A guide to home insurance

Home insurance is designed to protect your home, its contents and your belongings. Find out about the different types of policy and why you might need cover.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 16 November 2021  | 3 min read

What does home insurance cover?

Your home insurance covers your home and its contents for unexpected damage, loss or theft.

For example, it protects you against risks like fire, structural problems, and burglary. If you want cover for accidental damage, you’ll often need to take this out as an optional extra.

Home insurance works by helping you cover the cost of repairing and replacing things that are damaged or stolen, after deducting your policy excess.

What’s the difference between buildings and contents insurance?

There are two types of home insurance: buildings cover and contents insurance.

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it’s damaged or destroyed by events like fire or bad weather. It protects the structure of your home and its permanent fixtures, like fitted kitchens and bathroom suites.

Contents insurance

Contents insurance covers the personal belongings in your home against theft or damage, these can include furniture, electronic equipment and clothes. Cover is usually provided on a new for old basis, which covers the cost of replacing items with brand new equivalents.

Do I need both?

This depends on your circumstances. You should also think about whether you could afford to rebuild your home or replace your belongings if you don’t have cover.

If you’re a homeowner, or in the process of buying a home, it’s typically a condition of mortgage lenders that you have buildings insurance in place.

Contents insurance is optional, but insuring your possessions is definitely a good idea - the cost of replacing items if something happens can really add up.

For full protection, consider having both types of cover. Buying a combined policy is often cheaper than buying cover separately and can make it more straightforward to make a claim.

What things can I claim for with home insurance?

Home insurance is designed to protect you against a range of risks to your home and contents. Most home insurance policies will cover you for:

  • Flooding
  • Subsidence
  • Fire
  • Storms
  • Burst pipes and water damage, including frozen pipes
  • Falling trees
  • Theft

What you can claim for varies between policies, so check you’ve got the right cover for your needs. For contents, there will usually be single item limits on more valuable items.

You should also find out whether your policy includes accidental damage cover and protection for your possessions when you’re away from your home. If not, you may want to buy these as add-ons to your policy.

Be aware that your home insurance won’t cover you for problems that result from wear and tear and poor maintenance of your home.

How long does a policy last?

Home insurance policies are usually provided on an annual basis. 

At the end of the 12 months your policy will be up for renewal - at this point you can shop around to compare policies and quotes from other providers.

What home insurance do I need if I rent?

Whether you're renting a room or the whole property, maintaining the building and taking out buildings insurance will be your landlord’s responsibility.

To protect your belongings, you’ll still need to take out contents insurance. Landlords will sometimes ask that you take out accidental damage cover too.

If you’re not sure whether you need to cover things like furniture and carpets, check what’s included in your landlord’s contents policy.

Tenants contents insurance can also be a good option, especially if you live with other tenants - this covers your own possessions rather than the contents of the whole property.

Will home insurance cover properties I let?

If you’re a landlord, you’ll need to take out insurance to protect your property and its furnishings.

Regular home insurance isn’t designed for homes to be let out, as rental properties come with their own risks. So any claims you make on a standard policy are unlikely to be valid.

Instead, you’ll usually be required to take out landlord insurance. This can include cover for contents and buildings insurance, loss of rent, public liability, and damage or theft by tenants.

Do I have to purchase home insurance with my mortgage provider?

It’s normally a condition of mortgage lenders that you take out buildings insurance. But although they may offer to sell you cover, you don’t have to buy it from them.

You’re free to compare prices and take out insurance from any provider you like.

Once you’ve decided on your policy, you’ll need to provide your lender with evidence that you’re taking out the right level of buildings insurance.

Your mortgage lender can reject your choice of insurer, but they can’t make you take out their own insurance unless it comes as part of the mortgage they’re providing.

Can I pay monthly or annually?

Most insurance providers will give you the choice of paying by monthly instalments or making a one-off annual payment.

Paying annually is typically the cheaper way to pay for your insurance. But paying monthly can help you spread the cost - although it usually means you’ll pay more in the long run.

Are items in my shed or garage covered?

Your garage or shed will usually be covered through a combination of your buildings and contents insurance, but check your policy to make sure.

Your buildings insurance can help to protect your outbuildings against damage that might happen after a fire, flood or storm. Your contents insurance can cover what you keep inside your garage or shed.

When you’re taking out cover, make a note of what you’re storing and add this to the value of your policy.

Is accidental damage covered?

Sometimes accidental damage is included as part of your home insurance, but for most policies you’ll need to buy it as an optional add-on.

If you don’t have cover, you’ll have to pay for the cost of any repairs and replacements yourself.

You can get accidental damage cover for your building and for your possessions, but bear in mind that having it on one type of policy doesn’t mean you’re covered for accidental damage on the other.

How do I cancel my policy?

When you take out cover you’re given a 14-day cooling off period to change your mind and cancel your policy. To do this you’ll need to contact your insurers as soon as possible.

If you’re past the cooling off period, check your policy. Typically you’ll need to pay an administration fee, so it’s often best to wait to cancel until your policy is up for renewal.

Remember that simply cancelling your direct debit won’t work, you’ll still need to contact your insurer to cancel your policy.

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