Should I tell my insurer that we have Ukrainians living in our house?

Q My family welcomed a Ukrainian refugee and her two children into our home. I remember reading something in the terms of our home insurance policy about the need to declare if there is a change in the number of people residing in the property. Will this apply in this case? Although, hopefully for their sake, it will only be for a short time.

A In general, a household must inform its insurer of any major modification to its accommodation, such as the arrival of new long-term residents, in order to understand the evolution of its coverage needs. Their premium could change accordingly, and certain policy conditions may apply if new residents are not immediate family members or named policyholders, according to Elaine Kearney of Aviva Insurance Ireland. However, in the case of Ukrainian refugee housing, many providers, such as Aviva, have waived this condition due to the unprecedented circumstances and in line with government efforts to find housing solutions for those arriving here to escape the war.

Insurers treat refugees as guests, which in your case means you don’t have to tell your provider they’re staying with you, Ms Kearney said. They will be covered by your policy in the same way as guests living in the house, she said. In the longer term, if your policy needs to be renewed within the first 12 months of the refugees living with you, you will need to let your provider know. If, after 12 months, people or family are still living with you, you should let your insurer know when your policy will renew, she said.

Q I have money to invest but I don’t want any risk. I’m considering gold but I don’t know who to contact. Can you give advice please?

A Interest rates are at historic lows. Some banks charge negative interest on certain accounts – charging you to keep your money. It is therefore understandable that many people seek alternative investments in the hope of obtaining a certain level of return or at least keeping up with inflation. There is one rule of thumb that must be considered when thinking about investing, Liam Ferguson, who is the leading financial broker FergA.com.

The lower the risk of an investment, the lower the potential return and vice versa. Any risk-free investment will provide zero or worse returns right now, he said. If someone tries to sell you an investment with low or no risk, but with the potential for high return, be deeply suspicious of the person and the product.

In the current climate, low or no risk and good returns are a choice, Ferguson said.

Gold tends to become a favored investment in times of uncertainty and even war, as it is perceived as a ‘safe haven’. This popularity tends to drive up the price of gold during times of uncertainty as investors seek safety. But gold is not zero risk or even low risk and can be very volatile at times.

For example, between October 2012 and December 2015, the price of gold fell by more than 40%.

It recovered but it took until the summer of 2020 before it reached the same price as in October 2012.

Mr Ferguson said gold is not a low risk investment. Instead of seeking returns on zero-risk investments, in 2022 the question must, he said, be how much risk are you willing to accept in exchange for potentially higher returns?

Q My husband and I both work in the civil service. We currently earn a combined €80,000 per year. We managed to save €17,000. We have never had any loans or debts. Could we get a mortgage? We work in Dublin but hope to buy from us in Cork.

A You are very suitable mortgage candidates, according to Joey Sheahan, credit manager at online brokerage MyMortgages.ie.

You should be able to borrow three and a half times your income which is €280,000. He said you could also qualify for an exemption, meaning you could potentially borrow up to €320,000 to €360,000. Based on your current monthly savings amount, in one year your savings will increase by €15,000, which means you will have €32,000. This would allow you to buy a house for €320,000. The average house in Cork City costs €313,000. As long as your employer confirms in writing that you can work in Cork, there is no problem buying a house to live in Cork, Mr Sheahan said.

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