Accidental damage cover and home insurance

Accidental damage cover isn’t included on all home insurance policies as standard. Find out what it is, why you might need it and how to dispute a rejected claim.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 09 June 2023  | 4 mins read
Reviewed by Jasmine Hembury

What is accidental damage?

Accidental damage is defined as sudden and unexpected damage to your property or contents by an outside force. For instance, spilling a drink and staining the carpet, or drilling through a pipe.

Accidental damage cover is sometimes included in home insurance, but usually it’s sold as an optional extra.

You can get accidental damage cover for your possessions as well as for your building. But just because you have one, don’t assume you’re covered for the other.

Key points

  • Accidental damage isn’t included on all policies, but you should be able to get it as an add-on
  • You’ll be covered for events that are unintentional and unforeseen, but there’ll be exclusions
  • You can get cover for either contents, buildings or both

Does home insurance include accidental damage cover?

Accidental damage cover isn’t normally included as standard, so it depends on your policy.

You might get it with buildings insurance, or contents insurance, or you may have it with a combined policy.

But with most home insurance, you’ll need to buy it as an optional add-on.

Out of 311 policies on Defaqto, only 21% of buildings insurance policies offer accidental damage as standard. It's an optional extra on 77% of policies.[1]

Out of 344 contents insurance policies on Defaqto, only 19% covered accidental damage. It could be added as an optional extra on 79% of policies.[1]

What does accidental damage insurance cover?

Accidental damage insurance covers the cost of repairs or replacements caused by sudden, unexpected damage to your home that happens by mistake.

Some types of damage will fall under buildings insurance, others under contents insurance.

Buildings insurance accidental damage

Accidental damage cover with your buildings insurance provides financial protection in case someone unintentionally damages the structure of your home.

Some situations that might typically be covered are:

  • Damage caused by your children, or visiting children
  • Falling through the attic floor
  • Broken glass in windows, doors, fan lights, skylights and solar panels
  • Damaged wash basins, pedestals, baths, sinks, toilets and showers
  • Broken or blocked service cables, pipes, septic tanks and wires
  • Broken locks or keys

Policies vary though, so read your policy terms to find out exactly what is or isn’t covered.

Contents insurance accidental damage

Your household items, valuables and personal belongings are covered under contents insurance, but again, accidental damage cover doesn’t usually come as standard.

Your possessions will typically be protected by accidental damage insurance:

  • In your home
  • Outdoors within the border of your property
  • While you’re moving to a new house with a professional contractor
  • If you take them on holiday, or travelling with you around the UK and Europe - as long as you have personal possessions cover

Is accidental damage cover worth it?

Household accidents are common - and there's no real way to predict them.

According to our data, accidental damage at home claims were the most frequent type of claim made by our customers - around 28% of total claims.[2]

So if you're a little clumsy, or have a habit of spilling things, it might be worth it. You'll have to weigh it up against the added cost. Without accidental damage cover, you’ll have to pay the cost of repairs or replacements yourself.

Be wary of exclusions though and read the terms and conditions carefully. Pet damage is rarely covered. Neither is doing DIY and causing damage - unless you can prove it wasn't because of your workmanship.

What’s not covered by accidental damage?

Make sure you’re aware of any accidental damage exclusions on your policy. For example, buildings insurance accidental damage typically excludes damage caused by wear and tear.

Check where and how your contents are covered too. Accidental damage might not cover possessions in student halls, in storage, or in a caravan.

And there could be a different claim limit imposed by the insurer for accidental damage and theft.

Not all accidents are covered and you usually won’t be able to claim for:

  • Wear and tear, and shrinkage
  • Water entering the home, except for storms and floods
  • Electrical breakdown or failure
  • Vermin and insects
  • Fungus
  • Faulty workmanship, or defective building materials
  • Building work for alterations, renovations, additions and repairs
  • Chewing, tearing and wear and tear caused by pets
  • Damage caused by a lodger or paying guest
  • Damaged gadgets are another common exclusion - they usually need a standalone gadget insurance policy or will need to be itemised on your home insurance

What else should I be aware of?

