Insurance considerations when making your home more eco-friendly

PUBLISHED 17 FEB 2020   

Striving towards leading a more sustainable life is fast becoming a priority for many people due to climate change. This is not limited to simply cutting out plastic use, it is also current within the home and construction industry.

An AMLI Residential survey in the USA showed that more than 80% of people believe living in a sustainable or eco-friendly home is very important. 85% said their sustainable abode is beneficial to physical well-being, while more than 60% are willing to pay out more to stay in a green estate. 

Vera Nagtegaal, executive head of online comparison website Hippo.co.za, sees the move to eco-friendly living as a step in the right direction. “While this is still a new trend in South Africa, it should become the norm in years to come. Green homes make it possible to save more energy and water and contribute to a healthier way of living. If you are thinking about major eco-friendly changes to your home, you will need to consider your home insurance.”

Nagtegaal advises that you contact your insurance provider before you start the process since it could involve insurance risks. “Planning is key if you are set on major renovations like making provision for more natural light by fitting a glass ceiling or panels. Building plans need to be pre-approved. If this isn’t done, you run the risk of having any claims repudiated. If your plans are non-compliant with building regulations, you might find yourself in some trouble with your neighbours who may file a liability claim.”

She adds that it is advisable to inform your current insurance provider when you’re renovating. “Building insurance usually covers things like leaks, fire damage or theft, but you may also need Special Home Insurance to cover the things that your building insurance does not. This includes Flood Insurance to cover damage from flooding, as well as Thatched Home Insurance. Although this is an eco-friendly form of roofing due to it being a natural product, it can catch fire easily and can be expensive to repair.”

You will also have to inform your insurer if your home will be vacant while renovations are being done and check whether your policy covers this, according to Nagtegaal. “If your policy only makes provision for a certain amount of days, Unoccupied Home Insurance should be considered, as you may be liable for any damages occurring during the days that are not covered.” 

She warns that contractors should be chosen carefully and make sure they have insurance for their workers so that you are not held liable if there’s an injury. “If your house is quite old, workers may be exposed to hazardous materials.”

Nagtegaal advises homeowners to contact their insurers as soon as their home improvements are done to establish whether they need to update their building insurance policy. “It is important to remember that any upgrades to a home will add to its value and some additions, such as a new Lapa with a thatch roof, may pose a greater risk. Homeowners need to ensure that the amount their home is covered for reflects the current value of replacing the property and that higher risk upgrades are noted on their cover,” she concludes.