Insurance for house swaps: Key things to consider.

Estimated Read: 5 minutes

If you have read our guide about how to do a house swap holiday or have been house swapping for a while, it is important to check you are covered by your home insurer before you exchange. What you might not realise if that the cover provided by many insurers is inadequate, meaning that you might not have the cover you may usually expect from your home insurer if you needed to make a claim.

What insurers say about house swaps.

In a survey of the UK’s top insurers, we found that the overwhelming majority of them would not provide adequate cover for policyholders that did house swaps.

88% of insurers we surveyed said they would not provide any cover for people that did house swaps. Even if your insurer does not cancel your policy, you might not have cover in your own home for things like:

Malicious damage. Even if you have built a good relationship with your fellow house swapper, you do not always know who you are letting into your property. If your relationship turns sour and your house is maliciously damaged, you may end up paying for the repairs yourself.

You can limit the risk of theft in your property by locking valuables away. However, this is not always practical and you may want this covered by your insurance. However, most home insurers do not cover theft unless there has been forced entry (e.g. a burglar breaking into the property), which would not apply to house swappers that you let into your home.

Accidental damage could easily occur. Given that this is the most likely thing that could happen, it is another thing you may want to check with your insurer to see if you have cover for this as this type of damage by a guest is often excluded.

If your guest is injured and holds you liable, you may need liability cover. A serious injury could cost thousands of pounds if you don’t have cover for this. The same could apply if the guest damages another property or injures a 3rd party such as a neighbour.

Why most insurers don’t provide comprehensive cover for house swaps.

The insurer will not know who is staying at your property and may find it safer to exclude cover for this. If your fellow house swapper normally lives overseas then this may complicate things further and may be unappealing to many home insurers as recovering any damages may be difficult. Here are some tips to make sure you get the right insurance.

1 . Speak to your insurer.

Speak to your insurer first unless your policy documentation is crystal clear. If you wait until you need to make a claim, you might not be covered and the insurer may cancel your policy.

2 . Tell then you are considering a home swap holiday.

Give them as much information as possible so that everything is recorded in case you need to make a claim.

3 . Ask them if they exclude any specific features of cover.

Will the cover you currently get be different when a house swapping guest stays at your property? If your insurer says that you have cover, be specific and make sure that nothing has been excluded.

4 . Get confirmation in writing.

If your insurer confirms that you are covered, get them to send you a letter or an email if it is not spelt out in your policy documentation.

5 . Consider specialist insurance if your cover is not adequate.

We have already established that many home insurers do not provide adequate cover for house swaps. However, the cover provided by individual insurers can vary. Consider talking to a specialist provider such as Pikl if you struggle to get the cover you need.

What cover do you offer?

Through our ‘Top-Up’ insurance policy, you can get cover for house swap claims including:

  • Public liability cover for guest accidents involving bodily injury.
  • Legal cover to defend or pursue legal claims against guests.
  • Accidental, malicious damage and theft cover if caused 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.

You will need to let your home insurer know that you intend to take out cover with us. Alternatively, you can also get a quote with us for your main home insurance as well as our Top-Up cover.

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.