Straightforward guide to home insurance



What is home insurance and what does it cover?

There are two elements of home insurance - buildings and contents cover.

Buildings coveris insurance for the structure of your house, such as the walls, roofs and windows in cases of fire, subsidence or damage by extreme weather, like flooding or strong winds. It will also provide cover for permanent fixtures such as a fitted kitchen or bathroom.

Contents insuranceprovides cover against theft, loss or damage to belongings in your home, like your TV, furniture, clothes, jewellery and gadgets such as laptops, tablets or mobile phones.

You can usually buy these two products individually or bundled together with one price (called the premium) to pay.

Insurance policies sold by different companies can offer a range of cover so you should always make sure that the product you buy provides an adequate level of cover for your home.

Do I need home insurance?

Home insurance isn't compulsory under law like car insurance, but it's likely that if you have a mortgage on your home - or wish to arrange a mortgage on a house - you'll be required to insure the building. If you don't own the property you live in, it will usually be your landlord's responsibility to insure the fabric of the building.

Contents cover is optional, but it's worth considering how you would cover the cost of replacing items in your home in the event of a burglary or fire if you're not insured.

How is the cost of home insurance calculated?

Insurance companies base their pricing on risk. You'll be asked a lot of questions about you and your home when you apply for a quote, all of which are used to assess the likelihood that your home or property will be damaged or lost. Based on the information you provide, the data the company hold about the area you live and other homes like yours and the excess you're willing to pay, you'll be offered an annual premium (although there may be instances where insurers are not able to offer insurance due to individual circumstances).

What's an excess?

An excess is the amount of money you will pay towards a claim on your insurance policy. For example, if you have a £200 excess and claim for damage to a window that costs £350 to repair, your insurance company will reimburse £150.

You should carefully consider the excess you're willing to pay when applying for a quote as it can have a marked impact on your overall annual premium price.

Are my belongings insured if I take them out of my home?

This is commonly known as personal possessions cover, and may be included as standard on some insurers' policies and offered as an optional extra by others.

Always check that the cover is right for you. Some insurers may exclude certain items from their personal possessions cover if they offer item-specific cover like gadget insurance, for example.

Will my home insurance provide emergency repair?

Home insurance will usually cover the cost of repairing damage to your property, but home emergency coverwill provide protection against the cost of fixing home emergencies like loss of essential utilities (running water, electricity or gas), security risks or pests.

This may be offered as standard by an insurer or as an add-on if required.

Do students need home insurance when away studying?

Students are unlikely to own the property they're in during term time so won't need buildings cover, but may wish to cover their contents.

Some students may find that their parents' contents cover will extend to their belongings in a hall of residence or student house during term time. If not, tailored student home insuranceproducts are available.

What happens if I can't live in my home?

If your home becomes uninhabitable because of something that is covered by your buildings insurance policy (such as a flood, for example), you may be offered alternative accommodation by your insurer.

If this is an important element of a policy for you, you should check that it's offered by your insurer either before taking out a policy or within the 14-day cooling-off period after receiving your policy documents.

What's excluded from home insurance?

Cover for accidental damage to contents in your home is often not included within a home insurance policy but can usually be added as an optional extra.

Home insurance doesn't protect against wear and tear. There will also be some general exclusions such as damage caused by war or terrorism. You should always check for specific exclusions or policy cover limits as these may differ between insurers.

How do I make a claim on my home insurance?

The specifics of how to claim will differ from insurer to insurer. But you should always seek to contact them as soon as possible and provide as much detail about what happened and what you're claiming for. Having receipts for items lost or damaged or photographs of damage might help.

Image credit: venimo / Alamy Stock Photo

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    Stephen Morris, Deputy Editor



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