What are the different types of home insurance?

If choosing the right home insurance for your property is giving you a bit of a headache, we have all the information you need to easily find a policy that suits your needs.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 25 January 2022  | 6 mins read

Key points

  • Standard home insurance won’t provide the right cover for special circumstances, such as if you own a holiday home or are a landlord
  • Listed buildings and those of non-standard construction usually need specialist home insurance
  • You risk invalidating your policy or being underinsured if you don’t have the right type of home insurance for your circumstances

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance pays out for the cost of repairing or rebuilding the structure of your property, as well as its fixtures and fittings, if they’re damaged or destroyed by an unexpected and disastrous event, like a fire or flood.

Depending on the policy, it can also include protection against things like escape of water, which is when a leak causes water damage to your property. For instance, a pipe bursting and flooding your kitchen.

Structural damage to your property caused by things like a fallen tree, high winds or lightning, or even by a vehicle colliding with your home, is usually also included, but it’s important to check your policy details.

And most policies cover loss or damage caused by subsidence, where the ground shifts beneath your home causing structural damage. Although, there’ll be exceptions to watch out for.

The fabric of your building is covered by buildings insurance - the walls, ceilings, roof, floors and windows. Permanent fixtures and fittings like your bathroom suites and fitted kitchen units are also usually included.

Most policies also cover outdoor buildings like garages, as well as things like garden gates and fences. Plus, the drains, pipes and cables from your property’s main supply are covered, too.

Buildings insurance won’t cover general wear and tear to your property or problems that are the result of poor workmanship.

If your buildings insurance policy doesn’t already include them, there are some optional extras you can add to your policy for a fee.

This includes things like accidental damage cover, which could be useful if you have a DIY accident and drill through pipes, for example.

Or legal expenses cover, which pays for legal costs in the event of someone getting hurt on your property or if you have a boundary dispute with a neighbour, among other things.

If you have a mortgage or want to remortgage, then most lenders require that you have a buildings insurance policy in place. Otherwise, it’s not a legal requirement that you take out buildings insurance as a homeowner.

However, it’s wise to have cover in place when you consider the rebuilding costs you’d be faced with in the event of a disastrous fire or flood.

If you rent your home, then buildings insurance is your landlord’s responsibility.

Contents insurance

Contents insurance protects your household possessions and pays to repair or replace them if they’re stolen, lost, damaged or destroyed due to an insured event, such as a fire or flood.

However, it won’t cover damage to your belongings that’s caused by normal wear and tear.

A general rule of thumb is that contents insurance covers anything in your home that you’d take with you if you moved to a new house.

This will include things like your furniture and soft furnishings, ornaments and artwork, gadgets and electrical equipment like your TV. You can check the policy details to see what exactly is covered.

Also things like clothing and jewellery, as well as kitchen appliances like your washing machine and fridge freezer (and in some instances the food in it) may be included.

Many contents policies also insure items you store in your garden or outbuildings, like your shed or garage.

You’ll need to estimate how much your household items are worth to make sure you’re not over or underinsured.

If it’s not included as standard, you can add accidental damage cover to your contents insurance policy for a fee. This will cover you for mishaps around the home. For example, if you spilled a glass of red wine on your sofa and stained it beyond repair.

This will only cover your contents, though. To be fully insured for accidental damage mishaps, you’ll need it on your buildings insurance policy as well.

Combined insurance

A combined buildings and contents insurance policy covers the structure of your home and your belongings.

If you need both, then taking out one combined policy with a single provider may work out cheaper.

It can be more convenient, too, if you need to make a claim on both parts of the insurance policy, because you’d only have to deal with one insurer.

Landlord insurance

If you rent out a property, then landlord insurance can cover the building you rent out, as well as protect you from any financial losses that might occur because of renting.

You can tailor your policy to your requirements - the more options you add, the more expensive it will be.

Landlord buildings insurance covers rebuild and repair costs if the property you rent out is damaged by insured events like fire, flood, vandalism and subsidence.

It also covers the items you own in your rental property that your tenants use - like white goods and furniture.

If you rent your property unfurnished, then you won’t need landlord contents insurance.

Adding accidental damage to your landlord insurance policy can protect items you own in the property if there’s any mishaps. Things like spilt food staining a rug or a glass cracking the bathroom sink would be covered.

