More than one third of homeowners think their house insurance policy covers them when renovating, but many are in for a nasty surprise if a big alteration goes wrong.

The renovation boom of recent years might be tapering off, but 68% of homeowners still say they want to renovate in the next two years, and 23% had started to progress their plans, according to new research commissioned by Tower Insurance.

But the research also showed that 35% of homeowners thought their existing home insurance would cover them should something unexpected happen, and 36% did not know what they were covered for.

Tower head of product David Meaclem said most house insurance policies only provided cover for minor alterations, such as building a deck, but did not cover structural alterations or ones that required a building consent.

Many people were not aware of this, and with construction costs soaring due to record inflation, it was important that people had the right level of insurance protection if they were embarking on a renovation, he said.

“The upswing in renovation that has almost one third (30%) of homeowners planning on spending more than $50,000 on an upcoming renovation has led us to launch a renovation-specific product.”

The new product would sit alongside an existing house insurance policy to extend a homeowner’s cover to take into account any significant renovation work being done.

Tower head of product David Meaclem says most house insurance policies only cover minor renovations.

Tower head of product David Meaclem says most house insurance policies only cover minor renovations.

It was separate to house insurance or builders’ insurance, and covered damage to the renovations being completed, as well theft of, or damage to, materials during the construction period. It would include work such as installing a swimming pool.

Meaclem said the product meant a large renovation project such as adding an extra room, which would require consents and cost around $100,000, would be covered. Under most existing policies, it would not be.

It was essential that people understood what the contract they had with their builder or renovation company covered, he said.

“Different builders use different insurance products, and the right liability insurance for the project may not be in place.

“But, from our perspective, it would be great if people planning a renovation were aware of what their existing policies cover, and we encourage them to get in touch to find out.”

The insurer wanted to provide greater peace of mind at a time when a house could be more vulnerable, particularly if the owners had to live off-site for a while, he said.

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