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big freeze

big freezeHoliday homeowners please be proactive as the country braces itself for a big freeze and snow for the remainder of February.

The advice comes as the Met Office forecast temperatures across much of the UK to plummet well below freezing and have issued a Yellow Warning for persistent snow showers in the East. Conditions such as these can lead to pipes in your vacant holiday home to freeze and burst.

At the height of the La Niña cold spell in 2010 UK insurers dealt with 3,500 claims for burst pipe damage every day (£1 billion paid out in Nov/Dec alone) *ABI.

Whilst many holiday homes are let to guests throughout much of the year, the period between Half Term and Easter is less popular, properties are often empty and therefore more exposed to extreme weather.

Mark Lavington, Director at Boshers Ltd explained; “We see more burst pipe and escape of water insurance claims than any other. Whilst the damage caused can be significant there are several simple steps holiday homeowners can take in order to minimise their risk.”

Avoiding burst pipes during the big freeze

The firm has issued guidance including a number of steps you can take in order to reduce the chances of potential damage:

  • Turn off the stopcock and drain the water and heating system; or
  • Leave the heating on to maintain a temperature throughout your holiday home sufficient to prevent pipes from freezing (above 7c).
  • If your holiday home is to be unoccupied during the winter ensure you turn the water off at the stopcock even if you leave your heating on (where your heating system allows).
  • Ensure you arrange for regular checks to be made on the property during any period in which it isn’t occupied.
  • Look to lag and insulate pipes, boilers and storage tanks, particularly if exposed to the elements.
  • Make sure your heating and water systems are regularly checked by a professional and consider installing a leak detection system or automatic stopcock, particularly if you live away from the property.
  • Refer to your holiday home insurance policy for conditions specific to your cover

Mark added “The damage caused by burst pipes can be significant to any holiday homeowner, potentially leaving areas of your home uninhabitable for a considerable amount of time. Being proactive in reacting to potentially severe weather could save you considerable potential cost and disruption.”

For more information on Boshers Guidance on property checks during extreme weather please visit:

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. We’re here to help and support you as a holiday homeowner. If you require advice or an insurance quote please give us a call on 01237 429444.

Japanese knotweed

Japanese knotweedJapanese Knotweed – two words that are likely to send a shiver down the spine of any homeowner in the UK. Now it’s top of the list when it comes to the most unwanted plants in our gardens! It’s easy to understand why if you consider that Japanese knotweed:

  • grows at an alarming rate of up to 20cm a day
  • will push its way through walls, paving and tarmac
  • left unchecked it can damage the entire structural stability of a home.

It’s estimated that to eradicate this invasive pest from the UK it would take an eye watering £1.5 billion. With this cost unlikely to be met, it’s important to understand the implications. What should you do if your home or holiday home falls foul of Japanese Knotweed?

Your legal responsibility

The first point to state is should the plant appear on your premises, it’s your responsibility to eradicated it. New laws state that landowners can be found liable. Especially if there is proof they knew about an infestation of Japanese knotweed and failed to deal with it properly.

Buying a cottage or selling your own holiday home? Property owners affected by knotweed infestation could be open to a lawsuit if they failed to act. Property insurance cover may also be refused. If the knotweed in your garden were to spread to a neighbour’s property, you could even be given an ASBO under the Anti-Social Behavior Crime and Policing Act 2014.

How to remove Japanese knotweed from your holiday home

With the stakes high, and time very much of the essence, it’s important to remove the plant from your land and ensure it’s eradicated permanently. it is likely that the most cost effective method of dealing with it is to use an established professional. The Property Care Association have members who are Invasive Weed Control specialists. You can search for one in your area here. Checking that the firm provides an insurance backed warranty is crucial. This may involve further inspections over a 12 month period. If selling this gives the legal guarantee that solicitors and conveyancers are looking for to demonstrate the issue is under control. Companies should carry adequate insurance with a reputable insurer, and this should preferably include structural damage cover.

DIY methods of removing Japanese knotweed

Explained below are some of the DIY methods that can be used to remove Japanese Knotweed if you catch it early, Although our recommendation would still be to employ a professioanl to carry out the work for you.

  1. Non-chemical controls

Whilst Knotweed can be dug out of the ground, the roots are so deep it will usually grow back. If you are attempting to dig it out remove as much of the root as possible, then repeatedly destroy the regrowth (e.g. by mowing). This will exhaust the energy reserves in the remaining underground parts of the plant, however expect it to take several seasons to disappear entirely.

