Highhouse Insurance

Cheaper home insurance

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Cheaper Home Insurance Premiums

Home insurance is a very competitive market and generally  in return for the value of the risk covered, most premiums offer very good value. There are however certain things that can be done to reduce premiums further.

Reduce Home Insurance

Obtaining a quote for your property will have been based on your unique set of circumstances. Making your circumstances more favourable to insurers will reduce their perception of the risk and any loads that have been put on your premium could be reduced or removed.

  1. Check your property meets modern security standards-
    Insurers base their premiums on the level of risk they feel they are covering. By conforming to modern security standards and making your home as safe and secure as possible insurers will usually discount their premium. It is important to ensure that all windows and doors have locks. External doors should have five-lever mortise deadlocks (British Standard BS3621) and all accessible windows should have key-operated windows locks. Fire alarms are essential in your home whether you insure your house or not. However insurers will often ask whether you have these and may incorporate this into the premium.
  2. Fit fire alarms and reduce fire associated risks-
    Fire alarms are essential for your own safety and can sometimes reduce your home insurance, remember however if you state you have them, you must remember to keep them in working order or this may invalidate your insurance if subjected to a claim.
  3. Have an alarm installed-
    Having a Burglar or intruder alarm, especially those that are NACOSS- approved will install great confidence with insurers and an area where you are likely to be able to reduce the premium by going above and beyond the minimum security requirements.
  4. Maintain trees close to the property-
    If you have trees or shrubs over several metres high within 3 metres of the property it will usually be an insurance requirement that these trees are maintained. Also always employ a qualified professional to remove or maintain trees and shrubs as accidents caused by maintenance are not often covered under standard policies.
  5. Install a safe for high-value items-
    If you have and list high value possessions such as jewellery on your insurance policy then it is usually worth having a safe installed. There are sometimes good discounts available for doing this and should pay for itself in time as well as provide that extra piece of mind for both you and your insurer.
  6. Join a neighbourhood watch-
    Becoming part of a neighbourhood watch can sometimes reduce the premium offered by an insurer although the discount for this will usually be very small if any. The real benefit of joining such a scheme is the knowledge and advice offered by such a committee which in turn may decrease the chances of you being burgled and thus less likely to claim (maintaining a no claims bonus).

Finding cheaper  House and Buildings Insurance

There are many insurance companies offering a number of different insurance products for house and buildings insurance. Below are a few tips that will help you to make savings which can affect premiums when choosing house insurance:

