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How to house swap for a holiday

Estimated Read: 5 minutes

Not all people like the anonymity of hotels. Luckily, there is a new, exciting way to travel. Welcome to the world of house swapping.

What is a house swap?

The concept of a house swap holiday is simple. You swap houses with another interested party, go on holiday and avoid the hassle of using hotels. Not only does this add a unique twist to your usual holidaying experience, house swapping may make you see travel in a different way.

In addition to being unique, there are some advantages to be had over your usual hotel experience, including:

No hotel fees. You could potentially save £1,000s in accommodation costs.

If the house you are staying in is in a local setting, you may get a more local, authentic experience rather than living in an anonymous hotel that is in a popular tourist area.

There is a growing global community of house swappers. Get involved, make new friends and have fun!

You may also want to consider the potential downsides of doing a house swap:

At the time of writing, the websites that facilitate house swaps do not verify the houses themselves. You will have to rely on your own judgement to make sure the experience goes well.

You may need to do more research than is typically involved in booking a hotel. You will need to establish if the property is suitable, establish a relationship with the other house swapper and set up ground rules.

Unlike some package holidays, there is no industry regulator to protect you if something goes wrong during your holiday.

How does a house swap work?

1. Find a website

To begin with, you will need to find somewhere to facilitate your house swap. There are plenty of established websites that allow you to do this if you search online. One of the benefits of using specific house swap websites is that they are already established communities. You can use their knowledge to make sure your experience goes smoothly and search for reviews of properties that you are looking to stay in. You could also consider using online advertisements or social media to reach out to people that could be interested. Doing so comes with its own risks as you will not have access to the infrastructure that house swap websites can provide.

2. List your property online.

Once you have decided how to do your house swap, you will need to create your online listing. Make sure your house is tidy and take photos with good lighting so that your property stands out. You will also need to create a description for your listing. It helps to be detailed in your description and make sure you mention any unique features. Potential house swappers may also be interested in any local information specific to your area.

3 . Find someone to swap with.

If you have settled on a particular house, you will need to reach out to the person that owns it. The other person could potentially be staying in your home so make sure that you establish a good relationship. If either of you have any specific requirements (e.g. looking after pets, putting the bins out for collection or paying for bills), make sure you both establish these early. Setting ground rules are essential to avoiding mishaps or falling out later on.

4 . Check your insurance.

If you have read our house swap guide to insurance, you may be aware that most home insurers do not provide adequate cover for house swaps. Check with your home insurer before you agree to swap. You may need to get additional cover elsewhere (more on this below).

5 . Agree your swap.

Once everything is established, agree a date and time and confirm everything in writing. Communication is essential and it is important that you keep talking up to the point of exchange. House swap websites recommend that you keep conversations online so that there is a record in case something goes wrong.

6 . Enjoy your holiday!

You have done the hard part so now it is time to enjoy your holiday. If you have established a good relationship with your fellow house swapper, you will hopefully have gleaned some useful local knowledge to maximise your experience. You may also pick up some new friends along the way!

Key house swap tips

Consider potential website costs. Whilst you will avoid the cost of hiring a hotel, you may want to factor in the costs of using different house swap websites to know if you are getting a good deal.

Is the house and location suitable for your needs? If you are used to staying in hotels whilst on holiday, you may be getting a completely different experience. Consider what is important to you. Does the house and location meets the needs of you and your family?

Consider asking for references. Not all house swappers have reviews. Independent verification may help and do not be afraid to ask for a character reference if your fellow house swapper does not have any reviews.

Pick your person wisely. No matter how careful you are, things do not always work out. Ultimately, it is down to your judgement. If you have not established enough rapport with the other person to build trust, do not be afraid to pull out before the exchange.

Keep valuables out of sight. If you leave your valuables in your home whilst another house swapper stays there, you could potentially increase the chances of them being stolen or damaged. Consider taking your valuables with you or putting them in storage. If this is not possible, you might want to lock them away securely if you are able to do this.

Consider specialist insurance for your home. Even if your home insurer does not cancel your home insurance policy, they may not provide all of the cover you require. A specialist insurance broker like Pikl can give you a high level cover of property insurance for house swapping if you think you need this.

