How To Check What Home Cover Insurance I Need
When you make that all-important list of essentials you need for your home, especially on moving in, you may be thinking about furniture and drapery, cookware and cutlery, decor and design elements. While admittedly a little less fun, home cover insurance should always be at the top of that list.
It’s the small details – the colours, the textures, the photographs, the artwork, the favourite throw knitted by your grandmother, your always-ready kettle – that make a house a home. It is your insurance that delivers the peace of mind you need to sleep at night and to recover from any potentially devastating situations without risking your home, your financial state and, most importantly, your household’s security and safety.
This guide discusses just that: how to check what home cover insurance you need to sleep easier and focus on making those lifelong memories.
Home Cover Insurance: What Do You Need?
Before we answer this important question, let’s look at two different types of insurance that you can get for your house:
- Buildings Insurance. If there is a fire, a tree crashes through your roof or you experience another event that causes extensive damage, buildings insurance pays for the repair or rebuilding of your home.
- Contents Insurance. Again… it’s the little things too, that matter. Content insurance protects items such as furniture and jewellery from damage, theft or accident. (Be aware that there may be a small increase in fees if you take the items out of the home. For example, if you wear a diamond pendant to an event, extended coverage may be required to cover its loss or theft).
Now: what home cover insurance do you need?
Strictly speaking, nothing. That is, you are not legally required to hold buildings insurance or contents insurance. That’s right: you can save a whole £170 (give or take… this is the average for both buildings and contents insurance in the UK per year) if you opt not to take on a policy.
There are a few big ‘buts’ however.
- You don’t have to get home insurance under the law… but your lender will typically require you to purchase building insurance coverage. It’s easy to see why: if your house is severely damaged, they need viable collateral for the loan. It does not serve them or their purposes if your house is destroyed and you have no recourse to repair or rebuild.
- You spend £170 per year but even twice or three times that amount is exponentially less costly should you encounter a fire or another significant event. The cost of repairing or rebuilding a home can easily extend to tens or hundreds of thousands of pounds. When you look at it like this… it is a virtual no-brainer.
- Compare this to the cost of eating out 1.5 times per week, as the average UK resident does. At £53 per meal, you spend £4166 each year dining elsewhere. £170 to protect your biggest investment is one of the best deals around. Maybe not as tasty – but certainly far more palatable when it comes to your budget!
The bottom line is that your home is likely the most valuable possession you own. You may have spent years saving up for it and working towards achieving this dream. If you are not protected, your hard work could go up in smoke, and we mean that quite literally.
For most people, the cost of repairing significant damage or completely rebuilding after a devastating event is not within reach. In this event, not only do you lack an inhabitable, safe place to live, you are still responsible for paying your mortgage.
Contents insurance may seem like less of a necessity; in fact, lenders do not require it as it does not pertain to their ‘investment’ in your home. If your heirloom necklace is stolen, for example, it does not affect the value of your house or its position as collateral for your lender. That said, your possessions do have meaning and value – monetary and sentimental – to you. If they were destroyed, lost, damaged or stolen, it will cost you. If you own valuable items (such as technology, artwork, furnishings or jewellery), you should consider contents insurance, if only to deliver peace of mind that is priceless.
What Does Your Home Cover Insurance Protect?
It depends. We know that is the most frustrating answer possible! But the fact remains that each insurance policy is different. Figuring out what you need can be challenging. We will start by clarifying critical aspects of this process, including what, exactly, each type of policy covers.
In general, buildings insurance is designed for the structure of the property. This includes floors, painted/finished walls, fixtures and fittings. This means that items like your baths, shower heads and radiators are covered. A standard policy protects against issues caused by fire, wind, hail, explosion, damage due to criminal activity, damage due to vehicles or aircraft colliding with your home, subsidence (if your property hasn’t had issues with that in the past) etc. Burst pipes are likely to be included, but be sure to check.
If you should experience an event that causes damages like those we have mentioned, your building’s insurance policy will cover the costs of repair or rebuilding. (Note – and this is important – your home must be rebuilt according to the most current building standards and this may be different to the valuation you have on your home.)
What about content insurance?
Essentially, this covers the items inside your home, from electronics and furniture to jewellery and artwork. It typically covers against damage due to fire and theft, but it may protect against accidental damage. Again, enquire if it covers theft of items, such as jewellery and cameras, if you are outside of your home. You may receive market value for lost items, which is typically less, or you may pay for ‘new for old’ replacement. For example, if your older television is stolen, your insurance may pay for a new model.
But… What Is Excluded from My Coverage?
It is important to recognise that home cover insurance does not, in fact, cover everything. This can be a critical distinction, depending on your circumstances. For instance, if you live in an area that is prone to flooding or has flooded before, it is challenging to get coverage for damage that is related to such an event.
Likewise, you may find it difficult to get coverage if:
- Your property has experienced issues with subsidence (i.e. the gradual caving in or sinking of the land) before.
- You encounter ‘Acts of God.’ This is when natural events wreak havoc on your home. Acts of God include such things as hurricanes and tropical storms, landslides, earthquakes, volcanic eruptions and the like. The odds of such a circumstance striking you in the UK may be negligible, but it is still important to understand the limits of your coverage.
- Your home is damaged due to an act of war or sonic boom from an aircraft. Likely this will not be covered.
- You sustain damage from frost. This is a common exclusion from most home cover insurance policies.
Always make sure to thoroughly review your home insurance policies so you know what is covered and what may be excluded. The worst time for a ‘surprise’ is when you are in the midst of an emergency that threatens your home.
Is My Home Insurable?