Legal expenses cover may be included in your policy, which could help pay for legal costs if you want to evict a tenant or pursue unpaid rent.

Property owners’ liability insurance is another option which can pay out if a tenant claims against you for personal injury or damaged belongings in your property.

Landlord insurance can also come with loss of rent insurance, where your insurer pays your rental income if your tenants move out due to a fire or flood.

There’s also rent guarantee insurance - sometimes called tenant default insurance, which is an optional extra. It covers your rental income should tenants fail to pay and you’re starting the process of eviction. Your insurance company will pay the unpaid rent until you’ve regained vacant possession of your property, or up to the time limit specified in your insurance documents.

Most mortgage providers require you to take out landlord insurance if you’re buying a property to rent out.

Tenants’ insurance

This is contents insurance for renters. It covers your own belongings in your rented home if they’re stolen, lost or damaged by an insured event.

Everything from your clothes to your computer is covered. If you’ve rented an unfurnished property, your furniture will be insured, too.

Most policies also include tenants’ liability cover which will pay out for accidental damage to your landlord’s possessions.

Tenants’ insurance might also cover bicycles, cash stolen from the home and replacement locks, if your keys are lost or stolen.

You can add optional extras such as personal possessions cover to protect your belongings away from home, legal expenses cover and bicycle cover.

Student insurance

This is contents cover for students living away from home, designed to protect your everyday possessions from events like a fire, flood or theft.

You can build your policy and choose to add cover for high-cost items like gadgets, musical instruments and bicycles, too.

Gadget cover as part of student insurance can protect items like your phone and laptop anywhere in the UK, and for up to 90 days worldwide, against loss, theft, accidental damage and liquid damage. It also provides cover for your digital downloads.

Musical instruments can also be covered against theft and damage. Your insurer will often pay for the hire of an instrument while yours is being repaired or replaced.

Extras like accidental damage and room key cover can be added. As well as tuition fee and coursework protection, which can reimburse course fees and rent if you have to leave your course because of illness or accident.

Not all policies cover your contents during the holidays and your policy could also be affected if you live in halls of residence or a shared house. So, it’s wise to check policy terms carefully to be sure you’re properly protected.

Listed building insurance

If you live in a home that has special architectural or historic interest, it can be expensive to keep it in good repair.

Listed building insurance can protect your home and cover the costs of repairing damage that might occur due to events like fires, floods or subsidence..

It usually costs more than standard home insurance because these types of buildings are seen as riskier to insure.

Not only are they more vulnerable to damage from fire and damp because of their age and the materials they’re constructed from, but they also usually require rare or costly building materials and specialist tradespeople for renovations or repairs.

Insurers always factor in rebuild costs when quoting for a home insurance policy. Because of the high costs involved in rebuilding a listed building, standard home insurers may not offer you cover. And that’s where specialist listed buildings insurance steps in.

Non-standard home insurance

Most standard UK houses are built from brick or stone with a tile or slate roof.

If your home is made from more unusual or unconventional materials, then it could be classed as of ‘non-standard construction’ and you may find there’ll be less insurers willing to cover you.

That’s because when your home is made from non-standard materials, they’re more likely to need ongoing maintenance. Plus, repairing or replacing parts of your home is likely to be more complicated, time-consuming, expensive and require specialist tradespeople.

Holiday home insurance

This type of home insurance covers your second property.

As with a standard home insurance policy, you can buy buildings cover, contents cover or combine the two in one policy. Holiday home insurance will cover you for all the things a standard home policy does.

The main difference is that holiday home insurance will cover your second home when it’s left empty for extended periods - longer than the 30-60 days that most home insurance policies allow.

If you let out your holiday home, you’ll need holiday let insurance.

Unoccupied home insurance

Standard home insurance policies typically won’t cover your home if it’s left empty for longer than 30 or 60 days. This is because of the increased risk of burglary or damage when a home’s not lived in. So, if your property will be vacant for longer than that, you might need unoccupied home insurance.

Typically, this might be the case if you’re awaiting probate on a property, selling it, moving out while having renovations done, or are leaving your home to work or travel abroad for an extended period.

Unoccupied home insurance will cover a vacant property for up to 12 months. Like standard home insurance, it will cover you against fire and flood damage, vandalism and theft.

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