LANDLORDS must insure all apartment buildings in one of Bahrain’s most densely populated areas.
The rule has been introduced in the Northern Governorate and requires property owners to insure multi-storey residential buildings for fires and other emergencies.
It was approved yesterday by the Northern Municipal Council with immediate effect.
However, the rule does not apply to private homes, such as villas, or government-funded social housing – after councillors exempted them on the grounds that not everyone can afford home insurance.
There were also concerns that some private residences were so rundown that they may be uninsurable.
The rule is currently binding only in the Northern Governorate, but Works, Municipalities Affairs and Urban Planning Minister Essam Khalaf has the authority to extend it nationwide.
It has been introduced with the support of Northern Municipality director-general and National Municipal Grievances Committee chairman Yousif Al Ghatam, who said it would benefit all parties – landlords, tenants and the government.
That is because insurance companies would pay to repair damaged property and compensate tenants, meaning the government would no longer have to shoulder the costs of providing temporary shelter to those forced to leave their homes in an emergency.
That could be the result of a fire, concerns about a building’s structure or a gas leak.
Such cases are currently referred to the Labour and Social Development Ministry, which provides temporary shelter and living expenses.
“Forcing insurance on landlords will certainly be beneficial to all parties since damage will be repaired by companies issuing the policies,” said Mr Al Ghatam.
“They will also compensate tenants, saving a lot of money for everyone.
“All expenses related to fires and emergencies would be covered by insurance companies, not the government.”
Council chairman Mohammed Buhamood said in an ideal world home insurance would be made compulsory across the board, similar to car insurance.
However, he claimed it was not feasible to impose it on all private homeowners since the policies were too expensive for many.
“Bahraini families can’t pay BD40 a month for basic policies,” he said.
“But for landlords renting out apartments, the rule is excellent.
“It should be part of their obligations to secure their buildings and follow safety requirements, which the Interior Ministry and insurance companies will oblige them to do.
“It is also good since tenants forced out of their apartments by fires or other emergencies would be granted shelter, until their place of residence was restored or – in the worst case – they find another place.”
Council vice-chairman Ahmed Al Kooheji said tenants would also have the option of contributing to an insurance policy if they wanted to include big-ticket items in their apartment’s coverage.
“The basic policy would cover basic items or basic living needs, but by paying an additional BD20 monthly a tenant could also cover housemaids or ensure an immediate recovery payment of BD5,000,” he explained.
“This additional cost (for big-ticket items) shouldn’t be shouldered by landlords, but tenants themselves.”