When it comes to making a claim on your contents insurance, you might struggle if any expensive gadgets are damaged outside your home.

You’re only covered for items up to a certain value, and although they’re covered for accidental damage inside the home, they aren’t protected outside your property’s boundary unless you have personal possessions cover.

Also, be aware that if your house is unoccupied for a long time it’ll void the cover (usually between 30 and 60 days). Your policy will state how long your home can be left empty before your insurance becomes invalid.

Will I be covered for damage caused by children?

Yes, if you’ve got accidental damage cover, it doesn’t matter how old the child or person who caused the damage is.

It’s certainly not unheard of for children to accidentally damage items like laptops and TVs. Or for them to get creative with felt-tip pens on furniture and walls.

And the cost of some of these not-so-little mishaps could soon add up.

But whether it’ll be worth making a claim will depend on your excess and the extent of the damage.

And make sure you’re careful when clearing up after an accident, as any damage caused by cleaning won’t usually be covered.

Will I be covered if my pets cause damage?

Most accidental damage insurance won’t include cover for pet damage, so you’ll need to check the policy wording.

You may find it covers accidents like your pup knocking over an expensive item with its tail, but typical pet damage - like chewing, tearing, scratching, and fouling - often isn’t covered.

If you want to be covered for pet mishaps, you’ll usually need to buy a higher level of cover or take out extended accidental damage cover.

And if your dog damages someone else’s home, your pet insurance may be able to cover this - so it’s worth checking.

Will accidental damage insurance cover TVs, phones and laptops?

Yes, your accidental damage policy should cover your TV and devices but check the policy wording to be sure.

Remember that there’ll be a single item limit on how much you can claim for each thing.

And you won’t usually be covered to take your items outside the property unless you have personal possessions insurance.

If you own expensive gadgets - like smartphones, laptops and game consoles - it might be worth considering gadget insurance, as this can provide a higher level of protection than accidental damage cover.

What damages are classed under accidental damage?

For damage to be considered accidental, it needs to be something that’s happened out of the blue and be non-deliberate.

And accidental damage doesn’t just mean physical or visible damage. It also counts if an accident means something can’t function properly anymore.

For example, the damage could be a stain from spilt wine on the sofa or a blocked drain where there’s no visible break or damage.

How do I make an accidental damage claim?

If you need to make a claim, it’s best to contact your insurer as soon as possible - although many will give you up to 180 days to make a claim.

Before you contact your insurer make sure you:

  • Check your policy to make sure you’ve got accidental damage cover
  • Take photos of the damage and collect any receipts and evidence that could support your claim
  • Don’t throw away any damaged items as your insurer may want to assess them
  • Have your policy number to hand

Find out more about how to make a home insurance claim.

Do you pay excess for accidental damage?

Yes, you’ll need to pay an excess on any claim you make. This amount will be deducted from the payout you receive.

The excess for accidental damage cover is typically around £250.[1]

You can choose to pay more than the default excess, which will lower your premium - but you’ll need to be sure you could afford it if you had to make a claim.

If the item isn’t worth much more than the excess it’s probably not worth making a claim, as any claim you make is likely to push up your renewal premium price.

Disputing rejected accidental damage claims

Depending on the circumstances, insurers may sometimes reject your claim. For example, your claim could be refused if:

  • The damage wasn’t accidental
  • Your policy doesn’t cover what happened
  • You don’t have accidental damage cover

If you don’t agree with your insurer’s decision, you can contact them to make a complaint and dispute the claim.

However, if you and your insurer can’t come to a resolution, you can take your case to the Financial Ombudsman Service.

[1]Last checked 9 December 2022

[2] We've looked at all of the areas of the UK where claims were made and what the claim was for. We've then pulled out the top 20 areas where those claims were most frequently made. Data is based on home quotes completed in 2022. Data relates to last quote per customer in year. % of Quote relates to the % of quotes (last per customer per year) in each area where the customer declared 1 or more claim of the specified type when completing their home quote. Where fewer than 5 claims of the specified type were declared for the area, the area has been excluded from the output.