If you own an historic house or building which opens to the public, however infrequently this might occur, it is important to have the correct insurance in place. Otherwise you risk costly uninsured losses. Here we examine some of the key issues to take into account when opening an historic house, property or garden to the public.
While you may be familiar with that loose rug or uneven step in your home, when open to the public these may become subject to health and safety regulations. To adhere to your obligations and minimise risk, you should ensure all carpets are tight fitted, floorboards are even, all walkways are well lit, and steep staircases and low beams are signposted. All lifting equipment will be subject to Engineering Inspection legislation requiring regular safety checks. Fire exits must be well signed and listed compliant fire doors fitted throughout. The number and positioning of fire extinguishers should be risk assessed.
Electrical equipment is subject to annual inspection and chimney sweeping certificates must be up to date. Failure to do so could result in the non payment of a claim – or worse still – in a prosecution where negligence can be demonstrated.
Trees should be routinely inspected for safety, preferably by an arboriculturalist. Paths and public rights of way must be kept clear and free of hazards. Fencing, bridges and stiles must be well maintained, with clear signposting where uneven or potentially slippery or hazardous.
When opening an historic house to the public, be careful putting pocket sized items on display. Insurers can add theft exclusion to items left on display that can be taken by visitors or guests unless securely fixed. This being the case, if anything were stolen, you wouldn’t be able to make a claim unless additional cover is put in place.
Smoking in a private residence is permitted. However, opening to the public changes this and the 2007 smoking ban applies. In order to comply with fire safety regulations, a designated smoking area should be established containing a clearly signposted means of cigarette disposal. This is to help prevent smoking in unsuitable areas.
If we don’t know the full extent of your business activities we can’t advise you on how to keep you and your assets covered, so always inform your broker in full, and well in advance, of any public events.