Ask an Expert


The claimant was engaged by a TP to install a solar array on the roof of their home. 

The insured is a solar installation company. The company made an inspection of the internal roof void but only identified building paper. 

The property is two-storey, and an external survey was not carried out prior to the day of installation.

The installers erected scaffolding and immediately began the installation. During the installation they damaged/ deformed the decramastic / pressed metal roofing tiles and made holes in the roof for conduit channels and cabling.

The installers did not stop, nor did they take measures to avoid damaging any further tiles as the installation progressed, the deformed tiles would be concealed by and the holes sealed once the solar panel array installation was completed.

Having almost completed the installation the team 'discovered' the decramastic tile roof was overlaid onto the original roof. 

The array had not been anchored directly to the roof trusses and as a result the entire installation had to be removed further damaging the roof and revealing the damaged tiles and the holes made during the installation.

The claim submitted is for the costs of remediating the roof.

The homeowner is not insured.

The insurer has declined the claim on the basis that the damage to the roof was not unexpected from the insured’s standpoint. In fact, the employees knew it was occurring as the works were being done. 

They also declined to cover any additional damage sustained to the roof by having to remove the installation after it was determined that the roof was unsuitable for the solar panel array as this would also fall outside the scope of cover, given the insured knew that the damage was occurring simultaneous to the installation.

It is our contention the policy should be triggered because the negligence took place prior to the work commencing in that the installation team had the opportunity but failed to inspect and confirm the roof was suitable for the installation once the scaffold was erected and before they started the installation . What do the experts think?

Crossley Gates replies

I am afraid the insurer is correct.

A general liability policy insures accidental property damage during the period of insurance for which the insured is legally liable. The trigger for the cover is the accidental property damage, not the negligent act.

It is fundamental to insurance that it insures a fortuity, not a certainty. All the 'damage' you describe was intentional work done by the client. Unfortunately for the client, the work was all in vain because it had negligently inspected the job before commencing it. That doesn't change the fact that the damage was not accidental for the insured's point of view, and therefore not covered.

March 2021

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