You may want travel insurance. If you are going abroad, a flight cancellation or medical emergency could give you lots of hassle and stress. A good travel insurance policy should be able to cover you for these things.

Check with your landlord. You may need permission to do a house swap if you are renting as this type of activity could be excluded in your tenancy agreement.

Use the community. Find out the pros and cons of house swapping from people that have done it before.You can also get a feel for whether house swapping is right for you.

How does renting out your parking space affect home insurance?

Estimated Read: 5 minutes.

Many people may not realise that renting out their parking space for extra cash may not be covered by their home insurance if something happened and they needed to make a claim. Before you rent out your parking space, you may want to check with your insurer. Here are the important facts you need to know.

Many insurers won’t provide cover.

A survey of the UK’s biggest insurers revealed that many of them do not provide adequate buildings or contents insurance for claims caused as a result of customers renting out their parking space.

1/3 of home insurers in the UK we spoke to confirmed they would restrict cover for customers that rented out their parking space. If this applies to one of your insurers, key aspects of cover that you would normally expect to be covered for may be missing. However unlikely it is that something bad could happen, you could be taking an unnecessary risk without the right insurance.

If your home insurer does not provide any cover for your parking space, you may end up paying for property damage if your guest’s vehicle crashes into your home. You could be liable for injury damages if your guest drives into someone and be seriously out of pocket if liability cover is not provided.

Why don’t all insurers cover this?

Some insurers may class renting out your parking space as ‘commercial use’ and already exclude this type of activity in their terms and conditions.

Will I be covered by the parking website?

Many people that rent out their parking space do so through a parking website. The website itself may require guests to waive any responsibility if something happens. It is not clear however that you will be completely covered.

At the time of writing, parking websites do not provide specific cover for damage to your property. If your guest does not have car insurance and your home insurer will not cover you, that could leave you having to pay for damages.

Do I need specific insurance?

We would recommend you contact your insurer first and ask them if there is anything they are not prepared to cover you for. If you do not notify your insurer, they may cancel your policy or decide not to cover your claim. If you are not able to get adequate cover, a specialist provider like Pikl can provide cover if needed.

You will still need to speak to your insurer first to let them know you are intending to take out our cover. Alternatively, we can offer cover for your main home insurance as well as cover for renting out your parking space. 

Why your home insurer might not cover your Airbnb

Estimated Read: 5 minutes.

Many people are not aware that most insurers do not provide adequate cover for platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and Booking.com. We discuss this in more detail and how to make sure you have the right insurance.

Airbnb and HomeAway offer some cover

Before we talk what most home insurers do cover, it important to point out that some of the platforms themselves do provide some measure of protection. If you list your property on either of these platforms then you will get some cover if something goes wrong. However, the protection offered is limited and is no substitute for a dedicated insurance policy. Our article for HomeAway and Airbnb discussed this in more depth if you are interested in what they offer.

How does home insurance work with Airbnb?

We surveyed 90%** of the UK’s property insurers and asked them how they would react if they found out a customer had listed their property on Airbnb or similar platforms.

All of the insurers we spoke to confirmed that they would not cover Airbnb, HomeAway or similar platforms automatically unless their customers had disclosed this beforehand. If you have not already told them that you are using your property as an Airbnb, your insurer may not cover your claim if something goes wrong. Over half of insurers said they would not provide any specific cover for Airbnb even if their customers told them they were doing this. That could mean no cover for things like:

Deliberate damage caused by a guest.
Theft by a guest with no forced entry (e.g. if you let the guest into your home).
Accidental damage caused by a guest.
Legal liability (e.g. if a guest is injured and holds you responsible).

Some insurers even confirmed that they would cancel their customer’s policy altogether if they found out that they were letting paying guests into their home. If you contact an insurer, they may recommend a business insurance policy (such as insurance for running a professional bed and breakfast). However, for customers not doing such businesses full time, these types of insurance policies may be expensive. They may also burden you with unsuitable terms and conditions such as health and safety regulations. These policies may also not offer adequate cover for things like the like the personal contents in your home.

What insurance do I need for Airbnb and what does it cover?