Also bear in mind that if you are digging out Japanese knotweed then this is classed as “controlled waste’, meaning the remains have to be disposed of in a licensed landfill site under the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

  1. Chemical control

You can try a glyphosate-based weed killer which would be available from your local garden centre. This will usually be applied to the foliage of the plant and then passes within the plant to the underground parts and roots. It usually takes at least three to four seasons to eradicate Japanese knotweed, but professional contractors have access to more powerful weed killers and may reduce this period by half.

What about my buildings insurance? 

Damage to your property caused by invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed isn’t generally covered under your buildings insurance. As homeowners we all have a duty of care to ensure that our properties are well maintained. This includes controlling the spread of invasive weeds such as Japanese Knotweed. If you are considering buying a holiday home in an area where it’s known to occur we recommend you have the property checked for Japanese Knotweed as part of your buildings survey.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home and property insurance to holiday cottage owners across the country. For more information on our policies have a look around Boshers website. For a quote or to ask any question please give our team a call on 01237 429444.

Photo credit – Japanese Knotweed – phlorum.com

Autumn property maintenance tips for your holiday home

Autumn property maintenance tips for your holiday home It’s the time of the year when many holiday homeowners take a deep breath. Maybe enjoy their first weekend in a while free from back to back bookings and challenging changeovers. Or even stay in the holiday property themselves. Sound familiar? Holiday homes across the country will have welcomed hoards of people through their doors during the peak season. If you self-manage that not only leaves you feeling tired but can also take its toll on your property.

For that reason, there’s no better time of the year than now to take stock of any wear and tear. Identify what needs replacing or maintaining. Then get to work restoring it to the fine condition it was in at the start of the peak season.

Here are a few Autumn property maintenance tips for your holiday home.

Prepare your property maintenance checklist

It’s inevitable that any holiday home will experience some wear and tear over the peak months of the year. Whilst a wobbly door handle or chair may seem innocuous, the smallest issues can cause accidents if not addessed. Make up a property maintenance checklist of these small issues and tackle them before your next guests arrive.

Now is a great time to go through the entire property, ensuring that all rooms are in full working order. And do the level of accommodation you’re wanting to provide guests with justice.  Whilst many holiday homes will have a checklist for external cleaners to follow during changeover, it’s worth making your maintenance checklist more thorough and in-depth to ensure nothing is missed.

Work through each room, ensuring that each item is ticked off your list.

Top tips to revive the interior of your holiday home

  1. Consider having your carpets professionally cleaned; it can give a tired post-season room a real boost.
  2. If you’re hoovering yourself, ensure your vacuum cleaner has a clean HEPA filter. This can reduce allergy causing carpet mites and ensure more of those dog hairs are removed (if your accommodation is dog friendly!).
  3. Steam cleaning upholsteries such as curtains, sofas and alike every six months can revive their appearance and avoid the need for replacing them.
  4. Rubbing a teaspoon of lemon oil on a glass shower door each month can cause water to bead up and roll off.
  5. Ever placed your cushions or pillows in the freezer? Probably not, but it can be a great way of killing off any mites that may have made their way into your holiday home during the summer. Simply leave them in there for 48 hours and they should be gone!

Readying your holiday home for harsher weather

The great British summer can sometimes be somewhat unpredictable, the winter months are more reliable with higher levels of wind, rain and cooling temperatures guaranteed.  Your maintenance checks should extend to the exterior of your property and the surrounding land / gardens.

For a full breakdown of items that could and should be on your external checklist please have a look at our previous blog posts here:

Top tips to revive the exterior of your holiday home

  1. If you’re looking for a deep and effective clean, there’s nothing more effective than a stiff brush. Target paths, decking and other areas in which slippery algae, dirt and lichen can gather and cause accidents as well as looking unsightly.
  2. Remove leaves and debris on a regular basis. This will reduce the risk of flooding should they block nearby drains and other areas in which winter water needs to escape.
  3. When was the last time your windows were washed? It can sometimes be left on the to-do list during peak season, so make sure they’re spick and span, and that you also check paintwork or the surrounds of the window to ensure no remedial work is currently required.
  4. Regularly washing your exterior paintwork will give it a real lift and remove dirt containing corrosive pollutants which in turn can increase the life of your paint.
  5. Outside lighting can really lift the look of your holiday home, as well as being important for your guest’s safety and security when the nights pull in. Replace any corroded fittings and clean regularly if these are already fitted.

