Will having a house-sitter affect your insurance?

What to know before handing over your keys.

Female house sitter on couch

A house-sitter looking after your pets and property while you’re away can work a treat, but do you need to tell your insurance company?

Roping in a house-sitter can be the easy option to make sure Fido’s fed, watered and walked or your prized garden’s maintained. But before you hit the road, check with your insurer you’ll be covered in case disaster strikes.

Insurance companies we spoke to said you needed to tell your insurer if a house-sitter was looking after your property. “If you don’t tell your insurer, you could find yourself with no cover at all; if in doubt, disclose it,” an IAG spokesperson said.

However, even with full disclosure, there are some situations where you won’t be covered.

When you might not be covered

If you come home from holiday and find:

Your home’s trashed: You’re out of luck. IAG, along with AA Insurance and Vero, said deliberate damage wasn’t covered. However, if the damage is accidental, you should have a case. For example, if your house-sitter is playing cricket in the yard and inadvertently puts a ball through a window it’s “likely to be covered,” said IAG. The same applies for Vero and AA Insurance.

Something’s been nicked: It depends on your policy. AA Insurance said theft was covered “so long as you’ve taken reasonable care with who you’ve invited in”.

However, that’s not the case with IAG. It said theft by anyone invited into the home, whether a tenant or a house-sitter, wasn’t covered.

Vero’s policy is similar; it covers theft “if the house was burgled by a stranger”, but not if you’ve got a light-fingered house-sitter.

There’s been a fire: If, in the worst-case scenario, the house-sitter burns down your home (whether intentionally or not) you should still be covered with IAG and AA Insurance.

However, with Vero, you’re only covered if the fire was accidental.

Vetting your house-sitter

Before handing your keys over to a house-sitter, we recommend:

  • meeting the person, either in the flesh or through a video chat
  • checking references. If you’re using a house-sitting service that vets sitters, ask what measures it takes (for example, does it carry out police checks)
  • setting clear expectations. Discuss what chores you expect the person to do while looking after your home (walking and feeding pets or watering the plants). If your home requires a lot of maintenance, you could consider paying them a small fee.
  • locking away expensive or sentimental items if you’re not taking them with you
  • having a back-up plan in case your house-sitter bails early.

Renting your home out online?

Airbnb app on phone background

If you want to rent out your home through an accommodation service, such as Airbnb, you need to let your insurance company know.

Why? Because your insurer may consider the house a commercial property rather than a residential one. If you don’t tell it, the company could void your policy.

There’s also the risk you might not be covered in the event of a natural disaster. While a private residential home with fire insurance is automatically covered by the Earthquake Commission (EQC), if your insurer voids your fire insurance, your EQCover may no longer apply.

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