boots-on-ground building knowledge to each one.
His long standing relationships with insurers and loss adjusters are based on a mutual trust, and on John’s practical and independent approach towards providing the advice and documentation needed to allow building insurance claims to be successfully resolved.
However, a number of other factors need to be considered, including historical site conditions, pre-existing damage, poor workmanship, lack of maintenance and illegal building works.
Any of these may be relevant in determining liability, so we take all reasonable steps to investigate and establish the root cause(s) of the reported damage. When relevant, these findings are provided as an historical timeline in the report.
SCOPE OF WORKS
In any scope of works, the devil really is in the detail. We believe that vague and open-ended phrases like as deemed necessary or as required are problematic. Being too open to interpretation, they are not fair on the insured, the insurer or the repair contractor.
We treat every building insurance claim as unique, and provide a customised and detailed scope of works for each area of damage and each loss within the claim. This has the added benefit of mitigating the risk of additional works and increased costs, should the claim proceed. Provisional Sums and Prime Cost items are only used when absolutely necessary.
In our experience over the last twenty years, more than 70% of building insurance claims involve an inadequate sum insured.
For significant and total losses, we can provide costs estimates for the repairs, based upon current industry costings and relevant standards.
The costings will factor in the type of construction and materials used and, where required, the geographical location and site specific conditions.
We will also identify other factors that may become evident during the repair or rebuilding process, and which may need to be added to the cost estimates. These items become particularly relevant in cases where there has been a total loss and the sum insured is not adequate.
A percentage of building insurance claims will end up in dispute.
At MBC, we have an extensive track record in investigating and reviewing claims which may have been in dispute for some time. With fresh eyes, we independently review the specific issues in dispute and suggest resolutions.
When the parties are unable to resolve a dispute, we can prepare appropriate documentation for submission to the Ombudsman, VCAT or the courts. Where required, John will attend any hearings.
DILAPIDATION INSPECTIONS AND REPORTS
Dilapidation inspections are typically undertaken to determine the condition of buildings and their surrounds prior to nearby construction or demolition works. Building works which may impact a property could include demolitions, excavations, new constructions, roadwork, freeways and tunnelling.
It’s critical to establish the existing conditions before the commencement of any works. MBC provides dilapidation inspections and reports across metropolitan Melbourne and throughout Victoria. We undertake a visual inspection of the building and surrounding infrastructure, including driveways, paths, retaining walls and boundary fences. We then provide a detailed report and photographic record of the existing conditions and identify elements which may be adversely affected by the proposed works.
Once the works have been completed, we can undertake a follow-up inspection and report, identifying impacts on the property.
ON-SITE SKETCH PLANS
In cases where there has been significant damage or even total loss, establishing an agreed visual record has proved very helpful.
We can prepare an on-site sketch floor plan (scaled to 1:100) which documents the building footprint, layout and room sizes, plus any site features like out-buildings, paving, driveways, water tanks etc.
This visual reference facilitates discussions between all parties and allows for easy identification of affected areas. By establishing a baseline, it helps mitigate future disputes. It also provides a significant reference for any builder quoting for repairs.
We can arrange to have samples of specific building products removed and tested for asbestos. Testing is undertaken by an independent third party which is accredited by the National Association of Testing Authority (NATA) and SAI Global. Their findings are integrated into our reports and documentation.
Leak detection and CCTV
Where relevant to a specific claim, we will engage a plumbing contractor to establish the presence and source of leaks and/or determine the condition of sewer and storm water drains.
These independent findings are then integrated into our reports and documentation.
Bushfire Attack Level (BAL)
When the property is in a designated bush fire prone area, we will engage an experienced, qualified and independent third party to carry out a BAL assessment of the site. We believe it’s important to maintain this degree of separation between our own investigations and the BAL assessment. These independent findings are integrated into our reports and documentation.
We have access to a range of experienced specialist engineers, and engage them as required by specific building insurance claims. We then incorporate their independent findings into our reports and documentation.
In situations where an overall aerial view would be helpful in establishing a visual record, or when access to parts of a site may be difficult, we can engage a drone operator experienced in architectural services.
John has been engaged as an expert witness by law firms Maurice and Blackburn and also Maddens in several class actions relating to the 2009 Kilmore East/ Kinglake Black Saturday bushfires in Victoria, the 2013 Mount Victoria bushfire in NSW, the 2013 Springwood/ Winmalee/ Yellow Rock bushfire in NSW and the 2014 Mickleham/Kilmore bushfire in Victoria.
AUDIT AND REVIEW
John was engaged by a large insurance company to audit and review its practices and procedures around the handling of building insurance claims. He then made a series of recommendations to senior management for improvements to their business model.