Guide: Home insurance.

Home insurance is a must. It protects your property and your stuff from things like fire, theft, subsidence and flooding. Getting the right policy for your needs can be a minefield. Here, we explain all you need to know…

What’s the difference between buildings and contents insurance?  

Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home, such as the walls, ceilings and permanent fixtures and fittings, like bathroom suites and fitted kitchens. It may also cover garages, greenhouses and garden sheds, although you’ll need to double check.

It usually covers you for the cost of any emergency temporary accommodation too, should your home be uninhabitable, such as after a flood or fire.

Contents insurance covers your possessions. This includes furniture, electrical equipment and personal possessions, like jewellery and other valuables. There’s usually a limit on items above a particular value, so check. You may need to pay an extra premium to cover them. 

Where do I find the best home insurance?

As ever, it depends on your individual circumstances. There are lots of home insurance providers and comparing contracts, levels of cover, excesses or exclusions can be daunting. Thankfully, we can help you put in place a policy to suit your needs.

Should I pay for optional extras?

Again, it depends on your circumstances. There are several additional extras you can add to your buildings or contents insurance plans at a cost, including:

Accidental damage cover

This covers the cost of replacing or repairing an item that’s been damaged after an accident at home. For example, putting your foot through the ceiling, carpet spillages, and broken windows.

Home emergency cover

This covers the cost of calling a tradesman out to deal with an emergency, like being locked out of your home or a broken boiler. It will cover the repairs and labour and may include overnight accommodation if you can’t stay in your home because of the emergency. 

Cover away from the home

Sometimes known as ‘all-risks’, this covers you for the loss or damage of your possessions away from home, up to a set limit. For example, if you lose a piece of jewellery, have your bike stolen, or your laptop or phone gets damaged.

Legal expenses

This gives you access to legal advice and potentially help with legal costs in certain situations. It could cover the legal costs of claiming compensation following an accident that wasn’t your fault. It could also cover taking or defending other specified legal action, such as employment or neighbour disputes. As with all insurances there are limits and exclusions so it’s important to understand all of the details.

What’s not covered by my home insurance? 

Home insurance covers a wide range of risks, but it doesn’t cover everything. Don’t just plump for the cheapest policy as these can have exclusions that could result in a claim being denied. It’s important to take out high-quality insurance that gives you all the cover you need.   

While general exclusions may vary between policies, things your home insurance won’t generally cover include: 

  • General wear and tear, such as a worn-out carpets  
  • Damage caused by lack of maintenance  
  • Mechanical or electrical breakdown, such as a fridge breaking down at the end of its useful life
  • Restricted cover when your home is empty for a long period (specified in the policy) or is let to tenants  
  • Any amount over the limits specified in the policy. 

How much is home insurance?

It can vary, depending on several factors:

The rebuild cost

The insurer will look at the size of your home, whether it’s terraced, semi-detached or detached and its method of construction. Some insurers don’t need you to specify the sum insured, as they’ll provide automatic cover up to a set limit of say £500,000. But you’re responsible for ensuring that the sum insured is correct. If you think you need insurance above any set limits, discuss this with us.

The likelihood of a claim

Your premium is likely to be higher if your home is at increased risk, is in an area with a high crime rate, or is susceptible to subsidence or flooding.  

Previous claims

Your insurer will also take into account any previous claims, although this doesn’t automatically mean you will pay more for your cover.

The value of your contents

The cost of contents insurance is based on the value of your belongings. If you have a lot of high value items, like jewellery and artworks, these are considered high risk, so your premium will be higher.

The optional excess

All home insurance policies have an excess. This is the amount you have to pay in the event of a claim. You can reduce the monthly premium by increasing the excess you would have to pay. If you have savings you’d be happy to use for the excess this could be a way of reducing the premium.

How you pay the premium

The cheapest way to pay for home insurance is to pay the full premium upfront. This might not suit your budget so insurers allow premiums to be paid monthly. You generally pay a bit extra for this option as the insurer is having to wait to get their money.

Will my home insurance increase after a claim? 

Unfortunately, yes, this is often the case because they’ll consider you likely to claim again in the future. Most insurance companies will ask whether you have claimed in the last 5 years and the value when you apply for a quote. Failure to disclose this could result in a declined claim.  

I have a new build property with warranty, do I need insurance?  

You still need buildings insurance when you buy a new build as this is a requirement from your lender. This covers you for events like fire, flood and subsidence, which the warranty will not.  

What else do I need to look for in my policy?

Average clause

This will appear in your contract small print. It’s important to make sure you’re not under insured.

For example, if you insure yourself for £20,000 of contents and in the event of a claim it’s found your contents should have been valued at £40,000 you won’t get a pay-out of £20,000. As you have (accidentally or deliberately) underinsured you’ve been paying less for your premiums than you should’ve been. This means the insurer will only pay 50% of the sum you’re insured for. Based on the above calculation, you’ll get a pay-out of £10,000.  

Alternative accommodation

If you had to vacate your property for a few weeks or months due to a flood or fire, could you afford to rent another property while still paying your current mortgage? Many of us couldn’t do this, which is why often a good idea to have alternative accommodation cover included in your insurance.

Trace and access

Imagine you have a leaking pipe under the floorboards at one side of your house. It’s running down the joist and causing wet patches, or your ceiling to slowly collapse. Finding this leak could be very expensive. Trace and access provides cover to fix this. Without this on the policy the insurer would repair the leak and leave you to fix the ceiling yourself.  

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