It is no secret Building Surveyors are currently facing catastrophe in relation to Professional Indemnity Insurance renewals. It has either been experienced recently or is about to be with upcoming renewals predicted to impact 60% of Qld Building Surveyors.
Each Building Surveying company or individual faces a reality that a policy renewal may not be offered or sustainable in order for them to continue in business. Throughout this time it is going to need to be considered “If, When, How & What I tell my clients?” As Client Manager of a large Building Surveying company, it was my role to interact with clientele up to and throughout a period of time that we faced almost one month without an insurance policy renewal. My hope for this article is for my experience and advice to assist others facing this turbulent time.
Absolutely. There is no denying that honest business is good business and if you are hoping to continue in Building Surveying and can secure a policy renewal, you must inform your clients of your renewal period. There have been numerous media announcements regarding the issue. If they are not already aware of the industry-wide crisis they soon will be.
Do not leave it until the last minute. For those aware clients, they may have already asked. It is important not to hide or mislead any information. The exact timeframe is going to come down to a personal business decision, taking into account the parameters of how you conduct business. Are your renewal due in 4 weeks and you still have no offer? Consider the incoming requests for business at this time, precipice a response with the situation. Yes, you are going to be at risk of losing that potential job. However, consider the larger risk and waste of time to both that client and yourself if you continue and are unable to complete the contracted works. By doing this you are not at risk of dishonesty and later complaint.
Good old fashioned, conversation. An honest, verbal conversation via phone, or even better in person, will never be outweighed by the written word. It is simply not possible to convey meaningful communication in writing. The sensitivity, emotion and effectiveness of a conversation are lost or easily misinterpreted in text.
In saying this, the target clientele and your availability need to be considered. Would you have to make 1000 phone calls or site visits to each and every client/owner you have issued a Building Approval to? This would just not be economical, particularly for a sole trading Building Surveyor. Do you have a handful of repeat clients? Begin with conversations with these clients. Typically they will be your main income earners and those that you want to maintain healthy and honest business relationships with. Follow up in the written word, to reiterate what you discussed. For those “one-off clients”, despite what has been indicated above, the most economical approach would be written word first. This can be easily completed with a template letter or mass email mail merge. Expect to follow up responses and be ready for those to be made via conversation.
The facts and truth. Be prepared with all your personal facts, timeframes and what has been undertaken to this point. The expectations, but no false promises. It also pays to research the goings-on of the industry, to provide some information about how it got to this point. There are many articles that have been published on the subject. Chose your media outlet very carefully though and ensure you have read and understood the content. You will be faced with questions. Document these for your own recollection to ensure you deliver consistent responses.
The government have recognised there is an issue. They, and other external bodies, are further investigating if and how the industry could be relieved of this insurance burden.
One such body is the Certification and Surveying Forum. Made up of fellow Building Surveyors offering their volunteer services to discuss the current status of the Private Certification and Building Surveying industry.
To read more about the specific tasks being undertaken by the Focus Group and how to be involved yourself, head over to the forum page and sign up to the mailing list to keep up to date.