Insuring Old Houses
You’ve found your dream house: it’s a beautiful old villa from the 1920’s. It might be picture perfect, but is it insurable?
Why are older houses harder to insure?
Before the early 1930’s, some councils had their own building bylaws while others had no standards at all. The 1931 Napier earthquake made it clear that the building methods used were unsuitable in a country built on earthquake fault lines.
In December 1935, New Zealand’s first set of building standards were introduced. These requirements set the basis for the code of compliance building regulations we have today.
Can I insure my old house?
If your house was built in or after 1935 we can provide an instant quote and insurance cover online here.
If your house was built before 1935 we’ll need more information before we can confirm cover. Pre-1935 houses were subject to less building standards, and are therefore generally more risky due to their age.
Our minimum requirements
At a minimum, we will require that your pre-1935 house meets the below conditions if we are to consider insuring it.
1. No original electrical wiring (including switchboards)
Electrical wiring in the early 1900’s was cloth-wrapped rubber insulated in metal conduit. This wiring was highly prone to deterioration and is a leading cause for house fires. As a result, many houses were rewired during the 1950’s and 1960’s.
Despite this, there are still properties around with the original wiring still installed. We can only consider cover on a pre-1935 house if we have confirmation the original wiring has been replaced with TPS (Tough Plastic Seathing) wiring.
If you are unsure whether the wiring in your house has been replaced, you can get a wiring certificate from a registered electrician to confirm.
2. Roof replaced within the past 30 years, or in good condition
An iron roof is expected to last about 50 years. As a roof ages it will rust and loosen, and leaks can develop. Good maintenance and regular painting will get you so far, but eventually it will need to be replaced.
Faulty roofs are a leading cause of property damage. Therefore we will consider cover only if your roof has been replaced in the last 30 years, or is shown to be in good condition.
3. No walls lined with Scrim or Sarking
Scrim is sacking that is stapled to thin wooden strips known as sarking. Think of it as kindling and newspaper – the perfect fire starter. Scrim and sarking is basically the wall board that the wallpaper attaches to. It’s likely that over the past 100 odd years, it will have been wallpapered or painted over multiple times.
To test if your property has scrim wall boards you can use the knock test. Scrim will sound like you are knocking on wood and it will be hard to distinguish any studs. You could also use the floating wallpaper test. Over time the Hessian Scrim starts coming away and gives the impression of floating, bulging wallpaper. Check for this in room corners.
Finally, give it a close inspection. You can sometimes see rough sawn board (sarking) or Hessian (Scrim) where wallpaper is loose or has come away. Wallpaper can also look ‘textured’ as the woven Hessian fabric has imprinted the wallpaper from underneath.
Because of the increased fire risk, we will require that there is no scrim or sarking, or that it has been removed before we can consider cover.
4. No Historical Classification
Occasionally older houses have a local council or government historical classification. This means there are certain rules around preserving the build and style of the house. If the house is damaged the local council or government may require it to be repaired to a certain style with particular materials.
This can make a potential claim very complicated. Because there are rebuild requirements for these homes that we can not meet, we are unable to insure your house if it has a historical classification.
5. Exterior cladding has no outstanding maintenance
New Zealand homes were often clad in weatherboards, which were originally made from native timber. Unlike modern materials, weatherboards require lots of maintenance, including regular painting. Unmaintained weatherboards on older homes will begin to rot over time, which will reduce weather tightness.
We require at a minimum that your home has no cladding defects such as rotting.
6. Original piles and foundations with no defects
It’s common for older homes to have foundational issues. Sagging or wavy floorboards is an indicator of problems with the piles. Check under the house for cracks and signs of shifting, or decay in timber piles. Mould can also be an early warning sign of weak foundations and other problems.
Sinking or rotting foundations are both very risky and unsafe to live in. For us to consider insurance, there must be no defects in your home’s foundations.
My house meets these conditions, how can I get covered?
If you know your old home meets our requirements, go ahead and get a quote below.
Submitting a Referral
If you would like to proceed with your quote, please select the ‘Submit Referral’ option at the bottom of the quote. You will be asked our pre-1935 declaration questions regarding the minimum requirements listed above. A referral will be sent to us to review your property if the answers you provide clear our minimum requirements.
If we are happy with the condition of the property we’ll confirm we can provide insurance cover on your home. The premium you are quoted will not change. We may at times need further documents such as a building report if you don’t know when the property was renovated or what work has been completed.
For more information on insuring different types see our insurance covers designed specifically for: