Do you know what your home insurance covers?

Published:
08 March 2012
Topic:
News,Insurance,Home

Home contents cover is a must-buy insurance product. It's there to replace your belongings if they are damaged, lost or stolen - risks that confront us all. But is everything covered by your policy?

Here we answer common queries about the extent and type of cover provided by contents policies to help you make sure you buy the right one for your needs. And remember - you can save money by using MoneySupermarket's home insurance channel to track down the lowest premium and save up to £100 a year.

I have loads of music on my computer. Can I claim for the cost of my downloads if the computer is stolen?

It depends. Some insurers provide cover, some don't, so you'd need to check your policy, especially if you've built up a sizeable digital music collection. That said, digital retailers such as iTunes and Amazon offer a back-up service, and if you have recently bought your computer or mobile device, you should have access to a 'cloud computing' facility such as Apple's iCloud. This is where all your data is stored on remote computer - in the 'cloud' - ready for re-download if necessary.

It's sensible to keep receipts so you can prove how much you've spent on downloads.

Am I covered if I work from home?

Most contents insurers are relaxed about people working from home - some welcome it, because it means the house is occupied during the day. Concerns can be raised, however, when valuable work-related items, such as samples or specialist machinery, are involved, or when the work involves hazardous processes. Having work-related visitors is another factor that might make separate business insurance necessary. If you get specialist cover, tell your contents insurer so they know your full circumstances. This will preclude them quibbling if you make a claim.

If I lose or damage my camera while away from home, am I covered?

Policies will include optional cover for 'personal possessions while away from home'. This might be called 'all risks' cover. The cover limits will vary from policy to policy, and you will need to check if your cover is valid overseas. If this is the case, you could do away with the baggage cover element of any travel insurance you buy.

What if there's a power cut and the food in the freezer spoils?

Your contents policy should reimburse you for the cost of the food. But remember that you will have to pay an excess if you make a claim, and this might approach the value of the food. You would also lose any no claims bonus.

If I lend a piece of jewellery to a friend and they lose it, am I covered?

No. If you give your possessions to someone, you will not be protected if it's lost or damaged.

If my cleaner trips and injures themselves while working at my home and sues me, can I claim on my contents cover?

Your contents cover will provide liability insurance for such an eventuality. But the cleaner would have to prove that you were negligent to have any chance of success. A similar situation would apply if, for example, your dog ran into the street and caused an accident - negligence would have to be established.

If someone spills a drink and ruins a rug or a carpet, can I claim?

Yes, provided you have "accidental damage" cover - you'll probably have to pay extra for this protection. It would also cover you if, say, a vase were knocked over or a tin of paint spilled on your furniture.

Are my garden ornaments included under my contents policy?

Insurers impose low cash limits on the amount of protection they will provide for ornaments, garden furniture and equipment such as lawnmowers, reflecting the relative ease with which they could be stolen or damaged. So if you need more than, say, £500 worth of cover, you should talk to your insurer to see if they'll allow an increase - in exchange for more premium, of course.

If you use your garden shed as a work studio and keep a computer or other equipment inside, you should again discuss the situation with your insurer. You will need to boost the amount of cover, and may be required to fit a certain type of lock to obtain an increased limit.

You should also check with the insurer if you have a swimming pool or hot tub. You may have to pay extra to get the cover you need.

What about my koi carp in the garden pond?

Fish are not covered by contents insurance - you would have to check out a pet insurance policy. Same if you have an aquarium - no cover for the fish, although you would be covered for any damage caused by escape of water. If you bought accidental damage cover, you'd also be able to claim for damage to the fish tank.

My policy provides 'new for old' cover - but I have an antique hall table and I wouldn't want a new one to replace it if it were damaged beyond repair or stolen!

With antiques and any other valuable items such as jewellery, art and collections, it is important to have accurate and up-to-date valuations, as Ian Crowder of the AA explains: "As well as getting a valuation, it's wise to take pictures of valuables in case you have to make a claim. If you had to claim for an antique, you would probably be paid a sum that would allow you to scour the shops and markets to find an equivalent replacement."

Insurers impose policy limits of around a third on the amount of cover they will provide for valuables as a proportion of the total sum insured of all your contents. So if you have £30,000 of contents cover, there is likely to be a limit of £10,000 on what you could claim for valuables.

Also, the policy will have a single item limit - the maximum that will be paid out for any particular item. Check this out and, if you need a higher single item limit or more protection for all your valuables, you should consider a specialist high net worth policy.

It's certainly worth making sure your cover is sufficient. According to Lee Mooney at The Co-operative, the average cost of burglaries is rising: "This is due to burglars stealing higher value items. Ten years ago many of us owned bulky, heavy electrical items such as desk-top computers and CD players, which were much harder to steal. The average home is now cluttered with high-tech electronic gadgets like smart phones, games consoles and laptops which are expensive and easy to steal because of their size.

"Many people own many portable, high value items, so it's important to make sure you have adequate home contents insurance in case of a burglary. Keeping a note of the model and serial number of any electronic equipment will make it easier in the event that you do have to claim. It's also a good idea to mark your valuables in ultra violet ink so they can be returned to you easily if found."

When you shop around for contents cover, remember that you will probably save money by placing your contents and buildings insurance with the same provider. You should also check out our article on how to beat rising home insurance costs.

Please note: Any rates or deals mentioned in this article were available at the time of writing. Click on a highlighted product and apply direct.

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About This Author

Kevin Pratt

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Content Editor, Insure and Home Services

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