Riot (Damages) Act 1886
Riot (Damages) Act 1886
Anyone who suffered loss or damage to their property during the recent riots should be aware that they can claim compensation for their loss, even if they did not have insurance in place.
The Riot (Damages) Act 1886, supplemented by the Regulations made by the Secretary of State as to Claims for Compensation 1921, provides that where a house, building or shop is damaged or destroyed, or any property therein stolen damaged or destroyed by people rioting then compensation is available from the local police authority.
There has been some comment in the media concerning the legal definition of a riot, describing it as 12 or more people using or threatening violent behaviour and causing fear in others. It should be noted that this is the definition used for the criminal offence of rioting under the Public Order Act 1986. The definition for the purposes of claiming compensation under the Riot (Damages) Act 1886 is in fact simply “any persons riotously and tumultuously assembled together.” Equally there is also nothing in the legislation which provides that the government must “declare a riot” before claims are valid. Presumably, however, the picture will become clearer as claims begin to be made.
Under normal circumstances, the claim needs to be submitted to the local police authority within fourteen days of the damage. The Prime Minister has today announced to the House of Commons that the period will be extended to forty two days for legitimate claims. Quite what this means is unclear because the legislation already provides that an extension to forty two days may be granted in the police authority and secretary of state’s discretion, provided that the claimant has requested the extension within the fourteen day period. The Prime Minister could simply be saying that all such requests will be granted, in which case it remains imperative that any potential claimant requests an extension of time within the fourteen day period.
The claim needs to be in a specified form (which is available on request by emailing email@example.com) and needs to be itemised as much as possible, the cost or estimated costs of the repairs and damage must be set out along with evidence such as written quotations and receipts.
The claim should also state where compensation is available from insurers, and deduct it from the amount claimed. The Act was originally brought in to protect people who did not have insurance, or found that their insurance did not cover their whole loss. Insurance providers have taken advantage of the provisions of the Act, however, and provide in their policies that the Insured must submit their claims to the Insurers within seven days. The Insurers are then able to exercise their rights of subrogation and claim the money from the Police Authority. In a frankly perverse twist, therefore, a piece of legislation originally intended to protect those without the benefit of insurance is now in the main used for the benefit of insurance companies.
Equally any claimant has to be aware that the claim they are making is for compensation from a Police Authority which is in all likelihood already under-funded and facing further cuts.