Your guide to understanding buildings and contents insurance
Home insurance can seem like a complicated business. But it's important to understand the basics if you want to make sure your precious possessions are covered should the worst happen. You may find cover varies between insurance companies, so please check your policy carefully. Here's our guide to understanding home insurance misconceptions:
Covers the main structure of your home and also permanent fixtures (ie built in wardrobes, kitchen surfaces, taps, basin, bath/shower etc.). Also covered under buildings are outbuildings, boundary walls, gates, pools, drives and paths.
I’m covered if my home is damaged while I’m away
If you leave your home unoccupied for a significant length of time, you may not be covered for vandalism or malicious damage, theft, leaks or other accidents. Check your policy carefully if you’re planning an extended trip (usually 30 days or more) away from home. You’ll need to speak to your insurer if you’re going away for longer than the maximum un-occupancy period laid out in your policy.
I have to insure my home for the full market value
For buildings insurance you have to insure for the amount it would cost to rebuild your home – this is unlikely to be the same as the market value.
I need to take out insurance from my mortgage lender
You can insure your home and its contents with anyone you choose – occasionally your mortgage lender may ask for proof of purchase.
I’m covered for gradual damage to my home
Again, this is not normally the case. Home insurance will protect you against disasters like fire or flood, not gradual damage that happens over time like condensation or weathering. It’s your responsibility to maintain your home, so make sure you check and repair your property regularly.
My central heating boiler is covered on my home insurance
We, as well as other insurance companies offer “home emergency cover” which covers boiler breakdowns, failure of your central heating system and plumbing problems but this is an upgrade to basic cover. Read our summary of cover.
My insurance will cover me for neighbour disputes
No - it may not. Unless you have opted to take legal expenses cover (an optional extra) - which protects you against property and neighbour disputes, personal injury and employment disputes, you may not be covered. This cover would give you a sum of money to pursue and sometimes defend a case in court.
Contents include possessions you would normally take with you if you move house (ie TV and audio, crockery, soft furnishings, furniture, ornaments etc.).
I’m covered if my personal belongings get lost at home
Most insurance policies cover your home only for sudden, unexpected problems (known as perils) like fire or flood. Unless you have taken wider cover for personal belongings, items which just get lost won’t be covered.
My personal belongings are covered away from home
Not necessarily. Often a basic level of cover is given for items temporarily taken outside the home but normally personal belongings cover (an optional extra) is available which gives accidental loss, theft and accidental damage in and away from the home (including abroad).
My carpet is covered if I spill paint
This is not usually covered under basic contents insurance. Accidental damage optional cover would be needed to cover this.
My contents will never be under-insured
Not true. Unlike with a buildings insurance policy where you might have unlimited cover, contents policies normally have a sum insured limit. You should calculate how much it would cost to replace all of your clothes, furniture, books, appliances, electronics and other belongings. It’s likely to be more than you think.
I’m not covered under my home insurance for business related losses
Some insurance policies include cover for home office equipment within the home as standard. It’s worth checking with your insurer how much cover you have. (We provide cover up to £5,000).
If one item from a matching set needs to be replaced, the whole set is covered
Unfortunately this is usually not true. Your insurance will cover individual items only. So for example if one armchair from a 3-piece suite was damaged, you could claim only for that chair, not the whole set.
I’m covered if my pet chews the furniture
No. Usually damage caused to contents by domestic animals is not covered.
My bicycle is covered
Yes. Usually cycles are covered under a standard contents policy locked within your shed, garage or home. An additional cover should be available to cover it away from your home.
What's normally covered
Below are some of what you are normally covered for on a standard buildings and contents insurance policy:
- Escape of water
- Falling trees and aerials
- Impact from vehicles
Accidental damage – additional cover to protect your buildings or contents against household accidents like spillages and breakages.
Personal belongings - covers items you would normally carry outside the home such as jewellery. This usually includes cover abroad too.
Legal expenses - covers neighbour disputes, personal injury, employment disputes etc.