If you are having home improvement work done, check with your insurance company what you are covered for before you start, writes Kya deLongchamps
Having home improvements carried out, or even undertaking smaller works oneself, can blind us to the dull protections of forward planning.
Insurance, that steady annual bleed we all complain about, is something you just cannot ignore as your greatest single investment is peeled apart for days or potentially months.
It’s not enough to presume the lads on site, or a single genius bounding from a van that ‘everyone’ uses in your area — is covered.
It’s awkward — lesser men will make you feel like a Nazi storm trooper for even bringing it up, but do the right thing, stiffen your spine and ask for reassuring, up to date paperwork to be produced before a spade hits the ground or a board is lifted.
If you are undertaking ambitious DIY projects or having significant home improvements carried out, inform your insurance company and check what you are covered for, before you start.
Are there any works that might void a home guarantee attached to the house (Homebond)?
If you create more rooms, for example, splitting areas or adding an extension even one that flies under the radar of the 40m for planning permission requirement, you should nonetheless, tell your insurer of this addition to the floor-plan and be prepared to provide certification of the build quality and fire-safety.
If you have to move out for a period while work is undertaken, again tell your insurer the house is likely to be uninhabited and supply the dates if possible.
If you are basing your home insurance on the re-build cost (re-instatement) rather than market value (and this is the solid advice of the industry), the rebuild cost changes if your house grows bigger.
Beyond the meat of the policy, buildings and contents, is your accidental and damage cover adequate to cover potential disasters, whoever is at fault?
Basic accidental damage tends to cover electrical faults in electrical items, not putting a foot through the attic floor while insulating. Ask about what’s in your building insurance pertaining to the fabric of the house — the laminate floor or the windows for example.
Check your policy for exclusions and explore what is termed ‘extended coverage’.
Personal accident cover, again an optional extra, will offer a limited amount if you ding yourself during a DIY stunt.
Most electrical work, all works on gas supplies and appliances, high ladder and roof work, and any serious structural alterations should be off the table for just about all of us.
Yes, it’s awkward to push off willing friends and family — but you may be saving their pride and person with that respectful, ‘thanks but no thanks’ in the longer term.
Ask anyone working on repairs or improvements for proof of their business insurance and what it incorporates — expect to see employer’s liability and public liability.
Some firms will have the added cover of contractors all-risk cover, which may protect new work on your home like an extension if something happens before completion and your extra insurance is not yet in place.
Employers’ liability insurance (in case anyone working for the tradesman in your home is injured), and public liability insurance (in case any damage is caused), are standard.
In the case of serious, structural work, your insurance company may ask you to take out additional insurance in your name and that of your contractor.
Ask for a copy of builders’ or tradesman’s insurance for your records.
Remember, just as public liability protects your contractor, your insurance protects you against claims.
John Byrne of Insurance Ireland explains: “Make sure that the contractor carrying out the work is fully covered by employer’s liability (EL) and public liability (PL) insurance. No matter what precautions are taken, accidents can happen and an accident may give rise to a legal claim.
“This is one of the legal liabilities against which EL and PL policies provide protection. Do not assume that the contractor you engage has adequate EL and PL insurance. Make sure that they have it.
“You should always contact your insurer prior to the commencement of any works as the insured has a continuing obligation to disclose material facts during the term of the policy, otherwise it could invalidate the insurance cover.”
In terms of qualification, trades who have worked their way through a lengthy apprenticeship, FAS/Solas apprenticeship scheme, will be proud to show you their relevant cards and credentials and will provide a real address.
Even using a reputable online trade finder like onlinetradesmen.ie, verify for yourself and establish a written contract, signed by both parties. Only tax compliant, VAT registered individuals are accepted for the Home Renovation Incentive Scheme operated by revenue.ie.
The Safe-T-Cert, developed by CFI, shows an adherence to best practice in keeping employees safe on site.
Grumbling homeowners, bruised by one bad apple, can get themselves into deep water with bodged amateur projects attempted by themselves or a grinning cowboy offering cut-price uninsured work off contract.
Let’s take plumbing.
The complexity of what seems like a small job — laying out with the help of CAD, sourcing, fitting, wiring and plumbing and tiling a bathroom or en-suite, is a perfect example.
The wonders of push-fit, can persuade a home-owner with very good design and tiling talents to reach that bit further to save a little money.
A discreet leak behind what should be a fully tanked shower, can wreak havoc, distributing damp and mould throughout other areas of the house.
The €750 awarded for finding a leak in a basic house insurance policy is kitten feed for extensive repairs.
Most suppliers exclude leaks ‘caused by gradual leaking or seepage of water from any bath, shower, wash-hand basin and/or other sanitary fittings’.
So be warned.
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