Why Insuring Non-Standard Properties Can Be Difficult

Non-standard construction properties can be fantastic to visit. A lot of people shy away from living in one though and getting insurance or a mortgage are big reasons as to why.

When it comes down to mortgaging a property, and insuring same, most brokers tend to be very conservative. Everything comes down to probability and statistics, and when something comes along that doesn’t fall into the standard statistical range, it makes them twitchy.

You can end up with a non-standard property due to your roof, so while a thatch roof might look fantastic, be aware it’s likely to belt you into the non-standard insurance stratosphere.

What is non-standard property construction?

Simply put, it’s built partially or completely from something outside of the industry norm.

Building Regs - Changing Over Time

The interesting thing there, of course, is that industry norms and 'building regs' change. An insurance broker in the 12th century would have considered wattle and daub a standard property at the time; brick and mortar would have been considered a new-fangled invention and quite probably non-standard.

Wood and thatch burn - who knew?

Another problem with non-standard properties is an elevated risk. Going back to our old friend the thatched roof: it burns unbelievably fast. A thatched property that can catches fire can burn down in the middle of a torrential downpour.

Timber framed buildings are considered an elevated fire risk for the same reason; most wattle and daub is placed over timber framing, and wood burns exceptionally well. If a fire catches hold in a timber frame house, it’s time to evacuate and break out the marshmallows.

Maintaining a non-standard property

The other thing that makes insurance tricky is maintenance and repair costs. Non-standard repair work will often need specialist attention, which is expensive, and non-standard materials are costly. A quick comparison of standard roof shingles to slate will make most brokers reach for the smelling salts.

Sometimes the original building material ends up being obsolete, meaning it simply can’t be obtained or used. That’s not always a bad thing.

Asbestos - a lurking danger

Asbestos was the ultimate wonder material until we realised just how dangerous it was and finally banned it altogether. Since that only happened in 1999, there are still homes across the UK where renovations come to a complete halt while an asbestos removal team goes in to strip it out.

Mundic Block

Something like mundic block is often considered uninsurable, because of the risk of mundic decay. The good news is there are companies that specialise in mundic replacement. The bad news is that the cost is high, and even if it’s a localised area on the property, your wallet and insurance premiums are going to take a spanking.

Where are the master craftsmen? Or women?

And sometimes the knowledge of how to deal with that material disappears as the older tradesmen retire or leave the business.

It used to be that master craftsmen would take on an apprentice or two and teach them their specialised skill sets. Nowadays, there simply isn’t enough work.

There are still apprenticeships, yes. But the old skills and handcrafters are a rapidly disappearing breed, and most young apprenticeships go to trade college and then onto standard property building sites.

Even the simplest home job can become tricky, especially if you didn’t realise that you were in a non-standard property. While that’s more likely to happen to tenants than homeowners, it does still happen; there are people who’ve only realised that they’re in a metal-skinned house after trying to drill a hole in what appeared to be brick for over an hour.

Non-standard construction - beauty is more than skin-deep

So, while there are gorgeous non-standard properties out there, living in one is surprisingly complex for a wide variety of reasons, and standard insurance brokers aren’t set up to deal with them.

Insuring a house of non-standard construction

Remember those statistics mentioned earlier? Standard insurance is based strictly on established figures and actuarial tables, and anything that falls outside of those becomes problematic because the system isn’t set up to deal with them.

This why specialist brokers are going to be your best bet. They’re used to dealing with unusual properties, including non-standard builds, they can assess the information fairly, and they aren’t likely to faint when you mention cob construction or PRC (pre-cast reinforced concrete).

Getting a mortgage on the other hand, is a whole different kettle of fish. Like specialist insurance brokers, you’ll need to find a specialist mortgage broker. Don’t lose hope – they’re out there.

And finally - don't forget your buildings insurance

Don’t forget to check your non-standard construction buildings insurance policy to make sure your home is properly covered and for the correct sums insured.