Insuring older homes
We've put together a list of things to look out for when buying an older home, and what this may mean for your house insurance policy.
If you are looking to buy an older home or you own an older home and are changing house insurance policies, we may ask you to provide more information before we can offer cover.
Older houses (built pre-1940) were subject to different building standards and over time the quality of the materials can deteriorate.
If you're buying, it's important to check you can get insurance for your property before making an offer.
If you're renewing your policy, or we ask you to move to a newer policy (when an older or off-sale policy is being phased out, for instance) the terms and conditions of your policy may change. Most house insurers in New Zealand offer replacement value sum insured policies including Tower. When moving from a present day value (PDV) house policy to a replacement value sum insured house policy and you have an older house, you'll need to answer specific questions about your property to qualify for replacement value.
In both cases, it's important to answer all questions honestly and truthfully so you'll be covered at claims time. If we find that your house has structural issues or other defects, this may need to be rectified before we can offer insurance. We recommend speaking to a qualified professional about getting the issues thoroughly checked and addressed.
What should I look out for?
Check your wiring
An older home's wiring may not meet modern electrical safety standards. If you're buying, ask an electrician to check the property's wiring before you make an offer. If the original wiring still exists or the wiring is old, you may need to re-wire the property and replace the electrical switchboard as this can be a fire hazard.
Check your roof
If the house has an iron roof it must have been replaced within the last 30 years or be in good condition. As a roof ages, rust and leaks can develop increasing the risk of property damage. Some insurance policies also exclude hidden water damage so check the policy wording. Be sure to get your roof inspected by a professional.
Check your foundations/piles
Make sure you ask your builder to thoroughly check the foundations. The piles must be in good condition to get insurance, so it's better to be safe than sorry. Sloping, sagging or wavy floorboards can be a sign that something is wrong. If some or all of the piles are moving, your house may need re-piling before you can get insurance cover.
Check your walls
Scrim and sarking is an old fashioned technique used to construct walls before the invention of plasterboard. Scrim (a woven piece of cloth or sacking) was stapled to wooden panels (sarking) to form walls for wallpapering. It's important to remove scrim and sarking as it can be a fire hazard particularly when combined with old wiring. It can also lead to insulation and dampness issues.
Scrim and sarking is easy to spot if you can hear the sound of wood when knocking on the wall or any wallpaper laid over the top has an uneven finish. We won't offer insurance for houses with scrim and sarking so it must be removed and your walls relined with plasterboard.
Check if your house has a historical classification
We're unable to insure houses with a local council or government historical classification. In the event of a claim, the house must be repaired or rebuilt to a certain style with particular materials which can be complicated and costly. Be sure to check with your local council if there are heritage controls on the property you're looking to buy.
Check your exterior cladding
Some older houses have external cladding or roof tiles made of asbestos. This should not cause any major concern unless they are damaged. If the condition is deteriorating, it is recommended that the cladding or tiles are sealed rather than removed or replaced. The Ministry of Health website has details on how to do this safely.