Property maintenance is an essential aspect for holiday homeowners fulfilling their duty of care. Keeping on top of it will ensure you achieve the best returns on your holiday home. A well maintained property will also reduce the risks of holiday home insurance claims.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. Need an insurance quote for your holiday let? Give us a call on 01237 429444.

heating oil tank
heating oil tank

Domestic oil storage tank in a rusty state.

From gas boilers to ground source heat pumps, there are an array of options for heating your holiday home. Some will have turned to renewable energy to supplement or replace more traditional heating fuels. Meanwhile many rural holiday homeowners still rely on heating oil to keep their cottage warm.

There are benefits of having a heating oil tank, such as reliability and convenience however they also require care and maintenance. Let’s have a look at what you should be doing to maintain your system so it runs efficiently and effectively.

Annual service

Just as your car needs an MOT each year, your heating oil tank and system requires an annual service and inspection. This should be carried out by a technician who is registered with Oftec (the Oil Firing Technical Association). If you’re not sure if a business is registered with Oftec check their accreditation. To do this and search for local engineers visit their website here.

Regular checks

Regular checks can save vast amounts of money and damage by spotting issues early.
It’s really important not to rest on the laurels of an annual check and believe that this represents a job done. As with other areas of your holiday home, it’s vital that your oil tank is checked on a regular basis, and that this is included in your standard holiday home maintenance checklist.

If you live away from your holiday home, ensure that someone has the responsibility of checking the oil tank and that they keep a record of each time it is checked.

It can be prudent to undertake checks more regularly during the winter months. During this time the tank will also be exposed to the worst of the British winter weather.

What to look for

First and foremost, see if you can find any signs of damage or wear. Bulges, scratches, rust, and even discolouration can be a sign that there is something wrong. It can be useful to have pictures of the tank when it was new so you can compare any possible discolouration.

Vents and gauges should be securely closed, as any rainwater, insects, or dirt that gets in could cause some serious damage to both the tank and your oil.

You will also need to look around the tank, ensuring that no plants are growing near it and that access to the oil tank is clear.

Alarms and gauges must be working properly, so check them as you would the smoke alarm in your home. A faulty alarm could prevent you from realising that your oil supply has reached a critical level, thus leaving your guests without heating.

The risk of water

Water is one of the biggest threats to oil heating tanks. It can damage and corrode heating systems, and reduce the efficiency of your oil. It is sensible to take precautions to ensure that water doesn’t find its way in.

If you suspect that your tank has been invaded by water, there are two checks you can undertake. Firstly, take a look at the bottom of the tank; if there are signs of a darkened area this could be erosion caused by water. Alternatively, you can use a water-finding paste which is put onto a long stick and dipped into the tank. The colour the paste turns will inform you if there is water in your tank.

Oil leaks

Causing pollution is illegal, and oil can be harmful to the environment, therefore If you discover a leak or spill it needs to be fixed immediately. Call in a professional to repair the leak. If you discover a leak which leads to a spill call the Environment Agency’s 24-hour incident hotline on 0800 807060. It would also be wise to call your insurers as soon as you are aware of the incident.

Are you seeking a holiday home insurance provider for a rural holiday cottage or complex with oil fired heating? It’s important to ensure you have the right cover.

If you have questions about heating oil tanks and your holiday home insurance policy, get in touch via cottages@boshers.co.uk or give our team a call. 

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. Require a quote for your holiday apartment, cottage or complex? Please give us a call on 01237 429444.

holiday-cottage-maintenance

holiday-cottage-maintenanceThe main letting season has come to an end and despite strong shoulder month bookings, you might just have a little more time on your hands than you had from May through to October. Once you’ve had a chance to relax, reflect and refresh, now could be a great time to make sure your holiday cottage is in as finer form as it was at the beginning of the letting season.

Take this time of year as a chance to get all those little odd jobs done, as well as completing some basic tasks which will make a real difference when we get into spring and summer next year. Check out these top tips for end of season holiday cottage maintenance.

Damage repair

Many visitors bring much wear and tear! Wobbly handles, dodgy taps, and wonky chairs can now get the attention they deserve. Whilst they may sound innocuous, accidents can come from the smallest issues in your cottage, so make sure you stay on top of these and also use it as a chance to meet the very high standards your guests set for your accommodation.

If you’ve had younger guests, you may even find the odd stain or mucky handprint, so now is the time to put on a fresh lick of paint and spruce the house up a bit. It’s also important to check your heating system and boiler and get it serviced by a qualified professional.