Attempting to get cover by ringing round insurers or using comparison sites is tricky as the cover offered by each provider is varied. 86% of insurers we spoke to said they did not take any specific steps to educate their customers about using Airbnb or similar platforms. That means that the only way to find out what each insurer offers is by writing down a list of the things you want covered and contacting each insurer to ask if they cover them. Not ideal if you do not have a lot of time on your hands. Luckily, we did a mystery shop of some well known insurers and brokers to give you an idea.

On the table above, the left hand side lists the kinds of things you may expect an insurer to cover you for if you listed your property on these platforms. For example, if you let a guest into your home and they stole something from you, this would be classed as ‘theft without forced entry’ as the guest did not need to break into your house to steal something. If you have at look at what each insurer said they would cover when we spoke to them directly however, you can see that many insurers were not prepared to cover anything at all. Some insurers were prepared to cover some things and not others. Calling round home insurers to get adequate cover is not straightforward, even if they say they offer specific ‘Airbnb insurance.’

I’m an running an Airbnb. What could this mean for me?

Your insurer may cancel your policy or stop your claim if they find out that you have not told them. If you have told them that you are hosting on Airbnb, you may want to ask if there is anything that they are not currently covering you for. Insurer policy wordings are regularly updated and it is best to contact them directly in addition to checking your documentation. If you have not already checked this out, you could be risking £1,000s worth of damage if you need to make a claim and are not covered.

How to stay protected.

It’s important you speak to your existing insurer first to find out if they will cover you. Write down a list of things that are important to you or that you would typically expect to be covered for before speaking to them. If you are not happy with the level of cover you are getting, you may want to consider speaking to a specialist broker such as Pikl that can cover you for this.

How specialist insurance can help

A specialist insurance policy specifically designed to cover your for platforms like Airbnb, HomeAway and Booking.com may give you more peace of mind and may be able to give you a higher level of cover so that your property is covered. Pikl insurance has been specifically designed to cover you for things like this.

Pikl provide specialist insurance for short-term letting, including cover for properties that are let out on websites such as Airbnb. If you already have insurance elsewhere, we offer a ‘Top-Up’ insurance policy. Your insurer can still continue to cover you whilst our cover can insure your home for any claims caused by your guests. You will need to let your insurer know that you are intending to do this but alternatively, we can also cover your home as well as cover for your guests. Our insurance for when you have short-term guests can cover you for:

  • Public liability including cover for guest accidents involving bodily injury.
  • Legal cover defend or pursue legal claims against guests.
  • Accidental and malicious damage by a guest.
  • Theft or attempted theft by a guest.
  • Alternative accommodation for you or your guest if your property is being fixed as the result of a guest related claim.
  • Fire and escape of water damage caused by a guest.
  • Loss of keys and replacement locks cover if renting out your entire property.

Getting cover with us with easy and relatively straightforward. We know that the world of insurance can be confusing. If you have any queries, our UK based team will be happy to help.

Do you manage other Airbnb properties?

If you are a company that manages multiple Airbnb properties for clients, offering insurance as part of your service offering can help you attract more business. If this applies to you, check out our page for businesses to see more regarding what is on offer.

An app that can help you with your tax return

More and more of us are topping up our income by offering a spare room or a temporarily vacant home to holidaymakers or business travellers through Airbnb. In just twelve short years, Airbnb has grown to become a ubiquitous part of 21st century travel and now around 8.4 million travellers a year to the UK book through Airbnb.

A nice little earner if you’re lucky enough to have a spare room in the right location – and that’s not just in major cities and popular holiday spots. But (and there’s usually a but) there are tax rules you do need to be aware of. 

If you are a host on Airbnb, you may have to declare your income. With the 31st January self-assessment deadline fast approaching, many Airbnb’ers may be scrambling to complete their tax returns (If you aren’t sure about taxes and Airbnb, check out Airbnb’s own tax guide).    

Thankfully, there’s also a new app that can help take the confusion away.

