Thatched cottage owners in Ireland are seeking to establish a group insurance scheme to provide cover for the iconic homes after Irish insurers stopped taking on new thatched homeowners.
Thatched cottages are in danger of disappearing across the island of Ireland, with homeowners now finding it almost impossible to secure insurance.
It is estimated that there are just 1,000 thatched dwellings remaining on the island of Ireland and advocates say the iconic dwellings could become extinct if homeowners cannot source affordable insurance.
Anyone looking to buy a thatched property will also struggle to secure a mortgage as they cannot get insurance, according to the Irish Independent.
Some homeowners have received quotes of roughly €8,500 to insure a thatched house, while others have been unable to obtain any insurance at all since the recession of the late 2000s.
The high cost of insurance has prompted some homeowners to take the risk of living without insurance, while others have fallen into debt while trying to insure their property.
Áine McGarry, who bought Trohanny Cottage in County Meath with her husband in 2000 and transformed the derelict building into one of the most-visited thatched cottages in Ireland, told the Irish Independent that she has to rent out her property on Airbnb to help cover the €11,000 she paid to insure the cottage.
She said government grants were not enough to cover the "astronomical" insurance and maintenance costs associated with owning a thatched cottage.
McGarry called on the Government to do more to ensure the survival of Ireland's thatched cottages.
"You’re the custodian of an amazing, protected structure and we want to do our best by them and hold on to them but there’s a lot of responsibility – you feel very much on your own," McGarry told the Irish Independent.
"The building is like having a high-maintenance child. You love it so much and you’re so invested in it, but there is such a massive responsibility. The Government wants us to protect them, but on the other hand, it’s not doing anything to help people get affordable insurance."
McGarry said a number of her guests had told her that they traveled to Ireland from overseas to specifically stay in a thatched cottage.
Irish insurance companies, including FBD Insurance and OBF, have stopped offering thatched home insurance to new customers, while insurance has become considerably more expensive since Brexit. The companies have cited a "lack of risk appetite".
Coleman Stack, who lives in an uninsured thatched cottage in Cork, said the cost of insurance was putting people off buying cottages.
"Thatched houses are disappearing very quickly. I’d love to see something be done to encourage more people to get back into thatching," Stack told the Independent.
Thatched homeowners have launched the Alliance for Insurance Reform, which is calling on the Government to provide an alternative to commercial insurance.
The Alliance has also launched a petition calling on the Government to address the disparity between regular housing insurance and thatched home insurance, receiving hundreds of signatures.
"If this insurance situation is left to continue, then our heritage will suffer," the petition warned.