  1. You do not have to insure your property with your mortgage provider-
    It is not a legal requirement to have buildings insurance but mortgage lenders will often require it to be in place when you can take out a mortgage. They may offer you their own insurance policy so you can tie it neatly in with the mortgage seamlessly. However it is worth looking around as you may find other competitors to be far cheaper and offer a more comprehensive product.
  2. Compare the amount of excess applicable to the policy (the first amount you pay of any claim)
    Most insurance policies have a standard excess rate to deter policy holders from making claims for small items or incidents that are although covered under the policy and therefore claimable, are not really what the policy is intended for. The rate of excess an insurer requires can vary and when comparing what different policies have to offer, the excess rate is something that should be looked at. Some insurers offer low competitive annual rates for their product but they may set their standard excesses considerably high as well ! The excess can also vary depending on what a potential claim is related to, for example excess for subsidence is usually higher than for the standard excess for the rest of the policy. It’s always worth looking at the ‘small print’ when comparing insurer policies.
  3. Increase voluntary excess-
    You can make savings by increasing your excess voluntarily, most insurers give you this option and in return discount your premium. Note though that voluntary excesses are in addition to the insurer’s standard excess. So when you want to make a claim the total excess will be standard and voluntary excess added together.
  4. Combine buildings and contents-
    Insurers normally offer discount when you combine insurance cover together such as buildings with contents and also more convenient having a combined renewal date on a single policy. It is worth however, getting a quote for both insurance types together and separately as different insurers assess the risk differently and set their premiums accordingly.
  5. Insure only at the level needed-
    The key to finding the right insurance is to know exactly what you want to insure, the cover required and correct level to insure at. Many insurers can be quite flexible with their policies so it is to your advantage to know what values you want covered without estimating. This avoids paying higher premiums than necessary which on a year-on-year basis can soon add up.
  6. Give yourself time to look around for cover when choosing which house insurance-
    The insurance market is hugely competitive and each insurer will offer different benefits and premiums for their product. Look at your insurance needs as early as possible and if possible give yourself time to assess what insurers have to offer. It is important to not instantly go for the cheapest quote before assessing the quality of the policy they are offering. If possible ask for the associated policy wording and look at the ‘small print’. What will they cover you for?, what will they not cover you for?, what are the limitations and excesses for the cover? The cheapest cover isn’t necessarily the best value and important areas of cover are sometimes stripped down or removed completely to offer the premiums derived at. At the same time the most expensive premium quotes don’t necessarily offer the most comprehensive cover for your needs, look around and make sure the insurance quote you finalise offers you the best all round value whilst still covering all your specific needs. Although comparison websites profess to do the looking around for you, some insurers are not represented here, they offer cheaper quotations if you go to them directly, as they do not have to pay the comparison web sites for the introductions. Also, do not forget that your local high street insurance brokers are still there and offer good and personal service and can be cheaper than buying policies on line.
  7. Pay the premium in full-
    This is often cheaper than paying by direct debit on a monthly basis so it is often worth finding out the details of a direct debit alternative.

Contents Insurance

Living area with contents that should be insured
Contents Insurance

Home Contents Insurance

Contents is defined in insurance terms as household goods and personal property, within the home, which are your property or which you are legally liable for.

Unlike building insurance however, contents is always optional as no other party such a bank or lender will have an invested interest. In most cases it is normal to have house and contents insurance combined but if you own a flat and you share your buildings insurance with other residents known as block insurance it is usually recommended to have a separate ‘contents only’ insurance policy.

What items are included in contents insurance

Household goods and personal property classed as insurable are usually items that you would take with you when you move property.

Standard items such as:

  • Televisions, computers, cameras and other electricals,
  • household appliances,
  • beds, sofas and other furniture,
  • clothes and jewellery,
  • pots, pans crockery and cutlery,
  • Ornaments and toys.

Where possible, keeping receipts for items will help prove ownership,  including their brand and model numbers should the need for a claim arise (this can of course prove difficult in the case of a fire).

Although items such as jewellery are for the most part considered standard, insurers will often cap the value paid out for these items in a claim. If you own high value items such as jewellery, paintings and antiques, it is worth informing the insurer of these, some insurers may request that items over a certain valuation be specified and will be noted on the insurance policy itself. The value of these high value specified items can factor into the cost of your insurance premium and if  it may be possible to find alternative specialised insurance for that item such as a jewellery insurance policy.

There may be limits placed on contents stored in the open such as the garden area or in outbuildings, where they are not considered as secure as the main property.

Other items that may be offered in addition to standard contents, include domestic pedal cycles, freezer contents, office equipment and cover of possessions for members of the family whilst at University/ college up to a specified value.

Assessing the contents sum insured
When people think about how much contents insurance they are likely to need, they usually come up with a set figure that is more of a rough guess than a good estimate, often because when we assess our contents to determine its value we think of a few key items that are either more important or personal such as a computer, television or pieces of jewellery. They may then think about the cost of replacing domestic appliances such as the washing machine or fridge freezer or the larger items in the house such as the sofa. However, when looking at insurance it is important to think about the worst case scenario. With contents this may be in the event of a fire or flood where all your contents and personal possessions had to be replaced. It may be surprising at how much this would actually cost, not only would you have to replace jewellery, clothes or home electricals but also all your kitchenware including pots and pans, cutlery and crockery, curtains, linen, food, books, dvds and sometimes carpets (varies on insurer and policy type as to whether carpets are listed under buildings or contents insurance). There is a risk of underinsurance, where the values for contents sums insured doesn’t meet the true cost of replacing goods and we have written a good article on Overinsurance and Underinsurance.