Untie your tax return

The ‘United’ personal tax app makes it easy to stay on top of your Airbnb income and expenses, prompting you to pay exactly what you owe and claim any tax relief you might be entitled to. It’s quick to use, automating repetitive tasks, freeing up time that frankly no one should want to spend on their taxes. You can save even more time by using the app to submit your end of year self-assessment to HMRC directly from your mobile phone.

You can download the Untied app on the Apple or Google app store.

Let’s NOT get the party started

A big part of letting out your property or room is built around TRUST, which is why we recently saw Airbnb improving their new guest standards and party house bans to help protect hosts, guests, and communities.

However, even with these continued improvements in standards and guest verification, hosts should still ensure their most treasured possessions are adequately covered and have a specialist insurance policy in place.

A good example of this was covered in a recent article by the Metro, which highlighted an Airbnb property being let out in London to a supposed family of four, only for the host to find over 500 people went to their property for a private party.  Unfortunately, the party escalated and resulted in the property having over £450k of property damage and progressed into a legal case with Airbnb. Thankfully no-one was injured but Airbnb de-listed the property and cancelled bookings at the property leading to a loss of earnings for the host whilst the property was being repaired.

Although, these instances are rare and in this particular case had a large claim cost, the even smaller property claims can soon add up to £1,000’s and also have an impact on earnings whilst the property is being repaired or items replaced. 

Elsewhere, we have discussed before the pros and cons of the protection that Airbnb gives its hosts if something goes wrong. Although they do offer some cover, it is important as a host you are aware of the protection they give you versus having a specialist host insurance policy in place.

Many hosts will also perceive their traditional household insurance policy will cover them for any damages that are guest-related, however,following our research in 2019 * 100% of insurers in the UK will not cover damages caused by guests if you have not previously informed them of hosting at the property. At Pikl we specialise at providing insurance solutions for the sharing economy and in particular, short term letting on platforms such as Airbnb, booking.com and HomeAway. Our range of products can be provided as a ‘Top up©’ to a Host’s existing household policy or as a policy that covers their property and hosting cover for any guest-related injuries or damages.

If you are currently involved in letting out your property or a room on these type of platforms it’s worth reading the previous blog article from our CEO Louise Birritteri onTop insurance tips before letting out your property’.

We are committed to working with the sector to help educate and raise awareness of the insurance gaps within short term letting. Naturally, any improvements to innovations and standards will help mitigate damages caused by guests, but to make sure you don’t get yourself into a Pickle put your TRUST in an insurance policy from a specialist insurer to alleviate any unexpected surprises.

Pikl, preserving the things you love.

*The ‘Insuring the sharing economy in 2019’ report is based on a combination of mystery shopping and a series of qualitative interviews with representatives of the UK’s largest insurers, who manage 90% of the gross written premium (GWP) in the UK property insurance market. The survey group represents £4bn of a market worth c£4.5bn, source: Deloitte UK household insurance seminar September 2017 (which pulls together a summary of PRA returns by insurers). It was the most recent report published at the time of the survey.

Are you checking your hosts’ insurance before booking?

New research conducted by accommodation accreditation company Quality in Tourism has found that, despite paying guests expecting that their accommodation hosts have adequate insurance, few of them actually check this when booking.

In its white paper, Quality in Tourism’s research established a list of things that people thought were essential as minimum safety standards when booking any sort of paid-for accommodation. One of these was insurance. Its research found that whilst 58.1% of customers thought that insurance was essential, only 1 in 3 (31.3%) said they actually checked to see if the accommodation they were booking had adequate cover.

Louise Birritteri, CEO and founder of Pikl commented, “These findings provide really strong evidence that the insurance needs of the majority of short-term rental hosts are not being adequately accommodated by major insurers in the UK. Guests and hosts participating in the short-term letting sector presume that their hosts’ standard home insurance provides adequate cover. The truth is that, in the vast majority of cases, it’s not. Currently, too many short-term let hosts are not properly insured, more through a lack of understanding than avoidance. That’s because their standard home insurance will not cover any liability from letting a property or room on a short-term basis and could result in their claims not being settled and their policies being cancelled.

