Home insurance can protect you from lots of financial losses but it’s important to know what’s covered and what’s not.
Home insurance is designed to cover all sorts of eventualities that can happen to your home and its contents. This includes damage from destructive events such as fire, storms, flooding and subsidence as well as theft of your property.
There are two types of home insurance - buildings and contents cover.
Buildings insurance covers the structural aspect of your home - its walls, roof, windows and permanent fixtures like your bathroom and kitchen.
Contents insurance protects possessions in your home like furniture, televisions and personal items like jewellery and clothes.
If you own your home, you’ll need both buildings and contents cover. If you’re renting, then you’ll need contents insurance to cover your own belongings. Buildings insurance is the responsibility of your landlord.
Let's look at what might be covered by your home insurance in more detail:
Standard home insurance will protect you from loss or damage to your home and its contents as a result of fire and smoke damage.
If you’re the victim of a burglary, your home contents insurance can help you recover the cost of replacing items that were stolen, like your TV, computer and clothes as well as important documents like your passport. You can also claim on your buildings insurance policy for any damage that occurred to your home during the burglary - such as smashed windows or broken doors. You’ll need to get a crime reference number from the police to make a claim.
Buildings insurance policies can cover the financial costs of repairing damage to your home caused by extreme weather conditions. Your insurer will need to be satisfied that the damage was as a direct result of the storm and not something that might have happened anyway due to poor maintenance on your part.
Policies typically provide cover for damage and losses caused by flooding when water enters your home from an external source - such as when a river bursts its banks or if heavy rainfall causes groundwater flooding.
Buildings insurance can help cover the cost of removing debris and drying out your home, as well as repairing or restoring fixtures and fittings. Your contents insurance may cover water damaged furniture, carpets, electrical items etc.
Most buildings insurance policy will usually cover the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your home that occurs as the result of subsidence. This is unless the property has suffered from subsidence before. If it has, then you'll typically have to pay a higher premium.
Policies won't normally cover the cost of preventing further subsidence and movement of your home.
Subsidence is the downward movement of land beneath your home that's not simply the result of settlement.
It's important you're aware that some losses and damages aren't covered by your home insurance. These are called exclusions, and amongst the most common are:
You can’t claim for damage to your home and contents caused by wear and tear. That’s natural deterioration which happens over time or that’s the result of poor upkeep. For example, worn carpets and faded curtains can’t be claimed for.
Similarly, something like water damage from rainwater coming into your home through rotten window frames won’t be covered.
It’s a condition of home insurance that you keep on top of home maintenance to prevent damage to your home.
A standard home insurance policy won’t cover you for loss or damage if you leave your home unoccupied for longer than the period stipulated in your policy - usually around 30 or 60 consecutive days.
Leaving a property unoccupied for a prolonged length of time puts it at greater risk of burglary or vandalism. Plus, with nobody at the property to spot a problem quickly, unoccupied homes are also more likely to suffer extensive damage from burst water mains, frozen pipes or electrics shorting and causing fires.
There are insurers that sell unoccupied property insurance, which will cover your home when it’s left empty for an extended period.
Standard contents policies don’t normally cover possessions, such as your bike or expensive jewellery, when you take them away from home. However, you can pay extra for this sort of protection with personal possessions cover.
This insures your personal belongings against loss, theft or accidental damage when you take them out and about. Some policies pay out for lost or stolen cash, too.
Insurers are unlikely to pay out on a claim that occurs because of your negligence. For example, if you failed to secure your home properly, left your doors or windows open or forgot to activate your home alarm and were burgled.
Insurance policies won’t generally cover the cost of removing asbestos from your home. However, there are some exceptions.
For example, if a claim for an insured event (such as a fire or flood) has been accepted by your insurer, and damaged or disturbed asbestos is discovered while repairing your property, your insurer may pay for it to be safely removed as part of the claim.
In most cases, a standard home insurance policy won’t cover you for the cost of removing an infestation of pests such as rats and mice. That’s because insurers expect you to carry out the sort of routine cleaning and maintenance in your home that would prevented these rodents from entering in the first place.
An add-on called home emergency insurance can include cover to remove infestations from your home, such as mice, rats or wasp nests. Any infestations that need specialist removal, like bees or moths, are usually excluded.
You can’t claim for damage to your home or its contents that’s been done deliberately by you or anyone living in your home. That includes family members or guests you’ve invited over.
Most standard contents policies will cover your phone from loss, theft or damage if it’s in a fire or flood at home.
You need to add accidental damage cover to your policy to protect your phone against things like a cracked screen or water damage from a spilt drink. Choosing personal belongings cover will mean your phone will be covered when you’re away from home too.
Alternatively, you can purchase a stand-alone mobile phone insurance policy.
Some policies include accidental damage as standard in their home insurance, but it could be an optional extra for others. It’s valuable cover that can pay out for mishaps in the home like red wine spilling on your carpet, a smashed conservatory window or a chipped bath.
Some policies pay for the cost of your accommodation should you need to move out of a home that requires extensive repair, like after a fire or flood.
It will be an optional extra on others, which will increase the price of your premium.
If it isn’t included as standard in your policy, you can buy boiler cover as an optional extra. It usually comes with the stipulation that you get your boiler serviced annually.
It's worth noting that some insurers won’t cover boilers over 15 years old.
Your boiler could also be covered under home emergency cover if you have it, so check your policy documents.
Some insurers automatically increase contents cover - often by up to 10% for the 30 days before and after a recognised religious festival like Christmas.
That’s because they know that homes tend to be filled with gifts, pushing up the value of the contents.
Check if your insurer does provide this temporary increase in cover. If not, you may need to tell them about the extra items in your home to make sure they're covered under your current policy.
It’s especially important to let your insurer know about expensive items, like jewellery, which might be worth more than the single article limit of your policy. This is the maximum amount your insurer will pay out for one item on your policy.
You may need to amend your policy or take out separate insurance for such items.
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