Does your home insurance cover your new 'shoffice' and personal storage unit? With the increasing popularity of conversions to home offices, gyms, drinks bars, shed offices' ('shoffices') and she-sheds, data shows that outbuilding fires rose by 16% in 2020, compared to the year before, and three-quarters of areas in the UK recorded more fires, according to Freedom of information requests issued by Zurich UK in August 2021.
The increase in the use and conversion of outbuildings to escape family life or find a place to work while we spend a greater portion of our time at home seems, according to Phil Ost from Zurich, 'to have sparked a rise in accidental blazes.'
Also, a survey conducted by Aviva in April 2021 suggested that as many as one in ten of those asked worked from a converted shed, garage or summer house, with some people spending significant sums on a luxury cabin. An increase in planning applications to convert garages has also risen sharply.
Beware of invalidating your insurance because of increased fire risks
What many are unaware of, however, is the risk of invalidating their insurance if they have not informed their insurer of their new or converted outbuilding. While some insurers have allowed people setting up in business at home to extend their cover at no extra cost, some may need to buy new policies or pay larger premiums owing to the extra risk.
Something to be cautious of is the risk that expensive equipment, for example, may go above insurance limits if stolen or damaged.
Popular lockdown purchases such as pizza ovens, fire pits and chimeneas have also been the culprits of increased fire risks in gardens, with data from UK fire authorities showing an increase of more than 500 fires last year than in 2019.
Be careful of using self-storage units as warehouses
Another risk which has also emerged are the increase in the use of self-storage units while people work from home. Warnings have been issued regarding underinsuring, or having no insurance, for personal property in storage units. Some customers have been victims of warehouse fires where their personal belongings have gone up in flames.
Many storage unit operators offer insurance, but customers may shop around for cheaper deals, and some may have cover included through their home insurance policy.
Home insurance from Towergate
Working from home insurance from Towergate
We also offer property insurance including specific cover for people who are working from home:
- Buildings cover, contents cover and property owner’s liability with a £2 million limit of indemnity available
- Standard office equipment cover up to £3,000 (can be extended)
- Temporary accommodation for you to continue working if your home becomes uninhabitable through an insured accident