Menu

Home insurance glossary

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 9 February 2022  | 5 mins read

The wording on a home insurance policy can be confusing.

But it’s important you understand it, so you know exactly what you’re covered for.

That way, there’s less chance of any nasty surprises if you need to make a claim.

We’ve busted the jargon for you in our glossary, so you can feel confident that you’re clued up on exactly what you’re getting.

Home insurance glossary

A | B | C | D | E | F | G | H | I | J | K | L | M | N | O | P | Q | R | S | T | U | V | W | X | Y | Z

A

Association of British Insurers (ABI)

The Association of British Insurers (ABI) is the leading trade association for insurance providers. It represents more than 250 member companies and its role includes promoting and supporting a competitive insurance industry. It also aims to help encourage consumer understanding of the sector’s products and practices.

Accidental damage

Damage to your possessions or property that’s the result of an accident, such as spilling paint over your carpet, or a ball being kicked through your window.

Annual premium

The cost of the insurance policy that must be paid by the policy holder on an annual basis.

Add-ons

Additional cover options you can pay extra for to add on to a standard home insurance policy. Examples include:

  • Accidental damage cover
  • Home emergency cover
  • Boiler cover
  • Personal possessions cover
  • Legal expenses
  • Bicycle cover
  • Downloads cover

Alternative accommodation

If your home is damaged - by a flood or fire, for example - to such an extent that you have to move out while repairs take place, a home insurance policy can pay for the cost of alternative accommodation in a hotel or rented property.

B

Bedroom

When obtaining a quote for home insurance, you may be asked how many bedrooms your property has. In insurance terms, a bedroom is classified as a room used or originally designed and built to be a bedroom, even if it’s now used for another purpose, such as a study.

Buildings insurance

This covers the cost of repairing or rebuilding the physical structure of your home, as well as its fixtures and fittings (such as a fitted kitchen and bathroom suites), if they become damaged or destroyed. Also included in buildings cover are outbuildings like sheds and garages, plus pipes, drains, patios and drives.

Buildings sum insured

This is the amount it would cost to rebuild your home from the ground up if it was destroyed by an insured event, like a fire or flood (not what it’s worth now, at market value). If you’ve recently bought your home, you might find the rebuild cost on your mortgage valuation report or deeds to your home.

Alternatively, you can use the Building Cost Information Service’s residential rebuilding cost calculator to help. The figure calculated includes the cost of demolishing and clearing away the property and rebuilding it to its existing design and specification. You could also use a chartered surveyor to help you calculate your home’s rebuild cost and the buildings sum insured.

Business equipment

Items like computers, keyboards and printers that you keep in the home to use for your business.

C

Cancellation

This is ending your policy before it expires. You may be charged a cancellation fee, calculated according to the terms and conditions of your policy.

Contents

Your goods and belongings that are kept in your home. Everything from your furniture and furnishings to televisions and computers, kitchen appliances, mobile phones, clothing and jewellery. Contents also includes things you keep in your shed and garage, like gardening tools. In short, contents are everything you’d take with you if you moved home.

Contents insurance

Gives you cover for your household contents (as above) if they’re stolen, lost, damaged or destroyed as a result of an insured event, such as a flood or fire.

Contents sum insured

This is the maximum amount your policy would pay out if you lost all your home contents in a destructive event, such as a fire.

Continuous payment authority (CPA)

Agreeing to a CPA means that you give your insurance provider permission to take payments from your card for future premiums, without having to ask your permission. You can cancel a CPA with your insurer if you wish.

Cooling-off period

By law, all home insurance products must offer you a minimum 14-day cooling-off period after you’ve bought your policy and received your documents. During this period, you can cancel your policy without objection. You’re also entitled to a full refund of any payment you’ve made, though you’ll likely be charged a small amount for the time the policy was running before you cancelled. Some insurers might also charge an administration fee.

E

Escape of water

Any damage caused by water that has escaped from your home’s water supply. This could be from installations like baths, showers and radiators or appliances such as your washing machine and dishwasher. It also could be the result of a burst pipe.

Excess

The amount that you have to pay towards any claim. For example, if you submit a claim for £1,000 and the policy excess is £100, you’ll receive only £900 from the insurance company. There are two types of excess – voluntary and compulsory. Your insurer will set the compulsory amount, but you decide the voluntary excess.

Exclusions

Things your insurance won’t pay out for, such as damage to your contents that happens as the result of wear and tear. These exclusions are highlighted in your policy documents, so be sure to read them carefully.

F

Family legal protection

Sometimes called legal services cover, or legal protection cover, this may already be part of your home insurance or it can be bought as an added extra. It will help pay for you and your family to pursue or defend a personal legal dispute. For example, if you or a family member suffer a personal injury following an accident where someone else was to blame, or for an employment or property dispute. It also usually gives you access to a confidential legal helpline which could provide you with advice on everything from employment to consumer law, personal injury or medical negligence.

FLEA cover

Restricted cover available for an unoccupied property, limited to ‘Fire, Lightning, Explosion and Aircraft impact’ (FLEA).

H

Heave

When the ground moves upwards, or swells, causing a property to lift.

High-risk items

Items most frequently targeted and stolen by thieves from homes, including valuable antiques, artwork, jewellery, watches and designer handbags. It also includes tech like TVs, computers and photographic equipment.

Home

The property at the address where you live that’s shown on your insurance policy, plus its garages and outbuildings.

Home emergency cover

Cover to help you deal with emergencies at your house such as burst pipes and blocked toilets, or if your electrical or gas supply fails. It will pay up to a certain amount for an authorised tradesperson to come to your home and sort out the emergency.

You’re also covered for incidents that make your home insecure - such as smashed windows and broken front doors. And for getting rid of pests like wasps or vermin that have got into your home.

