Striving towards leading a more sustainable life is fast becoming a priority for many people due to climate change.
This is not limited simply to cutting out plastic use or using public transport instead of driving to reduce carbon emissions - it is also a trend within the home and construction industry.
A survey by Amli Residential in the US showed that more than 80 percent of people believe that living in a sustainable or eco-friendly home is very important; 85 percent said their sustainable abode was beneficial to physical well-being, while more than 60 percent were willing to fork out more to stay in a green estate.
Vera Nagtegaal, the executive head of online comparison website Hippo.co.za, sees the move to eco-friendly living as a step in the right direction.
Nagtegaal said, "While this is still a new trend in South Africa, it should become the norm in years to come. Green homes make it possible to save more energy and water and contribute to a healthier way of living. If you are thinking about major eco-friendly changes to your home, you will need to consider your home insurance".
Nagtegaal advises that you contact your insurance provider before you start the process, because it could involve insurance risks.
She said, "Planning is key if you are set on major renovations such as making provision for more natural light by fitting a glass ceiling or panels. Building plans need to be pre-approved. If this isn’t done, you run the risk of having any claims repudiated. If your plans are non-compliant with building regulations, you might find yourself in some trouble with your neighbours, who may file a liability claim".
She said that it is advisable to inform your current insurance provider when you’re renovating.
Nagtegaal said, "Building insurance usually covers things such as leaks, fire damage or theft, but you may also need special home insurance to cover the things building insurance doesn’t. This includes flood insurance to cover damage, as well as thatched home insurance. Although this is an eco-friendly form of roofing due to it being a natural product, it can catch fire easily and be expensive to repair".
You will also have to inform your insurer if your home will be vacant while renovations are being done and check whether your policy covers this, according to Nagtegaal.
She added, "If your policy only makes provision for a certain number of days, unoccupied home insurance should be considered, as you may be liable for any damages during the days that are not covered".
She said that contractors should be chosen carefully and you should make sure they have insurance for their workers so that you are not held liable if in is injured. Nagtegaal said, "If your house is quite old, workers may be exposed to hazardous materials".
Nagtegaal advises homeowners to contact their insurers as soon as their home improvements are done to establish whether they need to update their building policy.
"Any upgrades to a home will add to its value, but some additions, such as a new lapa with a thatched roof, may pose a greater risk. Ensure that the amount your home is covered for reflects the current value of replacing the property and that higher risk upgrades are noted on their cover," concluded Nagtegaal.