What is contents covered against

As standard a contents insurance policy will insure you against:

  • Fire
  • Flood
  • Theft

These are just standard perils but most insurers will include much more as standard in their policies, such as storm damage, subsidence, landslip or heave, falling trees, riots, violent disorder and malicious damage.

The values of the contents sum insured may also be index linked each year so the value of the sum insured increases. This is designed to protect you against rates of inflation so should a claim arise you are not underinsured when items are replaced on a like for like basis.

Getting insurance for contents

Contents can either be insured on its own but is usually cheaper when combined with buildings insurance and accidental damage is normally an optional extra should you require it. If you rent a property you will only require contents insurance as the building will already be insured by the landlord or property management agency. Alternatively if you are a landlord you can get contents insurance for communal areas providing you own the contents you wish to insure.

If you would like a quote for contents then Highhouse will be happy to provide you with a quote, we have our own binder for both home and let property insurance underwritten by the highest rated insurers and can normally have you insured and your documents over to you the same day should you require it.

Thatch fire protection

How to fireproof your thatch home
Fireproof Thatch Homes

One of the main issues with thatched roofs is the perceived additional likelihood of their being a fire in the property. It is true that if a fire takes hold in a thatched roof, the result can be more damaging than in a conventional property but we believe a well-managed home is a good risk for insurance purposes. There are a number of precautions you can take towards thatch fire protection to ensure a higher degree of safety in your property:

Ways to help with thatch fire protection

There are three main ways in which you can help to fireproof a thatched property, and if all of these methods are used together then maximum protection against the spread of fire will be achieved. It is advisable to take precautionary measures against the spread of fire as, although thatched homes are safe, the devastation caused by a fire will be much more widespread.

Thatch Insulation Batts

These are manufactured from a lightweight, semi rigid resin bonded mineral rock wool, are water repellent and easy to install. They are compression fitted between the roof joists and are supported by galvanised steel brackets that are fixed to the rafters. The high density and non- combustible properties of the batts reduce heat transfer around the roof timbers in the event of a fire and increase protection from fire on the underside of the thatched roof. An added advantage is that they also improve both the thermal and the acoustic insulation of the property.

In tests on two thatched houses, one containing thatch insulation batts, it was seen that these gave up to one hour extra fire protection to the underside of the thatch, reducing the spread of the flames.

Aluminium Barrier Foil

This is a fire resistant barrier and thermally reflective insulator that is made from heavy gauge aluminium foil. It is applied in the same way as roofing felt, and has the added benefit of providing a waterproof covering to the roof that is advantageous during the roof thatching process. When barrier foil is used alongside thatch insulation batts, the highest possible level of protection from the spread of fire is given.

Fire Retardant Sprays

Two types of fire retardant spray exist, one for use indoors and the other for use outdoors. The outdoor spray is applied directly on to the outer surface of the roof. As it is both water and fire repellent, it cannot be washed out. It must be sprayed upwards and into the thatch at an angle and not only onto the surface of the roof. The indoor spray is used on the internal surface of the thatch and on the supporting timbers. The internal spray does not need reapplication as long as the roof is maintained in good condition, whereas the outdoor spray usually needs reapplication every ten years (it should be tested to assess whether a respray is needed every five years).

There are various different makes of fire retardant spray on the market but they are generally a water based solution containing fire retardant chemicals in a polymer emulsion binder that is specifically manufactured for thatch. They are non- toxic, odourless, fast penetrating, fast drying and bio degradable.

Fire retardant spray should be applied by trained professionals using high pressure specialist equipment. Ideally the roof should have had two hours of sunlight before the application process and there should have been no rain for at least four hours before. The drying time is usually anything up to a maximum of three hours. As damp conditions may adversely affect the drying process the ideal months for applying fire retardant sprays is between the end of March and the end of October.

