Who would live in a thatched house? Quintessential of the British countryside, beautiful, yet famously expensive to maintain and surely too much of a fire hazard to live in, before you even consider the cost to insure?
Yet this insurance broker author, despite years of “I will never live in a thatched house”, finds himself doing exactly that; and I have to say I love it! I have been through an entire re-thatch – which is pretty painful – but it’s warm in the winter, cool in the summer, and looks fantastic.
It is true that it is more expensive to insure a thatch house than an equivalent house with a tiled or slate roof, but the reality is that this is down to market forces rather than actual increased risk; there are in the region of 60,000 thatched homes in the UK, obviously much lower than the number of non-thatched, and this is reflected by the size of the market and hence not the same level of competition as in the non-thatch market. At Insurance Tailors we have our own thatched insurance scheme, underwritten by one of the UK’s highest rated insurers, Ecclesiastical, that provides the same level of All Risks cover that we recommend to general home owners and typically compares very favourably in terms of price against the NFU and other thatch insurers.
One of the key points of differentiation relates to how a thatch house is to be heated, particularly if there will be any open fires or woodburners in use in the house. For either of these all thatch insurers have very strict rules regarding the state of the chimney, how it is lined, regularity of sweeping etc, but interestingly a considerable number of thatch insurers will not cover properties where woodburning stoves will be in use, while they have no issue with open fires. The logic here is that the temperatures reached inside a woodburner and high up the chimney can be several times that of an open fire, with increased associated fire risk.
So my advice in summary to a would-be thatch property owner would be very simple – know what you are getting into and understand/be prepared for the costs. Yes the insurance may be a little higher than you are used to, but I doubt that will be a material fact in your decision making, compared to say the cost of re-thatching when it is needed.
And also be prepared for some more detailed conditions on your insurance policy…as a thatch fire will typically damage much more of a house than a non-thatch property – as it moves quicker – these conditions are designed to reduce to as close to nil as possible the chance of a fire ever starting. You will have to have an electrical wiring inspection on a regular basis, chimney and stoves regularly maintained and no massive bonfires under the eaves!!
But all in all I speak very much as a convert; I love living in one of only 60,000 thatched house in the UK so don’t let anyone put you off!