Trustees are often concerned about braais on balconies and whether other owners could be prejudiced, i.e. be victims of claim rejection in the case of such a fire spreading.
We see no real problem: damage by fire is rarely intentional. Lighting a braai within close proximity to buildings does not necessarily pose a significantly increased risk unless there are combustible materials close by like canvas, shade cloth, curtains, thatch, etc. Assuming the building is indeed insured for ‘fire’ and the insured person has taken all ‘reasonable’ precautions to avoid damage; it is unlikely that an insurer would reject a claim.
Whilst damage caused by ‘fire’ is covered by buildings insurance policies, there are some exclusion clauses in policy wordings with particular relevance and importance. Here are the general conditions:
- Misrepresentation, inaccurate description and non-disclosure
- Prevention of loss
- National Building Regulations
- Fire protection
There is no exclusion clause in any of the policies we work with which suggests owners or tenants may not braai on their balcony. Nevertheless, reasonable precautions need to be taken when having a braai.
Fire defense should always be a consideration. Here, common sense should guide the owner or tenant. Normal gas, kettle braais and small portable braais should not pose undue risk however, large wood fires certainly would. Much of this would depend on the behaviour of those partaking.
It may even be that conduct rules apply that wood fires are not allowed on balconies due to the smoke nuisance factor. Much also depends on the structure and layout of buildings: there is a big difference between a single tower block versus buildings spread over a wider area with terraced design. We note that many sectional title developments include ‘built-in’ braai stacks as a standard feature on balconies these days. Some bodies corporate even provide designated areas and facilities in the common property gardens so that there is no need to make fires on balconies.
Where a fire claim event arises, the insurers would almost certainly appoint a qualified loss adjuster or assessor to investigate the circumstances of the claim. Mostly, fire departments also conduct their own investigations into the cause of the fire. If an insurer rejects a claim after thorough investigation, they would only do so following professional advice and for very good reason.
Author: Brian Addison
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