Property insurance can be a minefield and if you don’t have adequate cover or ensure specific items are contained in your policy, you may have difficulty in the event of a claim. Here are the top things to look out for when buying property insurance.
Check you have adequate cover
It’s important to make sure you don’t over or under-insure your property, both for buildings and contents insurance. You don’t want to find that you have to pay thousands of pounds yourself because your policy didn’t provide adequate cover. Conversely, you don’t want to pay too much for your policy because you’ve overestimated the value.
Calculate your buildings and contents values
Buildings insurance doesn’t usually cover the value of your home, but instead the cost of rebuilding it, which is likely to be quite different.
Similarly, evaluate the contents of your home carefully. Could you replace all the contents in your home for the amount for which you are insured? If not, your insurance company may take the view that you are under-insured and they could penalise you.
They may argue that, as you have not been paying the correct premium, they cannot cover the full replacement value. They could give you a percentage of your claim instead. For example, if you are underinsured by 10%, they will reduce your claim by 10%. Or, rather than giving you ‘new for old’, they may take off an amount for wear and tear. Or, in the very worst case, they could cancel the policy meaning you cannot make a claim.
Also check whether you have to name any specific items on the policy. Outdoor equipment or items over a certain value (such as computers, televisions and jewellery) may need to be explicitly categorised.
Use a calculator tool
The easiest way to ensure you have adequate cover is to use these handy calculators for both your buildings and contents insurance:
Buildings insurance – use this handy calculator from the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) to calculate likely rebuilding costs.
Contents insurance – there’s a useful contents insurance calculator on confused.com.
Use the same supplier for buildings and contents
It usually works out cheaper to get your buildings and contents insurance from the same supplier. If you have to make a claim, it can also be problematic to have two different insurers sending in two different loss adjustors – who is going to organise what? Don’t add to the strain of an already stressful process.
What constitutes buildings and what is contents will vary from insurer to insurer, so if you are changing supplier or getting several quotes to compare, check with each company what is included. By using the same company for both, you can make sure everything is included and you’re not duplicating cover unnecessarily.
Avoid paying twice
In a similar vein, many contents policies will also cover some items you frequently take from home – such as smartphones, laptops, handbags, purses and credit cards. Check whether you have any individual insurance for some of these portable items to avoid paying for cover twice. Remember also that some bank accounts provide insurance as part of their package.
Inform your insurer of any home improvements
Have you had or are you planning building work in your home (for example, a loft extension)? If so, you must tell your insurance company and update your policy to reflect this. If damage, such as a fire or flood, occurs during or after the works and you haven’t told your insurance company, they are likely to refuse a claim. Additions or changes to properties can increase the insurance risk and also affect the cost of a rebuild. Your policy must reflect the property it covers.
Cover for flooding, storms and water damage
If you live in an area prone to flooding, check your insurance policy covers such events. Similarly, if your property is very near large trees, check that you are adequately covered for problems caused by storm damage.
Most property insurance policies cover flood, storm and escape of water damage as standard. However, it is important to check your individual insurance policy to see how it covers them. Insurers don’t always define what a flood or a storm is, and different insurers will have different ways of describing them.
The Financial Ombudsman reports that there have been many disputes about whether or not damage was caused by a flood or a storm, and they have received complaints about how claims in such circumstances are managed.
Get the right definition
In general, the differences are as follows, but always check your own policy:
If a river overflows its banks and the water gets into your property, this is classed as flood damage.
If adverse weather conditions damage your property meaning that rain can then get in and cause further damage, this is classed as storm damage.
If water that has entered your property via the mains water supply has then escaped the pipe or tank and cause damage to your property, i.e. a burst pipe, that is classed as escape of water.
If you spill some water in your property, this is classed as accidental damage.
The government’s Flood Re scheme helps those in flood risk areas to access affordable insurance. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) has some useful advice on how best to protect and insure your property against flooding.
Cover for fire damage
Most home insurance policies will cover you for fire damage but check that you are complying with all the conditions within your policy. If you don’t and you suffer fire damage, your insurer is likely to reject your claim.
Install fire or smoke detectors
Many insurance policies will give you a discount if your property has fire detectors or smoke alarms fitted. A fire that is caught early has a greater chance of being put out before too much damage is done – and this could save lives.
If you say that your property has fire detectors, you must carry out regular checks to ensure that they are in good working order. If they are not working at the time of a fire, your insurance company may well reduce any pay out or even refuse to pay it.
To help you remember to test your fire detectors, sign up to the Fire Safety Advice Centre’s free smoke alarm reminder service.
Living with a smoker
If you or someone in your household is a smoker, you must state this on your policy – and update your policy if a smoker moves in or out. In the event of a fire, your policy could be deemed invalid if you have not reported that a smoker lives there. Please also encourage smokers to ensure their cigarettes are completely extinguished.
At Sarrani, we understand property insurance and repairs. In the event of a claim, we can help you get the problem fixed. We are paid by your insurer, meaning that there are no additional costs to you for our help in project managing the repairs. All work carried out under our supervision comes with a 1-year guarantee. Full details are contained in our terms and conditions, available on request.
For more information on insurance cover and how we can help with insurance repairs, email us at email@example.com or call us on 020 3006 3126.