Protect your self-build dream

Whether you’re building your dream home from the ground up, extending or renovating your home, this information-packed guide will help you sleep easy, knowing that you have the right insurance throughout the whole process, from finding your plot to moving in.

Planning for a successful build

planning your build With property prices in London and the South East continuing to rise, 1 and interest fuelled by several high-profile TV programmes, increasing numbers of people are taking the potentially life-changing leap and building their own home. Over 12,000 self-build projects are undertaken in the UK each year 2 — and the number is growing. Whatever the style, whatever the size and whatever the location, protecting yourself and your project should be high on your list of things to do.

Self-building requires insurance cover that may be unfamiliar, and before you start your project, you should speak to an insurance expert to check whether the work you’re planning is covered by existing insurance. Standard home insurance may not cover renovations and extensions, and almost certainly won’t cover a self-build project. It’s also worth noting that the insurance needs of a selfbuild project can vary, depending on whether you’re looking to live in the property on completion, or rent or sell it. This article looks at the different risks you may face, as well as the cover you should look for in your insurance policy.

Self-build projects take significant time, planning and money. To quote Cervantes, ‘Forewarned, forearmed; to be prepared is half the victory’. No one wants to think about the worst happening, but having appropriate insurance cover will ensure your project remains protected, should the worst happen.

The life cycle of a self-build project comprises a number of stages, and your insurance needs are likely to change as you move through them. First, we look at the key stages in a project, then in detail at your likely insurance needs.

Stages in a self-build project

Looking for a plot

At this stage, your project may not require specialist self-build insurance. However, you may have purchased equipment, materials or fittings in preparation. If this is the case, you should ensure that you have sufficient cover on an insurance policy, in case of theft or damage.

Owning a plot

Once you’ve acquired your plot, whether it’s a inner city brownfield site or a pristine field, you have insurance liabilities. People visiting the site, with or without your permission, could be injured, and without public liability insurance, you could be financially liable for their injuries while on your site. Self-build insurance can be purchased once you have submitted a planning application for the site.

The build itself

After what may be years or months of dreaming and planning, work finally starts. And, unfortunately, with it comes the greatest need for self-build insurance. With builders, tradespeople, suppliers, materials, tools, plant and machinery potentially all on site, there are a lot of considerations. A new building itself will start to have a value as well, and should be insured prior to completion.

Delays and extending cover

While some selfbuild projects go like clockwork and finish on time, due to their individual and occasionally challenging nature, delays can, and do, occur. Weather, suppliers, problems with sourcing materials and planning can all add unexpected time to a project. It’s worth choosing an insurance policy that can be extended, in case this happens. Be sure to know the end date of the policy, and extend it in good time to avoid any gaps in cover.

Completing the project

The finishing line is in sight. As you move through final fix, decorating and installing appliances, your thoughts may well be moving towards moving in. As the value of items within the property increases, be sure to check that everything is covered, and that limits are high enough for everything.

Transferring to buildings and contents

You’re finished; the scatter cushions are down, the bubbles are in the fridge and the neighbours have been invited around. It’s time to celebrate. By now, your self-build insurance should have served its purpose, and you should now consider having buildings and contents insurance in place. Some self-build policies automatically provide a level of home insurance cover, so be sure to check before you buy.

Self-build insurance to consider

Below are the key risks that you should be insured for:

Injury to members of the public

selfbuild logoWhether a passer-by, a visitor to the site or even a trespasser, it’s your responsibility to have public liability cover in place, in case any members of the public are injured while on your site.

Injury to workers on site

You have responsibilities for workers that you employ on the site, and must have employers’ liability insurance in case these workers are injured during the course of their work on site. This is a legal requirement — not an optional extra.

Personal accident

Protect yourself, should you sustain a permanent disability on site, such as loss of limb or loss of sight.

Personal belongings

If you’re storing any of your belongings on site while you complete your build, you should make sure these are covered too, but you’ll need to maintain appropriate security to prevent theft.

Theft of tools or plant from the site

Whether these are owned by you or have been hired, they can be expensive to replace. You will, of course, be expected to maintain a high level of site security to prevent and deter would-be thieves.

Contract works cover

Contract works cover protects the property while under construction, including materials on site. Accidental damage, storm damage, vandalism, flooding and fire are all risks to be aware of while building works are underway.

Legal disputes

Make sure you have protection against any potential legal costs arising, such as from contractual disputes between you and your contractor or utility companies, or the removal of squatters from site during the course of the build.

Top tips

top tipsGet cover in place as soon as you have a plot and have applied for planning permission, as from this point forward, you may be liable for damage, loss or injury.

Don’t assume that your contractor’s insurance will cover the whole project. This is not the case. A contractor’s public liability insurance protects them from any claims of negligence in the work done; it does not, however, cover your property in the event of storms, fire or theft, or should visitors be injured while on your site.

Make sure you have comprehensive cover to include public liability, employers’ liability, building works, legal costs, on-site temporary structures and machinery/tools whether hired or owned;

Self-build insurance policies are aimed at providing you with the cover you need, with added flexibility to be modified and extended, if required.

1: Lloyds Banking Group Regional House Price Index ( regional-house-prices/).

2: House of Commons Library. Self-Build and custom build housing sector ( BriefingPapers/Pages/BPPdfDownload.aspx?bpid= SN06784).