“If the majority of guests are not bothering to check, it could lead to a very unfortunate situation where they are not covered should they experience theft, trauma or worse, a severe accident leaving them hospitalised or even permanently injured or incapacitated. We very much encourage anyone booking a short-term rental to check whether their host has the right insurance cover in place. Quality in Tourism’s accreditation scheme should help guests to identify where that insurance is provided.”

Deborah Heather, Director of Quality in Tourism said, “Our findings have highlighted the need for there to be a set of universal standards in place for all types of accommodation where customers pay to stay. It shows that there is still a gap between what people perceive to be in place automatically in regard to safety, cleanliness, and compliance with the law, but in reality, it’s not the case. Importantly, not enough customers are checking these standards before booking. Insurance is seen as one of the essential elements of any rental accommodation’s minimum standards, but we know that in many cases there isn’t the appropriate insurance in place. We would encourage people participating in the short-term let sector to safeguard their rental income and assets by taking out the right insurance from a specialist insurer, such as Pikl, so that, in a worst-case scenario, they are not putting at risk all that they own.

“We believe that all accommodation hosts, including those in the sharing economy, should have the relevant insurance. Our Safe, Clean & LegalTM scheme includes insurance, giving hosts an industry-recognised accreditation and guests the peace of mind that they will be staying in accommodation that meets quality minimum standards.”

One of the key aspects of insurance that Pikl are keen to bring to hosts’ attention is the public liability side of short-term letting. Whilst some hosts may be prepared to risk having to pay a few hundred pounds out of their own pocket to repair a wine-stained carpet or replace a broken door rather than pay for additional insurance, if a guest suffers a serious accident it could result in expensive litigation, costing them tens or even hundreds of thousands of pounds in compensation. That is a risk not worth taking.

Earlier in 2019, we published an industry-wide report* on the sharing economy, which unearthed a number of serious issues where short-term letting hosts are being neglected by the insurance industry:

•             Appropriate cover for short term letting is virtually non-existent

•             Some insurers will void/cancel policies if a customer participates in short-term letting

•             Where cover is available, it’s only for a short period and severe exclusions are imposed

•             Insurers are not informing customers that they need to declare their short-  term letting.

•             Insurers may not pay out on a short-term letting related claim if this activity was only discovered at the point of claim

You can download a full copy of the Quality in Tourism report here. In addition, if you would like to speak with the team about your existing insurance and short term letting needs please do not hesitate to contact our advice centre on 0800 254 5171.

*The ’Insuring the sharing economy in 2019’ report is based on a combination of mystery shopping and a series of qualitative interviews with representatives of the UK’s largest insurers, who manage 90% of gross written premium (GWP) in the UK property insurance market. The survey group represents £4bn of a market worth c£4.5bn, source: Deloitte UK household insurance seminar September 2017 (which pulls together a summary of PRA returns by insurers). It was the most recent report published at the time of the survey.

Pikl at HOST 2019

As the year draws to a close it’s been an exciting 2019 at Pikl with lot’s of highlights. We continue to grow the business, expand our team and most importantly to continue developing new products to help our customers participating in the growing sharing economy.

One of the many highlights was attending our second HOST event at the Business Design center on the 31st October – 1st November. Where has the time gone!

It was great to be an exhibitor at the event, giving us the opportunity to meet so many businesses, suppliers and customers involved in hosting.  We had some of our Pikl experts on our stand advising and guiding hosts on all their various insurance needs.  We know insurance is not something everyone wants to purchase but it’s so important that this is considered before you start hosting. There are some clear gaps in cover with traditional household insurance from many UK insurers which is why it’s always important to speak with a specialist in the sector like Pikl.  Just to highlight this gap please read our report for the sharing economy that we completed earlier in 2019.

The insurance talk was mixed with some fun by our caricaturist, who did a great job portraying many visitors as a caricature on our stand…including the Pikl team!

Our CEO Lousie Birritteri also had the opportunity to take part in one of the panel debates at the show regarding insurance, she provided her top insurance tips for letting out your property.  This was very insightful and hopefully beneficial for people just starting out in their hosting journey or even more experienced hosts that are unaware of some of the insurance gaps.

We look forward to returning to HOST 2020 but in the meantime why not check out Louise’s Top insurance tips before letting out your insurance property.

