Q: Is there an insurance policy to cover a particular eventuality such as one party having to cancel our home swap arrangements after expensive airfares have been purchased? Travel companies seem to have a policy of NO refund or only partial refund if a client cancels after paying for the costly return flights to their home swap destination. Kind regards, Deidre P., Australia
A: Home Base Holidays is now offering an insurance policy through a UK broker that will provide cover for members should their exchange partners need to cancel at short notice due to serious illness or death in the family. It has taken a lengthy time to develop a policy that we feel will provide extra reassurance to members, although the policy will initially only be available to members in the UK and Ireland. Unfortunately there is no insurance policy that will cover cancellation of a firm home exchange agreement if a member cancels without a valid reason.
Although it is very rare that an agreed exchange is cancelled, there are steps you can take to minimise the risks:
1. Before finalising an exchange agreement, discuss and agree a fall back plan should either you or your exchange partners need to cancel the exchange at short notice. For example, those who have a second home within easy reach of their main home can offer this as an alternative should they not be able to vacate their home on the agreed dates. Others will offer to pay for rented accommodation or a hotel room in their area for their exchange guests should they need to cancel or postpone the exchange and are unable to host them. In both cases, the member who has had to cancel won't need to lose out on their own holiday if their exchange partners are able to offer use of their home at a later date (i.e. for a non-simultaneous exchange) and their travel insurance should cover the cost of flight tickets for the cancelled trip when due to a valid reason.
It is particularly important to consider options for alternative accommodation if one or both parties include people who have a serious medical condition or perhaps have close family members in poor health.
2. Once you have agreed a plan for alternative accommodation that you are both happy with should your exchange need to be cancelled or cut short for any reason, then complete your exchange agreement. Arrange to buy your flight tickets on the same day and exchange confirmation details as soon as you've done so. It is a reassurance to both parties to know that their exchange partners have also purchased flight tickets as, unless there is a genuine reason to cancel, neither party is likely to do so after spending a substantial amount on tickets.
3. After you have agreed to exchange homes and bought flight tickets, keep in regular contact with your exchange partners, both to plan your exchange arrangements and to keep updated should yours or their situation change. If, for example, one of you has an ill or elderly relative in the family, agree to let the other know at the earliest time in the unlikely event that it looks possible that travel plans will need to be curtailed. This will then give time to agree to go ahead with your alternative accommodation plan should this seem necessary.
4. If, in the worst case scenario, an exchange must be cancelled at short notice and your exchange partners can't provide accommodation for the agreed dates (either in their home or alternative rented accommodation), let us know and we will publicise your short notice offer on the blog and in the newsletter and help you find members to contact with your exchange offer.
The following may also be useful:
Cancellation of agreed exchanges is a small risk of home exchange but it happens very rarely. I hope this helps you prepare in advance to minimise any anxiety but please get in touch again if you have any questions or special concerns.