Wear and tear and home insurance

Find out what counts as wear and tear, how it can affect your home insurance and what you can do to prevent it.

Eve Powell
Eve Powell
Updated 21 December 2021  | 2 mins read

What is wear and tear?

Home insurance providers typically use wear and tear to describe situations where an item gradually loses its original condition through simple everyday use.

It’s a type of damage that’s unavoidable and happens naturally as property and belongings get older.

Examples of wear and tear could be the colour fading on your sofa, or a <a href="https://www.gocompare.com/home-insurance/guide/carpets/">carpet becoming dirty and worn</a>.

Key points

  • Wear and tear is unavoidable damage that happens over time through normal use
  • Home insurance protects you from sudden and unexpected events, like fire or theft, not gradual damage
  • If you haven’t maintained your home properly any claim for damage might not be valid
  • Policies may vary on what they’ll pay out for damaged items that have signs of wear and tear

Does home insurance cover wear and tear?

No, home insurance won’t typically cover wear and tear because it’s designed to protect you against damage that’s sudden and unexpected.

Since wear and tear is a gradual deterioration that happens over time, it’s usually listed on policies as an exclusion.

Your policy will set out the causes of damage you’ll be covered for. These usually include things like fire and theft.

Why won’t home insurance cover gradual damage?

It's because your insurer’s responsibility is to protect your home from damage and loss caused by sudden and one-off events like storms and fires. Not from wear and tear over time.

Even if you have a new property, it’s inevitable that your home and belongings will start to age and become worn as time passes. The same applies to the fabric of your building.

So it’s up to you to keep your home well maintained and resolve any issues you’re aware of before they cause damage.

Will I be covered for insured events that cause damage to items with signs of wear and tear?

If your item’s been damaged through a sudden event but you’d already had it a while, or it was showing signs of wear and tear, your insurer may take this into account.

This might reduce the amount of money you can claim for it. Check your policy documents as these will explain whether your insurer will apply a reduction for items with wear and tear.

Your cover will also depend on whether you’ve got an indemnity or new for old policy.

Home insurance policies can vary widely so it’s always best to check the wording or contact your insurer to help you understand how your cover will work.

What happens if I have new for old cover or an indemnity policy?

These two types of contents insurance work differently when you want to make a claim:

Indemnity insurance

This is sometimes referred to as ‘wear and tear’ cover. When you make a claim, this type of policy will consider how much your item will have reduced in value since it was new.

An indemnity policy will only provide you with the amount the item’s worth second-hand, so you’d need to pay the difference if you wanted a brand-new model.

New for old contents insurance

A new for old policy will let you claim enough to replace your damaged or stolen belongings with like-for-like new ones, whatever age or condition the original items were in.

New for old premiums are usually more expensive than indemnity insurance, but this type of policy can make it easier to cover the cost if several items were damaged at the same time.

Disputing a claim for damage that your insurer dismisses as wear and tear

An insurer may refuse a claim if they think the damage was caused by wear and tear, rather than as a result of a sudden or unexpected incident.

For example, your home and belongings could have been damaged by a burst pipe, but your insurers believe the water damage has been happening gradually and so refuse the claim.

If you don’t agree with a decision from your insurer, you should contact them to make a formal complaint - if you’re not happy with their response, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

The Ombudsman will look into your complaint and weigh up the facts impartially. If they find your claim is valid, they’ll work with your insurer to help put things right and pay any compensation.

How to avoid wear and tear

There are several things you can do to keep your house in good condition, slow down the effects of wear and tear, and prevent costly and avoidable damage:

  1. Check the state of your plumbing

    Inspect your plumbing regularly and look for signs of damp and moisture. Replace old pipes as soon as possible

  2. Keep an eye on your roof

    It has to face the elements year-round, so make sure you don’t have any loose tiles and that any seals on flat roofs are kept in good condition

  3. Clear any potential blockages

    Keep your guttering clear and check water escape pipes for any blockages. Make sure water drainage isn’t soaking any brickwork

  4. Maintain your windows

    Any condensation or water droplets forming on the inside could mean your double-glazing seals need replacing

  5. Don’t let your pipes freeze

    If you’re going to be away during cold weather, leave your heating on low to prevent the water in your pipes from freezing and bursting them

  6. Touch up your walls

    Keep on top of chipped paint and repair cracked plaster before any problems become a bigger issue

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