Top insurance tips from Louise Birritteri at Host 2019

Listing your property on Airbnb or similar websites is a great way to earn some extra money. But many people are surprised to learn that regular household insurance won’t always cover paying guests. See our report about the sharing economy for more information.

If a guest has an accident resulting in an injury or damages your property, you (the host) could be left to cover the costs. In the best-case scenario, this might result in broken belongings. In the worst case – a legal suit involving a personal liability claim against you.

Airbnb offers some protection via their ‘Host Guarantee’ and Host Protection Insurance, which is a positive step in protecting both hosts and guests. However, it’s important to be clear that this protection is no substitute for a specialist insurance policy. You can find out more in our article about Airbnb and the protection it offers hosts.

Take these simple steps before letting out your property to protect your guests and assets.

1. Contact your existing household insurer and ask if they cover short lets.

Some will say no and want to cancel your policy immediately. Others will allow you to keep your existing policy but may not be explicit on what is included in the cover.

2. Ask your current insurer these questions to find out if you’re covered for hosting short lets:

• Will theft without forced entry, accidental and malicious damage by a guest to my property be covered?

• Will any guest injuries that occur be covered? This is known as – public liability insurance.

These are the two main areas for insurance when it comes to cover for hosting. Directly ask your insurer these questions. It’s likely that they won’t offer adequate cover.

3. Don’t use comparison websites, you won’t be covered.

Comparison websites provide a quick easy service for some types of insurance but when it comes to hosting insurance for short letting, you need to speak with a specialist provider. Pikl can help.

4. Save money with an annual (specialist) insurance policy.

If you are letting out your property for more than two weeks of the year or are a Property Manager with a portfolio, get an annual insurance policy with a provider that offers specialist cover. It will cost less. 

5. Always be open and honest with your insurer.

If you are already hosting short lets, tell your existing insurer. If they decide they can no longer cover you, take steps to find the right cover.

Do you want to know more?

Get in touch today for free and friendly advice on preserving the things you love. Call our advice centre on 0800 880 7350 or get a quote with us today.

Our host portfolio insurance has launched!

For property managers and sharing platforms

At Pikl, we preserve the things you love so you can focus on being a great host. If you are a property manager or sharing platform, your clients may see value in having an insurance package that covers them for their needs.

Do our clients have the right insurance cover?

Our recent report identified that 100% of UK insurers do not automatically provide comprehensive cover for property owners doing Airbnb or short lettings on similar sharing platforms as standard, meaning that property owners and guests could be at risk if they need to make a claim.

Why do you need to know this?

There is an insurance gap for property owners doing short term letting. So, being able to offer a comprehensive insurance package to your clients will help them protect their assets and could give you an advantage over competitors that do not offer this service.

Won’t the sharing platform cover them?

Many platforms such Booking.com don’t provide cover for listings on their platform. The covered provided by Airbnb is not comprehensive.

What solution do we offer?

We are excited to be discussing at ‘Host 2019’ our new, ‘Host Portfolio Products’.

If you manage or list multiple properties and require a simple solution that protects your clients with the minimum effort, we can provide you cover under a single policy that allows you to add properties when needed without the hassle of them needing to take out the extra cover themselves.

What are the Benefits for you and your hosts?

Our portfolio cover allows you as the platform or property manager/agent to take out an insurance policy to cover some or all of your listings or properties when they have bookings, protecting your property owners from property damage and liability when you share your property. This means you could include insurance as standard within your service offering to hosts as part of a trust and safety package (this could also include guest verification).

This enhanced safety feature can encourage new host sign-ups and also allow some property managers to maximise your commercial benefits by providing an enhanced service package offering to your clients.

How are we different from other insurers?

We are an award-winning specialist insurance provider for the sharing economy, recognised by the insurance industry for the innovative propositions we have created by winning Start-Up and Digital Broker of the Year 2019.  We provide comprehensive cover for short letting with the option of no minimum claim limits, and the choice of pay-on-use or annual policies.

Find out more

If you want to find out more, check out our portfolio insurance section. Please contact 0800 254 5268 to speak with one of our experts or email partners@pikl.com

*For full policy terms and exclusions please read our policy wording