UK Riots
A Miss Selfridge clothing store is seen ablaze in Manchester city centre, northern England Reuters

As the riots that have spread across the UK over the past four nights wind down, the cost of insurance is now on businesses' and homeowners' minds. The destruction's long-term impact could be substantial -- particularly when it comes to insurance on damaged premises, according to insurance companies.

The impact on insurers could be tempered by a 125-year-old law that which makes the police liable for property damage caused by rioting. If the police are deemed responsible for the clean-up it could seriously put constabularies under serious pressure, although some police forces insure themselves against riot damage.

Police filed insurance claims after being forced to pay repairs following riots in Northern English towns Burnley, Bradford and Oldham in 2001.

"The theory is that the police are responsible for keeping law and order and, if they fail, they pay for the damage," said Stuart White, a partner at law firm Reynolds Porter Chamberlain.

Businesses and homeowners may see a rise in their premiums in the worst affected areas. Shares in RSA, Britain's largest insurer, were up 1.3 percent matching the small rises in rival Aviva shares at the end of trading on Tuesday.

Both the Co-operative and Zurich said they are doing all they can to help those affected by the rioting, which has spread from London to Manchester, Birmingham and Wolverhampton, among other places. Zurich said it was providing assistance on the ground where possible, and the Co-op is helping people find alternative accommodations if their properties have been made unsafe by vandals.

Taxpayers could face a £100m bill for the riots in London and across the UK. Nick Starling, the director of general insurance and health at the Association of British Insurers, said: "It is too early for us to have an accurate picture of total costs, especially business interruption costs, but insurers are expecting significant losses, of well over £100m."

Liability for riot damages is a contentious issue. The Association of Police Authorities (APA) and the Commons home affairs select committee have both called for the issue to be reviewed.

Retailers and homeowners have been advised to contact insurers as soon as possible over the huge damages done to their property and homes in widespread riots across England. Barclay's customers with an overdraft can apply for a temporary increase to help with emergency bills.

"We will also waive overdraft-related fees upon request. Customers without an overdraft can also apply for an emergency overdraft," the spokesman said.

"We can confirm that any damage to properties or vehicles insured through Barclays is covered under our policies. We can help home insurance customers affected by the riots who can no longer live in their home to find temporary accommodation, and arrange for emergency payments to replace essential items where appropriate," he added.