Whilst over high season you will have either been cleaning yourself or using a professional, now is the time to have a really deep clean of your holiday cottage. As part of your holiday cottage maintenance programme, consider having your carpets professionally cleaned; it can really give a tired, post-season room a boost. Pull out all the furniture and give them some elbow grease to get the place sparkling and fresh

Weather proofing

With low season comes bad weather. We can’t avoid the wind and rain that comes our way, but we can prepare our holiday cottages for it. The first port of call is to check guttering and drains are free from any obstruction; water only causes an issue when it hasn’t got anywhere to go!

Also check for visibly loose roof tiles which may be swept off by howling winds, something which can cause major accidents and problems should they fall to the ground. It’s also important to have a scout around for leaky windows, doors and signs of water ingress on ceilings; catching a problem earliy can save time, money and cancelled bookings!

Get gardening

Preparing your garden for the coming winter months is vital. Pruning climbing roses and similar plants will be worth the time and effort when they bloom in Spring. Once they’ve finished flowering, prune them and tie in the stems to prevent any damage from autumnal winds. You also need to clear back any overhanging plants. Not only will these drop leaves and create slipping hazards on the floor below, they could also cause chaos on a stormy day.

Also remember to store away any garden furniture or trampolines; these have a propensity to fly a long way if caught in stormy weather, so ensure it’s safe and secure within a garden shed or somewhere with significant cover.

Winter guests

Ensure that your cottage is ready for the autumn and winter months by understanding the needs of your guests. We’re talking winter duvets (around 12 tog), cosy decorations and blankets, and a working, fully stocked fireplace (if you have one). They’ll also be bringing in wet umbrellas and muddy boots, so ensure that there is somewhere for them to put their dirty and soggy items, preferably a space which will dry them over night.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.

For further information on UK holiday home insurance visit the website page most relevant to you:

 

holiday cottage neutral decor

holiday cottage neutral decorTake a look around your home; what is it that makes it unique and yours, rather than just any old property? Whilst some will say memories, many will say the stamp they’ve put on the place; the extra touches they’ve made, or the changes they’ve crafted.

We all decorate our own homes to our own tastes; makes perfect sense as we’re the ones living there and we want to be surrounded by items that we find to be attractive and appealing. But what happens when you’re decorating your holiday home?

You’re not the only one that’s going to be enjoying it, so how do you decorate in a way that doesn’t alienate the market you’re trying to persuade? The answer is of course creating a light and inviting holiday home with neutral interior décor. Let us tell you why that doesn’t always need to mean magnolia, cream and all things bland…

Colours

Try taking inspiration from your surroundings with the colour scheme, without getting too carried away. If you’re on the coast you could try soft blues combined with shades of white or cream. If you’re in the countryside, take inspiration from the trees and grass outdoors and have little touches of green throughout your holiday let; combining this with warm creams will make the property feel cosy yet classic. Urban holiday homes can’t be forgotten either; a classic white keeps things modern and fresh (and believe us there are many shades of white!).

If you want to have simple walls in cream or white, then you could choose an accent colour in each room. A plain white living room can be brought to life with a splash of colour in the furniture and accessories. It’s important to keep a good balance of accent colour and neutral colour; take it too far and the room could look garish.

Accessories

Ornaments are a tricky one; that favourite china cat statue may have been in the house for the past decade, but it won’t be popular with everyone. Sticking to simple, modern accessories is the best way to add a homely yet stylish touch to your holiday home. Soft blankets in tones that work with your colour scheme, plain cushions, simply framed mirrors; these are all things that will work well for your neutral interior décor, yet also add some personality and life.

Lighting is another important aspect. By day, there may be plenty of natural sunlight, but in the evening your guests could create a cosy and relaxing atmosphere with lamps. Tall, free standing lights and table lamps both work well; just make sure they’re placed correctly to provide the right amount of illumination. Add extra control to your lighting by installing dimmer switches. This will also have the added advantage of keeping the assessor happy when your holiday home is quality assessed.

Furniture

This is where you’ll need to think practically. Guests will expect durable and good quality beds, sofas, tables, and chairs so make sure you are providing that. It may be tempting to get that cheap sofa from Ikea, but investing in a quality one will save you money in the long term and provide visitors with a comfortable place to relax.

Simple styles are also best in terms of furniture. Plain fabrics and classic looks work best, you can add a finishing touch with stylish duvets and cushions on beds and sofas, and table cloths and heat mats on tables.