Another good question – and one that is important to answer as soon as possible. Some properties are more challenging in terms of obtaining mainstream or conventional insurance policies. That said, every property is insurable, though you may pay more in some circumstances. These include:
- Former council houses
- Flats in large blocks
- Atypical homes (e.g. converted lighthouse or barn)
- Thatched homes
- Listed Properties
You can find a provider to issue you insurance, even in these cases. Shop around to compare rates and deals to find the best option for your needs and budget. You may well have to look for a company that specialises in the harder-to-insure category – they are out there.
At What Stage Do I Purchase Home Cover Insurance?
When you are buying a new home, insurance is at the top of the list of to-dos. Your lender likely requires that you have buildings insurance in hand at the time you exchange contracts. From this point, you are typically legally responsible for the property; if something should happen after the exchange of contracts, you want to make sure that you are protected.
The next question is, of course, how much is this going to cost me? Again, we mentioned situations in which it will be more challenging – and more expensive – to secure cover. In general, though, how much should you expect to pay? This depends on a variety of factors, such as:
- Your home’s value
- Your home’s age and condition
- The type of property you want to insure
- Your credit history/rating
- Whether you have made prior claims
- Security measures at the home (e.g. alarm system, reinforced locks and the like)
- The location of the home
- The number of people residing in the house
- The amount of your deductible (i.e. the amount you pay out of pocket for damage/repairs before your insurance policy kicks into action. If you have a higher deductible, you will reduce your premium payments)
How do you determine how much insurance is appropriate for your needs? Ideally, you will have coverage equal to the cost of rebuilding. Astonishingly, 80% of UK homes are underinsured. This can leave you in quite a financial bind. To arrive at the right figure for buildings insurance, instruct a surveyor to provide you with a rebuilding cost estimate and use the rebuilding cost calculator available from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
In terms of contents, it is helpful to take an inventory of items (e.g. furniture, white goods, electronics, books, clothing, sporting equipment, etc.) in your home and estimate how much it would cost to replace them. If you own valuable jewellery, artwork or antiques, a professional appraisal may be in order. Add it up, and insure your contents for this amount.
Finding the Right Home Cover Insurance
There is no shortage of options from which to choose, which can make the process a bit overwhelming. Some questions to ask yourself:
- Do I want a higher deductible and lower premium or a lower deductible and higher premium?
- How do different plans stack up against one another? Have I checked comparison websites online?
- Do I want to go with an insurance provider my mortgage lender recommends? Will I find a less expensive option (answer to that one: yes! Oftentimes, it’s cheaper to go with another company)?
- Is this company authorised by the Financial Services Authority (FSA)?
- Does the provider give discounts if I have a security system, sound locks and other safety-related solutions?
- Will I get a cheaper price if I purchase both buildings and contents insurance from this provider?
- What does the small print say? What am I really paying for here?
- Will my premiums creep up each year? (You should get a new quote every year or so to ensure you are paying an appropriate price.)
Aim to speak with at least three different insurance providers. Ceri McMillan, home insurance expert with GoCompare, says:
‘The type of home insurance you need will depend on the type of home you have, and the level of coverage you require. For example, a couple who live in a flat will probably need a different type of insurance to a family of five living in a detached house, so considering your requirements is key to finding the right home insurance policy. And as always, with any type of insurance, it’s best to compare quotes for buildings and contents from a number of different providers to find the right cover for your budget, needs, and circumstances.’
What Is NOT Covered by Home Insurance?
As important as it is to understand what is covered is realising what is not. Standard home insurance policies do not typically cover:
- Plumbing emergencies
- Subsidence in areas deemed ‘high risk’
- Accidental damage
- Damage to fences, gates, driveways, walls, etc.
- Damage to underground pipes, utility supplies, cables, etc.
- Liability cover if someone else’s property is damaged (e.g. your tree falls on your neighbour’s home)
- Damage to glass (e.g. windows, doors, skylights, etc.)
- Accommodations if you must move out of your home after you have submitted a claim
If you live in an area, for example, that is prone to flooding or subsidence, you should strongly consider purchasing coverage for these specific issues. Yes, it will cost more but again, £100 or so is small change compared to the cost of replacing items or rebuilding.
Sarah Poulter, communications manager at Aviva, says ‘Customers should consider their individual circumstances and choose a policy which reflects their needs, including relevant add-ons. For example, a customer may benefit from ‘accidental damage’ optional cover, particularly if they have children in the home! This will cover damage caused by incidents such as a TV being knocked over or paint being spilled on a carpet.’
What Happens If I Don’t Have Adequate Insurance
As mentioned, most UK homes are not adequately insured. What happens, then, if you face a serious event that causes damage? Well… you pay. Your insurance provider will likely pay a portion of your claim, but it is up to you to come up with the difference out of pocket. The price tag can be very high indeed.
Far better is to protect yourself, your home and your bank account from the outset. As soon as you exchange contracts, shop for the best insurance coverage and ensure that it meets your needs. Now is not the time to underestimate the cost of replacing and rebuilding. It is better to have more insurance than less, even if you pay a few pounds more.
Now start your research and begin those important conversations with insurance companies. Applying is easy as you can often fill out a quote form online to begin. As you prepare, make sure you have all the details and documentation you need ready. This includes:
- Personal details (name, date of birth, address).
- Your claims history, if applicable.
- Information on your home and property. Include the total value; if you have a mortgage, this information will be in your documentation. A professional valuation is also a good idea.
- Bank account information.
- Information regarding your current home cover insurance, if you have one and want to switch companies.
Compare quotes and make a decision that works for you. If you have questions, ask them. If you don’t understand a term or clause, request a clear explanation. If the insurance company doesn’t answer to your satisfaction, look elsewhere. This is important, and it’s worth the time it takes to find the right fit.
Having adequate cover for your home is not only a smart financial move, it helps deliver priceless peace of mind. With so many of us underinsured, it is imperative that we get this decision right – and right now!