Safety in Thatched Homes

Many insurers perceive there to be an additional fire risk in buildings of this type but if well looked after by an owner who is aware of their “responsibilities” of owning such a property we feel they are a good risk to insure.

Although homes with thatched roofs are statistically no more likely to catch fire than those with more conventional roofs, because thatch is designed to be water repellent, it can be very difficult to extinguish a fire once it has taken hold. The materials used in thatching burn extremely quickly and, as a consequence, fires in thatched buildings can be devastating.

90% of fires in thatched properties begin due to a fault in the chimney or flue. Precautions that may be taken against fires starting from chimneys or flues include;

  1. Do not build, rebuild or design chimneys without expert advice.
  2. Keep the chimney swept regularly. Twice a year is advisable or quarterly if wood is burnt.
  3. Ensure the top of the chimney stack is 1.8 meters above the thatch. This allows sparks to escape and burn out before settling on the thatch.
  4. Have the chimney checked to make sure that the brick or stone is in good condition where it passes through the thatch.
  5. Insulated lining should be fitted where the chimney passes through the thatch and it is also a good idea to have the chimney lined.
  6. A flue thermometer can be installed to keep a check on the flue temperature.
  7. If the chimney is used by an appliance that results in flue gases it should always be installed according to the manufacturers specifications.
  8. Smokeless fuel is better than peat or coal and any wood burned ought to be resin free, well seasoned and dry. Wet unseasoned wood results in greater deposits in the flue and poses a fire risk.

Other fire precautions inside the thatched property include;

  1. Do not use blow lamps within the roof space i.e near to the thatch.
  2. Do not use heat or flame paint strippers for the removal of paint on surfaces near to the thatch.
  3. Do not install any recessed lighting into ceilings below the thatch.
  4. Ensure that any tradesmen working on your property know the risks of fire from naked flames.
  5. Have the electrics in your thatched home checked every few years.
  6. Have smoke alarms fitted throughout your home. If there is a loft space then it is advisable to have an interlinked smoke alarm as fires that begin in the roof or loft space may not be immediately apparent.
  7. Electrical wiring in the loft space should be run in fire resistant ducting.
  8. A loft hatch of minimum dimensions 600×900 cm should be easily accessible, and the loft should be kept free of storage.
  9. Install fire extinguishers and a fire blanket.
  10. Check the roof space regularly for signs of mice or other vermin as they can cause damage to electrical wiring thus posing a potential fire risk.

Fire precautions that may be taken outside the property are;

  1. Do not mount external floodlights below the thatch overhang as they produce a lot of heat.
  2. TV aerials should be fitted to a gable end or to a free standing pole in order to discourage lightening strikes.
  3. Do not have barbecues, bonfires or firework parties within 100 meters of the property. If it is necessary to light a garden fire then always check wind direction and ensure that it’s prevailing direction is away from the house. Try to avoid lighting a fire in hot, dry conditions.
  4. Install an outside tap with a hose long enough to reach around the property and onto the roof. Ideally this should be lagged against frost.

At Highhouse Insurance Services we provide insurance for thatched homes. We offer cover for your building, your contents or both in a combined policy. We assess each case on its merits and look forward to hearing from you if you own one of these historic properties. The bulk of thatched property that we insure is over 150 years old; however, thatch is making a resurgence as a roofing material and we are equally pleased to discuss your requirements for more modern property.

Via our Lloyds of London Underwriters, we are able to offer terms on many types of Thatched property. We cover the older style which may be listed and have non-conventional materials contained within their walls through to modern buildings with thatch covering and we are pleased that this quintessentially British type of property is enjoying a much deserved renaissance at the moment.

We look forward to hearing from you if you have any questions about insurance for thatched property including all grades of listed building.

