A family unable to move into their new thatched home because no insurance company will cover the property fears the thousands of pounds they’ve spent renovating the home are all for nothing.
oin Darby, his wife Suzanne and their 20-month-old daughter Julia are in “complete limbo” as the couple are unable to call the final payment on their mortgage without insurance.
In July 2020 they bought a 180 year old cottage in Malahide, North Co Dublin and undertook extensive refurbishment including adding a new thatched roof, replacing the electrical wiring and rebuilding to the highest fire safety standards.
The Darby family also faced hurdles to get planning permission, but now they may not be able to complete construction.
Two Irish insurers that previously insured owners of thatched cottages are now refusing to take on new business due to “a lack of risk appetite”, while UK insurers have exited the market here since Brexit.
Mr Darby and his family have been living with his wife’s parents for a year and were originally due to move into their new home in September. But now they have no idea when — or if — they’ll be able to.
‘We have expended considerable expense to restore this 1840’s cottage to its original splendour, and now we cannot really move in,’ said Mr Darby angrily.
“Having gone through two full years of planning permission and construction, we don’t know where to turn.
“It is absolutely disgraceful that we are unable to use our restored local cottage when the Department of Heritage continues to encourage the use of traditional skills such as thatching.
“How can thatch stay if people can’t get insurance?”
Mr. Darby works as a surveyor and has a degree in Conservation and Building Repair.
The couple saw the potential of the property and wanted to preserve the historic aspect of the home.
The original thatched roof was removed in the 1950s and replaced with an asbestos slate roof.
He wanted to restore it to its original style while adding some modern renovations.
Insurers were still onboarding new straw customers in 2020, but everything changed earlier this year when OBF Insurance pulled out, citing a “serious deterioration” in its claims experience.
FBD Insurance, meanwhile, said that thatched houses are no longer in its “risk appetite for new business”.
Owners of thatched properties had to make significant changes to the traditional style of their homes to secure the cover, including removing stoves and sealing chimneys.
However, anyone who has recently bought a home cannot get insurance coverage at all – except in cases where the previous owners had insurance, with OBF saying it will continue to offer insurance to a buyer of a thatched property if they already have it for assure the seller.
In some cases the previous owners were not insured. Because the Darby family were building a new thatched roof, there was no previous thatched roof policy on the property.
“Our house is basically a brand new house with all the work that has been done,” Mr Darby said.
“We have all implemented the highest fire safety standards, we have two layers of fireproof panels for protection, we have no sparking heat sources in the house and all wiring is of the most modern standards.
“Without insurance I can’t get the final mortgage draw from our bank and then I can’t pay the builders to keep going. I don’t know what we’re going to do.”
Fingal County Council has estimated that there are just under 60 thatched buildings left in north County Dublin.
“The surviving structures were often expanded and modified; Local roofers are aging and owners are finding it increasingly difficult to keep and maintain their roof in the face of a variety of issues,” the council said.
The Heritage Council did not respond to questions about its plans to address the insurance issues faced by thatched property owners.
Peter Boland, director of the Alliance for Insurance Reform, called on the government to organize an alternative to commercial coverage for thatched buildings.
“It is becoming clear that changes in the way insurers decide what to cover mean that despite all the reforms that are already in place or on the way, there will be micro-sectors such as thatched cottages that will always struggle will have to get cover.”
https://www.independent.ie/irish-news/weve-spent-thousands-of-euro-restoring-1840s-cottage-that-we-cant-move-into-41929992.html Ireland’s thatched cottages: ‘We’ve spent thousands of pounds restoring an 1840s cottage we can’t move into’