Consultants' views sought on increasing claims protection

A review of low-earner professional indemnity cover widens support to members, writes Chris Sheridan.

Consultancy can appeal to those facing redundancy, working reduced hours, taking a career break, the retired - indeed anyone who feels that they are able to offer professional advice.

The RTPI introduced the compulsory professional indemnity insurance (PII) regulations to ensure that any member who offers professional planning advice in their own name holds appropriate cover.

"Although viewed by many as more low-risk than chartered surveying or architecture, the planning profession remains affected by today's litigious society, with claims notifications still on the increase," advises broker Perkins Slade financial lines assistant manager Neil Luckman.

So, how do claims arise? Most are as a result of a difference in perception between what the planner is attempting to deliver and what the client wants achieved. Couple this with commercial pressures such as tight timescales and you can see how alleged errors could arise.

The subjective nature of the planning process can lead to clients expecting certain outcomes, only to be disappointed with the final result.

It is essential that terms of business are used, the brief is clear and the client understands the potential outcomes. The days of doing business with a handshake and agreement are long gone.

To support members who give free advice or who offer part-time consultancy advice, a low fee earner scheme provides affordable insurance cover in a range of circumstances. The scheme, available through Perkins Slade, provides £250,000 of PII cover for a premium of £95 a year. The annual income limit is £10,000 a year.

"The scheme is stringent in terms of what risks will qualify, purely because of the low premium charged for it," explains Luckman. Perkins Slade is currently reviewing the scheme with a view to increasing the level of income that can be earned to £20,000 a year and an the level of cover to £300,000 for any one claim. The annual premium would also rise to £125.

We would welcome comments on the proposed changes from members who are currently insured through the scheme and from members who may be interested in taking out a low-fee insurance scheme. We are also interested to hear of experiences from members who are insured through other brokers.

Chris Sheridan is RTPI Planners in the Workplace manager. For further information on PII and the support offered to those moving into consultancy, please visit www.rtpi.org.uk/member_services/piwp


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