Ways to help fireproof your thatched home PDF Guide
Safety in Thatched Homes PDF Guide

Advantages and disadvantages of Thatched Property

Thatched cottaged property with advantages
Advantages & Disadvantages of Thatched Properties

Advantages of living in a thatched property

At Highhouse insurance, we are one of the few intermediaries in the United Kingdom that run their own scheme for thatched home insurance. We have a very developed appreciation of Thatched buildings and understand all of the risk factors that go hand in hand within owing this historic type of building; frequently we are able to offer cheaper insurance for thatched buildings as we understand that when looked after and cared for they are no more of an insurance risk than a building of standard construction. If you are seeking more information relating to this quintessentially British building, we hope you find our following article to be of interest.

Most thatched homes tend to be very old and this often means that they have large gardens and are built in excellent locations. The reason for this is that, due to their age, there were many good places to choose to build such properties. Often thatched properties are found near to a natural water supply and are on sheltered, slightly sloping land which gives good drainage and, thus, reduces problems with damp.

The thick straw or reed roofing provides excellent natural soundproofing from overhead aircraft as well as road traffic nearby. Likewise, it gives great insulation meaning that the thatched home remains cool in summer but warm in winter, helping to keep fuel costs low. The smaller windows that are normally to be found on such a property also contribute towards this insulating effect.

Due to their age, thatched houses usually have very thick, solid walls which are advantageous over modern cavity filled walls. In summer the heat from the outside travels very slowly to the inside ensuring that the temperature within remains cool.

The weatherproof thatch on the roof can withstand very strong, even gale force, winds and is very rarely prone to leaking. Leaks are usually caused by one of the wooden spars that are used in the ridge becoming broken and sometimes, after a spell of dry, warm weather the thatch may open slightly and then leak when it rains, however this is self-healing as the thatch will close again naturally.

Disadvantages of living in a thatched property

Due to their age and sometimes remote locations, not all thatched properties will be connected to a mains water or sewerage supply. Instead, water may be drawn from a nearby private or shared well, and either a cesspit or septic tank may be used for sewerage. Cesspits need frequent emptying, therefore a septic tank is preferable as they do not require as much attention as long as they are well below the ground level of the house and have good draining soil surrounding them. Also as a consequence of their remote location, thatched homes may not have any nearby street lighting and it may be necessary to install outside lights on the property.

Due to the old, solid walls and base and the lack of any damp proofing in such properties, the interior walls may suffer from damp caused by moisture rising from ground level.

In wet weather rain tends to cascade down the roof and falls in a constant stream around the entire perimeter of the house (it is unusual to find guttering on a thatched house) which continues for a time even after the rain has ceased. The rain splashing on to the ground can be the cause of mud spots forming on the exterior of the house and may cause green mould growth too. However, this is easily remedied by cleaning with a bleach solution.

The materials used in the thatch mean that the roof is at threat of attacks by birds that are nesting or are looking for insects. Holes may appear in the thatch and should be repaired as soon as possible as, left unrepaired, the birds will concentrate on these areas and the holes will become much larger. Most bird damage to roofs tends to be under the eaves or at the junction of the chimney and the roof. Some roofs have wire netting in these places to prevent this occurring, whilst others are completely covered by wire netting. Unfortunately, roofs that are totally covered by wire netting are often subject to higher insurance premiums as there will be the added difficulty of pulling the wire netting off in the event of a fire. This will delay the fire from being extinguished and result in more widespread fire damage.

Although thatched properties are no more likely to catch fire than regular homes, when a fire does break out the damage will be much more significant as fire spreads more rapidly in thatch. For this reason, insurance premiums will be higher. However as mentioned earlier, if you ask us at Highhouse insurance to quote for your thatched property , we will do our best to save you money.

It can be seen that whilst there are disadvantages of living in a thatched house, these are relatively minor and the advantages of living in such a charming and unique home may outweigh them.

Advantages of living in a Thatched Property PDF Guide