Our House Sitting and Insurance Scare!

We are not experts on house sitting.  However, I have been learning a lot about it from Globetrotter Girls.  I even have their book on my Kindle.

Although we don’t plan on doing any house sitting on this trip, partly to lack of any forward planning and the fact that we are only traveling for 5 months, we do require a house sitter to keep an eye on things at home.  Even though we no longer have any pets (my lovely cat of nearly 18 years passed away a couple of years ago) we didn’t feel comfortable leaving the house empty for so long.

One main reason for getting a house sitter, apart from the safety issue, is that my house insurance requires that the house is slept in for at least one night a month.  Crazy, I know!  We could have left the place empty and arranged for neighbours to deal with the post, etc., and because we wouldn’t be using utilities our bills would be really low, but there is nothing like having someone make your home look like it is being lived in.  Bob and I had some interesting discussions about the pros and cons about having a stranger in the house.  Although we like to entertain, we are still fairly private.  Mi casa es su casa as far as my friends and family are concerned, but knowing that a stranger is living in your home and using your things when you aren’t there is a strange concept for me.  I’m a bit territorial.

After much debate, Bob and I agreed to ask one of our neighbours who happens to be lodging with his sister and her family.  It seems we have a win-win situation all around:  we get our home looked after by someone we know, and our house sitter and his sister’s family get some space from each other and a bit more privacy for a few months.

To seal the deal, I downloaded a copy of a house sitting agreement from the internet.  Some of them can be quite wordy, especially where it concerns the care of pets.  I downloaded the one from Trusted House Sitters.com.  It was in Word format and I was able to add and delete items as were appropriate.  It also had the least amount of wording about caring for pets, which was concise and not a bad thing.  There is also a really good check list for Home owners on the last few pages of the agreement.  They suggest that you contact your Home Insurance company to let them know about your house sitting arrangements.  So, I did.

After explaining the house sitting situation to the insurance agent I was told that they needed to speak to the underwriters.  The news was not good.  I was told that if I continued with the house sitting arrangement, the policy would have to be cancelled.  I wasn’t offered anything else, even though I explained the positives of the situation.  To say I went into a mild panic would be an understatement.  I explained the situation to Bob.  He couldn’t believe it either.  After a brief conversation I went back to the insurance company and spoke to a different person.  This time I asked them what they could do for me considering what they told me.  You see, initially, they considered a house sit a rental.  I am not insured for renting out the property.  I asked them, ‘What if I had a lodger?’  If you have a lodger, you need to be living in the house with them all of the time except for normal holidays.  They explained that they were concerned about malicious damage to the property.  It was at this stage when I explained that this was covered in the House Sitting Agreement that the underwriters conceded.  I explained where I got my agreement from, and they were ok with that.

Because I didn’t have direct access to the underwriters, it was impossible to know what the insurance agent was actually telling them.  However, because I am like a dog with a bone at times, I kept repeating myself until I finally got what I wanted.  Panic over!

My suggestion for avoiding any kind of panic like this in the first place would be to contact your Home Insurance Company well in advance of traveling and not the week before you want to go away!