Home entertainment equipment

Things like audio equipment, radios and televisions, home computers, laptops and tablets, e-readers, games consoles and DVD players, plus aerials, satellite dishes, digital and cable receivers.

I

Insurance Premium Tax (IPT)

A tax on insurers set by the government. VAT can’t be charged on insurance, which is why IPT must be paid instead. The rate on home insurance currently stands at 12% and it’s typically included in your home insurance quote.

Insured event

A specific accidental, unforeseen or unexpected event that would give rise to a claim and is covered by the insurance policy. For example, a fire or flood. Sometimes called a ‘named peril’.

Inventory

A list of all your home belongings. It can help you calculate the correct amount of contents insurance you need and aid you in making a claim if your possessions were stolen, damaged or destroyed. Making an inventory is easiest if you go through your home, room by room. Our contents insurance calculator can help make sure you don’t leave anything out.

J

Joint proposer

Where two people are named on the home insurance policy (for example a husband and wife) giving them both full access to the policy, to make claims, changes or renew. They may also be known as joint policyholders.

L

Landslip

Movement of soil or rock around your property down a slope, such as the side of a cliff, often caused by heavy and prolonged rainfall.

Lapse

A gap in your insurance cover, perhaps if you miss a payment, or your policy expires and you forget to renew. You’ll be unable to make any claims when your policy lapses, even if you were only without cover for a day or two.

Listed building

A property that has special architectural or historic interest, thought to be of national importance and worth protecting. Consent would be required for any work on the building that would alter its appearance, including external and internal structural and decorative works.

Loss adjuster

Loss adjusters are industry experts in the handling of insurance claims. When you make a claim on your policy, the insurance company may send out a loss adjuster to visit your home. Typically, a loss adjuster will be sent to investigate substantial insurance claims, such as those resulting from a major incident like a fire or flood.

Loss assessor

A loss assessor works for the policyholder making a claim. You can appoint a loss assessor if you’re making a large insurance claim. They’ll work on your behalf, guide you through the claims process and prepare your claim from start to finish.

They’re usually paid a percentage of your total claim. So, it’s in their interest to secure you the best possible amount from your insurance company as a settlement.

M

Mortice lock

Some insurers might make it a condition of your home insurance policy that you have a five-lever mortice deadlock (BS3621 approved) fitted to your external doors. It’s the type of lock that’s morticed (cut into) the door itself, with the strike plate in the door frame, and it can only be opened with a key.

N

New for old

New for old policies will pay out for a new item of equivalent value to the original item stolen, damaged or destroyed, even if the original item was old. It won’t consider any wear and tear on your belongings when assessing the payout.

No-claims discount

A reward applied to your premium if you go without making a claim on your home insurance for a year. The discount is applied at renewal. This type of discount grows for each year you remain claim-free, up to a maximum discount after a set number of years.

Non-standard construction

Most UK homes are constructed from brick or stone with a tile or slate roof.

If your home is made from more unusual or unconventional materials - like cob, wattle and daub, straw bale or concrete, for example - then it could be classed as of ‘non-standard construction.’ You’ll need specialist home insurance to cover you.

P

Period of cover

The period of time for which you’re insured. This is from the commencement date to the expiry date and will be shown on your policy schedule.

Policy

The contract of insurance between an insurance provider and policyholder, detailing the terms of your cover.

Policy limit

The maximum amount your policy will pay out under a certain section.

Premium

The price of your insurance policy, usually charged annually.

R

Rebuild cost

Sometimes called the ‘buildings sum insured’, this is what it would cost to rebuild your home from scratch if it was destroyed in an insured event. It includes the cost of demolishing and clearing away the property and rebuilding it to its existing design and specification.

Renewal

When you insure your property with the same provider for another year.

S

Sanitary fittings

Bathroom and kitchen fittings like baths, toilet pans and cisterns, washbasins, kitchen sinks and shower trays. Items normally covered under your buildings home insurance.

Schedule

Your home insurance policy schedule is a document showing what cover and add-ons you’ve chosen, the period of your cover, plus excesses that apply.

Single-article limit

The maximum amount that your insurer will pay out for any single article you claim for (also known as single-item limit). Items that are over this limit need to be listed separately with your insurer to be covered in full.

Subsidence

When the ground beneath a building erodes and moves downwards, damaging the home’s foundations.

T

Trace and access

Trace and access cover is usually included in your buildings insurance policy and can pay for the cost of a specialist to detect, locate and uncover leaking gas or water pipes in your home.

U

Underinsured

When you haven’t bought enough insurance for your needs. As a result, you may not be able to claim for and recover the full amount of your losses.

Underpinning

A method of construction used to support and strengthen the foundations of a building affected by subsidence.

Underwriter

The company providing your home insurance cover. They assess the risk of insuring you and determine the terms and conditions of your policy.

V

Valuables

High-value items like jewellery, watches, works of art, antiques and specialist collections. They’ll likely be known as ‘named’ or ‘specified’ items under your home contents policy.

Vermin

Animals or insects that cause damage to your property, including rats, mice, bees, cockroaches and wasps. Home emergency cover may pay call-out fees for a specialist to get rid of any vermin that are causing damage or are a health risk to you.

Voluntary excess

Some insurers allow you to volunteer to pay a higher excess than the compulsory excess applied to your policy. This will help reduce your premium, but make sure you’d be able to comfortably cover the amount if you had to make a claim.

W

Wear and tear

Damage and deterioration that happens to things as they age. Most home insurance policies won’t cover damage caused by wear and tear that happens slowly, over time.

Compare home insurance quotes

Buy home insurance with us and we’ll refund your excess if you make a claim. Excludes accidental loss and damage claims^

Compare quotes

^Up to £250 refunded after claim settled. Excludes accidental loss or damage claims. Full T&Cs apply.