Your Questions: What can be done to get insurance for a home with a flat roof?
Q: I have reached completion stage of my house-build and am looking around for a new home insurance policy. The house is very modern in style and was built with a flat roof, which I was assured early on would be insurable, but I have tried two different insurers now without success. The roof has a 25-year guarantee and complies with all the standard building regulations. Am I in trouble?
A: Each insurer operating in the Irish home insurance market has a different threshold on the percentage of flat roof allowed in their acceptance criteria.
Traditionally, a 100pc flat roof has been considered non-standard, and a no-go with the main insurers, according to Deirdre McCarthy of InsureMyHouse.ie.
In her opinion, this dates back to a time when the construction consisted of a timber roof with torch-on felt.
However, the modern construction of flat-roof properties is considered robust, waterproof and normally comes with a long-term guarantee.
Ms McCarthy says she has helped clients recently to secure cover on 100pc, flat-roof houses where the roofs were made of polymer and concrete.
There have always been specialist insurers that work with homeowners of properties deemed to be non-standard, and any one of these would insure this house for you, she added.
Most of the non-standard insurers work through a panel of brokers, so contacting your local insurance broker should solve your issue.
To enable your broker to get you the best price you should have the construction details of the roof, such as the materials used and the guarantee information.
Your architect will be able to give you all the details.
Q: My husband and I have been living in the same five-bedroom house for 20 years. Our son and daughters have all flown the nest now and we are both retired. We have 10 years left on our mortgage. We don't have big pension pots and affordability is becoming an issue. So, we have been looking to downsize. We want to stay in the same area, because that's where our children are, but there is nothing that suits our needs. Do we have any options, or should we just get used to the fact that we are stuck with this mortgage and will just have to budget accordingly?
A: You have options. Perhaps you can just wait it out until a suitable property comes to market, according to Sinead Buckley of Mortgages4Her.ie.
Another option would be to recoup some of your mortgage spend by renting out a room, or rooms, in your current home. Chat with your husband, and if this is something that you could both see working, then look into rent-a-room relief.
This allows you to rent out one or more rooms in your own home without paying tax on the earnings, subject to a limit of €14,000. Given the shortage of housing in Ireland at the moment this could be the perfect solution, not just for you, but for a student or a young professional struggling to get suitable accommodation at the moment.
If this is not an option and you definitely want to move, then maybe you could look at selling your existing home, and possibly renting or moving in with family until such time as you find your ideal home. Banks are currently not offering bridging finance, Ms Buckley says.
Q: I own a van which I use for working as a carpenter. But I also use it for personal use at the weekend. I surf, so it is very handy. I have a commercial insurance policy. But if I had an accident at the weekend when I was down west surfing, would I be covered?
A: We put this to Jonathan Hehir, who is chief executive officer of Insuremyvan.ie. He said he does not think you are going to have a problem with this as the vast majority of commercial vehicle policies cover you in connection with your business or occupation and for social, domestic and pleasure purposes.
However, the policies exclude the vehicle being used for hire and reward.
Like all policies, you should check the wording carefully as every policy varies. The exact wording will be on your certificate of insurance and Mr Hehir said he would be very surprised if you don't have this cover.
Where the confusion comes from is the motor tax on light good commercial vehicles. If you have taxed the vehicle commercially you are not supposed to use it for any private use.
This law does not affect the insurance, but technically driving to the shops in a commercially taxed light commercial vehicle is illegal, yet you would still be insured.
Each insurer operating in this market has a different threshold on the percentage of flat roof allowed in their acceptance criteria.
The vast majority of commercial vehicle policies cover you in connection with your business or occupation and for social, domestic and pleasure purposes.