Properties which are in some way out of the ordinary are, on occasion, a little more difficult and expensive to get home insurance for than standard homes.
Insurance companies can be a little wary of applications for buildings with unusual features; if you live in a thatched cottage or an old converted barn, for example, you might need to seek specialist cover.
The same goes for those living in listed properties, which may or may not have any ‘unusual’ features (although many do). It’s often that listed properties are usually much older and more likely to suffer from age-related structural problems, have greater planning restrictions and are more expensive to rebuild.
Why is a listed building ‘listed’?
Generally, nearly all homes in the UK which are considered of particular historical or architectural interest and built before 1840 are ‘listed’, but any building more than 30 years old can in fact be listed.
There are three categories a listed building can fall into:
- Grade I – Buildings of exceptional interest
- Grade II* – Important buildings of more than special interest
- Grade II – Buildings of special interest
Why listed properties need buildings insurance
Buildings insurance is there to financially protect you from the effects on the structure of your property of events such as fire, subsidence, flooding and storm damage.
Buildings insurance is usually bought alongside contents insurance under the terms of a single home insurance policy. However, it can also be bought alone as an individual policy in its own right.
What’s important to remember with buildings insurance is that the ‘sum insured’ should be enough to completely re-build your property from scratch if it were completely destroyed, including any outbuildings and the garden. This, of course, isn’t the same as how much the home would fetch if you were to try and sell it.
Why are listed properties potentially harder to insure
The main reason those living in listed buildings can find it more expensive, and sometimes a little harder, to find insurance is to do with how much it would cost to re-build their homes and the potential for problems to occur:
- Non-standard materials might be needed, which are often harder and more expensive to get hold of, and even possibly the same building techniques as when it was built in the first place.
- As most listed homes are older, they’re also more likely to suffer from problems such as damp, subsidence, drainage and roof issues, which increases the risk to the insurer. In other words, as you might expect, older properties often fall apart more easily than others!
- Additionally, much more stringent planning controls apply to listed homes so that just about any chance at all, even if it’s just the colour windows are painted, needs permission. This can result in owners being made to undo changes made without permission, leading to complications for insurers.
How to find out if your home is listed
There are about 360,000 listed properties in Britain and you can check with your local council, or on English Heritage’s website at English-heritage.org.uk, if yours is one.
In some cases, the homeowner of a listed property might even have a legal responsibility to put right any damage and to maintain the home in the same, or at least very close, to its original state.
Valuing re-build costs
Listed properties need very careful assessment when it comes to re-build costs as if you get it wrong and you could be left considerably out of pocket. They’re harder to value than more ordinary homes and it’s a good idea to use an accredited surveyor to provide a valuation service.
The surveyor should even be able to advise you on which insurers might offer the best cover for your listed property.
Finding the right cover
As with standard home cover, you should ensure you shop around and get a number of different quotes, ensuring you compare like-for-like cover.
It may be that some of the better-known insurers will cover you, but it’s more than likely you’ll need specialist cover.
A good home insurance broker, such as ourselves here at Policy Expert, should be able to provide the advice you need and help you decide on such matter as:
- Whether to increase the policy excess to help reduce premiums on what can be very costly cover.
- If you should have cover for accidental damage as part of your policy.
- The cover levels you need written into a policy.
- The need for ‘extras’ such as legal insurance and additional accommodation.
- Which insurer to go for.
- Understanding the small print and exclusions.