What does your target market think

Ultimately your holiday home needs to appeal to a certain type of person and you need to think of them at all times. If young children are going to be present then you will of course cut down on small additions to your cottage that could be swallowed, or easily broken.

A young couple on a walking holiday will be wanting more functional items such as wet clothes storage items, whilst the more romantic upon us might want some cosy blankets to cuddle under in the winter months.

Keep it natural, use neutral interior décor in line with what your guests want, and you’ll not go far wrong.

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.

For further information on UK holiday home insurance visit the website page most relevant to you:

 

storm damage

storm damageIt’s turning into a very British winter; rain has battered the country in recent weeks with an estimated £1.3 billion of storm damage and flood damage already caused to domestic properties and businesses.

If you’ve been lucky enough to escape storm damage to your holiday home, now is the time to increase the chances of that luck continuing by being proactive in taking preventative measures and hopefully avoid a holiday home insurance claim.

We explain a few things you should be doing in order to minimise the risk of your property becoming a victim of the inclement weather…

Flooding – sign up for warnings from the Environment Agency

Flooding can happen quickly, so it’s essential that you’re prepared. The first thing you should do is, find out if you can receive flood warnings. In areas of high flood risk, the Environment Agency offers a service called Floodline Warnings Direct. This is a free, 24 hour service that sends automated flood warnings by telephone, SMS text, email, fax or pager.

If you live away from your holiday home it’s essential you are familiar with the weather conditions, and any potential threat of flooding.

Conduct visual checks of your property

The forestry commission estimates that up to 30 million trees across the UK may have been blown down during last year’s storms.

They may be sturdy; they may even have been there for years and years, but nearby trees are vulnerable and can do significant damage to your holiday home and anything that stands in their way.

Check nearby trees for any damage, and clear away any fallen branches.  If you do suspect that a tree is damaged or rotten, ensure you consult a professional tree surgeon.

Visitor parking

If there is a potential issue ensure guests park in an alternative position until the issue can be examined by a tree surgeon / contact a tree surgeon to prune back any loose or dead branches from trees.

Loose slates

Aside from tree branches, falling roof tiles account for the highest number of insurance claims caused by storm damage across the UK.

If there is visible damage to the slates on your holiday home roof you should speak with a professional as soon as possible.

Address Guttering and Drain Pipes

Problems arise when water can no longer escape.  Drains and guttering can become obstructed during periods of heavy and prolonged rain so ensure you’ve checked that all of your drains are free from debris (particularly leaves at this time of year) and that water can pass freely through them.

Garden furniture and ornaments

Whilst most people will have stored their garden furniture and trampoline away for the winter (if you haven’t then now is the time to do so!), it may be less obvious to move flowerpots or even garden gnomes if you have them!

Smaller items such as this, along with bird tables and feeders can smash windows if caught by the wind so ensure these are placed somewhere that they can’t do any damage.

Water features and outside taps 

We’ve recently seen temperatures as low as -10C across the UK.  Empty any water features you have so that any potential ice can’t crack the pipes or containers. Isolate the water supply to outside taps until Spring arrives.

In the garden shed

If your BBQ or any aluminium furniture is stored in a shed ensure that they are covered to protect them from corrosion and ensure the doors and windows are securely fastened to avoid them blowing open.

Do you have guests in your property?

If guests are staying in your holiday property during stormy weather ensure they know who to call should there be any damage.  Also take sensible measures such as advising them to use alternative parking if necessary (for example if a nearby tree is causing issues, or slates have fallen from the roof in that area).

Boshers offer specialist holiday home insurance to owners across the UK. For more information on how a specialist insurer can help and support your holiday home business, please give us a call on 01237 429444.

Boshers are pleased to bring you their top ten holiday home insurance blogs from 2011. These articles will be of interest to owners of UK furnished holiday lets. Enjoy reading them….

1.Top Tip To Deter Holiday Home Thefts

2.Free Impartial Advice On Energy Saving For Home Owners

3.Visit England Launches Free Guide On Accessible Tourism

5.The UK’s First Police Approved Key Safe

6.Holiday Home Insurance – improved wording and increased cover 

7.Holiday Home Maintenance Checklist

8.Theft Of Heating Oil From Holiday Homes

9.Seven Tips For Safe Holiday Home Letting

10.Holiday Home Winter Maintenance Checklist

Holiday Home Insurance