Although memories of the 2011 riots have faded, the impact of riot damage claims on the police left a very significant mark. The archaic Riot (Damages) Act 1886 has been repealed and replaced by the Riot Compensation Act 2016. The 2016 Act better reflects the modern world. Of around 4,500 claims made for compensation under the 1886 Act about 4000 were from people who had insurance cover for the damage suffered. There was particular concern about some large losses resulting in insurers being reimbursed by central government. The 2016 Act seeks to remedy this, by capping claims at £1m, whilst offering improved protection to small business in the form of new-for-old replacements.
The Riot Compensation Regulations 2017, which come into force today, set out some more of the detail for the operation of the 2016 Act. The Regulations clarify that where more than one person has a legal interest in property which could be subject to a claim under the 2016 Act, each person may make a claim. No one may make more than one claim in respect of the same postal address, except that an insurer can make claims for both contents and buildings insurance.
The time limit for bringing a claim is 43 days from the date the riot ends or, for claimants whose insurers have refused their claim, 43 days from the decision of the insurer to refuse to pay the whole or part of the claim. The evidence in support should be received by the relevant authority within 91 days.
Stolen property will be deemed lost if it has not been recovered before the date that the first payment of compensation is made. The value of the compensation will be calculated on the basis of the reasonable cost of repair or reinstatement, or the cost of replacement at current market value.
Claims by insurers may be decreased or refused if the insured participated in the riot, contributed (even indirectly) to damage during the riot, or committed a criminal offence relating to the riot. This could be particularly difficult for insurers. The insured carrying out an opportunistic theft of a bottle of water could prevent the insurer being reimbursed for its outlay in relation to that person's business. Further, any degree of fraud in the insured claim may be used as grounds to refuse the insurer compensation.
The Regulations provide that the local policing bodies may delegate claims handling functions to a party with the relevant expertise and capacity, although decision making may only be delegated for claims of £25,000 or less. Under the Act, the Secretary of State may direct the police to transfer procedural functions or decision making on claims to the Secretary of State, and set up a "riot claims bureau" to which these responsibilities can be delegated. This riot claims bureau has not been created in these Regulations but separate regulations will be prepared ready to be laid before parliament in the event of a riot.