Stay­ing cov­ered while ren­o­vat­ing

Business Day - Home Front - - HOME FRONT -

THE de­ci­sion to build or ren­o­vate a home presents a num­ber of un­fore­seen in­sur­ance risks, not only due to the in­creased chance of haz­ards such as fire or wa­ter dam­age that con­struc­tion work can present, but also through the use of dis­rep­utable con­trac­tors.

When cou­pled with the fact that most in­sur­ance poli­cies re­strict cover while build­ings are ren­o­vated, it be­comes even more crit­i­cal for home­own­ers to en­sure they are aware of the pit­falls of in­val­i­dat­ing in­sur­ance cover dur­ing this time.

Distracted with se­lect­ing paint colours, floor cov­er­ings or cabi­net types dur­ing ren­o­va­tions, home­own­ers of­ten for­get about the most im­por­tant task of all: choos­ing a rep­utable con­trac­tor to han­dle the pro­ject. By not us­ing a re­li­able con­trac­tor, home­own­ers place them­selves at risk of in­sur­ance claim re­pu­di­a­tions if the build­ing or struc­ture col­lapses or starts to de­te­ri­o­rate.

It is not a good idea to pick the first con­trac­tor; se­lect­ing a con­trac­tor should be a well­re­searched process that is not rushed but rather in­volves a thor­ough eval­u­a­tion. Home­own­ers should start off by sourc­ing sev­eral suit­able con­trac­tors. They can even ask their in­sur­ance com­pany’s claims depart­ment for pos­si­ble rec­om­men­da­tions in or­der to have a se­lec­tion to choose from.

Be­fore any ren­o­va­tion pro­ject com­mences, it is im­per­a­tive that the home­owner checks whether the con­trac­tor they are go­ing to hire be­longs to a li­censed firm that is prop­erly bonded and in­sured, to avoid fi­nan­cial costs in the long term. Home­own­ers have the right to re­quest to see the con­trac­tor’s con­fir­ma­tion of in­sur­ance. They should en­sure that the limit is suf­fi­cient to re­place the house should dam­age to the home or de­struc­tion of the home oc­cur dur­ing the pro­ject.

A good con­trac­tor should have tech­ni­cal, busi­ness and in­ter­per­sonal skills added to the tools and ex­pe­ri­ence needed to per­form a sat­is­fac­tory job. There­fore, it is best for a home­owner to hire a con­trac­tor who has ex­pe­ri­ence with sim­i­lar projects to the one that needs to be com­pleted. This will best en­sure that the con­trac­tor is fa­mil­iar with the ma­te­ri­als and tech­niques needed, as well as know how to solve any prob­lems that may arise.

Warn­ing bells con­sumers should look out for when se­lect­ing a con­trac­tor in­clude a con­trac­tor who does not have a phys­i­cal ad­dress; does not want a writ­ten con­tract; or of­fers dis­count for cash pay­ments. Th­ese are signs of an un­der­ground trans­ac­tion, which may present many risks to the home­owner and prob­a­bly means that the con­trac­tor is un­li­censed and/or unin­sured. With­out a writ­ten con­tract, the home­owner is un­pro­tected — if the need for an in­sur­ance claim arises due to dam­ages caused to the home, the chances are good that the claim will be re­jected as there is no writ­ten pa­per­work or the con­trac­tor is un­li­censed.

Dur­ing any ren­o­va­tion pro­ject it is also im­por­tant to makes sure the work­ers fol­low some ba­sic rules to best avoid fire dam­age. Firstly, af­ter the com­ple­tion of any paint job all rags, tow­els or drop clothes with paint, stain or oil-based sol­vents on them must be prop­erly dis­posed of, as they in­crease the risk of fires. It is also ad­vis­able to in­sist that no smok­ing of cig­a­rettes takes place dur­ing the con­struc­tion job and that a fire ex­tin­guisher is al­ways present.

Should the pro­ject re­quire the use of a blow­torch, ask the con­trac­tors to in­stall a heat shield near any com­bustible ma­te­ri­als and re­move any flammable ma­te­ri­als or liq­uids from the work area. Home­own­ers can also ask the con­trac­tors to look out for any pos­si­ble fires that may have started be­fore they leave the premises each day by scan­ning the prop­erty for smoul­der­ing ma­te­ri­als or hid­den hot spots.

The chances of wa­ter dam­age oc­cur­ring in the home dur­ing a con­struc­tion pro­ject also in­creases due to the vi­bra­tions of build­ing equip­ment or poor work­man­ship which can re­sult in burst or leak­ing pipes. If any walls or roofs are left open dur­ing the pro­ject, wind-driven rain can some­times seep through plas­tic pro­tec­tive tarps or tem­po­rary ply­wood. There­fore, it is best to check for any wa­ter dam­age on a daily ba­sis to en­sure it can be quickly iden­ti­fied and dam­age can be kept to a min­i­mum.

It is vi­tal to re­mem­ber that most in­sur­ance poli­cies re­quire the home­owner to in­form their in­sur­ance provider if home ren­o­va­tions are un­der­taken and that the stan­dard build­ing and contents pol­icy will not re­spond to claims as a re­sult of home ren­o­va­tions. In­form­ing the in­sur­ance provider in writ­ing of the ren­o­va­tions also en­sures that the pol­icy can be up­dated ac­cord­ing to the new value of the home af­ter the al­ter­ations.

By giv­ing thought to th­ese im­por­tant in­sur­ance con­sid­er­a­tions ahead of any home con­struc­tion or ren­o­va­tion pro­ject, one can save the has­sle of any fi­nan­cial reper­cus­sions while also en­sur­ing that a newly ren­o­vated home will pro­vide years of plea­sure.

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