Home insurance FAQs

Your top home insurance questions answered here

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We run through some of the most commonly asked questions about home insurance.

Street view of houses, Portobello Road, London

What is home insurance?

Home insurance is split into two parts: buildings insurance and contents insurance.

Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home against events such as weather or fire damage. Contents insurance protects your belongings against damage and theft.

You can buy buildings and contents separately, or purchase a joint policy.

Is home insurance compulsory?

No. Unlike car insurance, having home insurance isn’t a legal requirement.

However, your mortgage lender may insist you have buildings insurance as this type of policy covers the cost of a complete rebuild if something catastrophic happens to your home.

Do tenants need home insurance?

Renters don’t need buildings insurance – that’s the landlord’s responsibility – but it’s a good idea to buy contents cover. Landlords themselves should buy ‘landlord insurance’ as opposed to standard buildings or contents cover.

Does home insurance include emergency cover?

Sometimes. Home emergency insurance can be included in home insurance policies, sold as an add-on, or sold completely separately. Check what you’re buying so you don’t duplicate cover.

What is an excess?

The excess is the amount you have to pay towards each agreed claim. You can choose how high you want it to be and in general, the higher the excess, the lower your premium. However, it’s important not to increase it too much in case you are unable to afford to pay it.

I live in a high-risk flood area. Will this impact my home insurance?

Yes. If you’ve been flooded before or live in an area susceptible to flooding, you’ll pay more for home insurance. However, a scheme called Flood Re, run by the government, ensures that you should be able to find competitively priced cover.

Should I auto-renew my home insurance?

No. Insurers tend to offer their best deals to new customers only, so you should always shop around for a quote each year to save money.

Contents insurance FAQs

How can I work out how much my contents are worth?

Visit each room in your house and write down everything you own and its approximate value. Don’t forget to include clothes and furniture, as well as expensive items such as gadgets, sports equipment and jewellery.

It’s important to be as accurate as possible with this as if you underestimate how much your contents are worth, you could receive a lower pay-out if you were to make a claim.

Are my child’s contents covered while they are at university?

This varies depending on the insurer, so it’s worth giving them a ring to find out. Taking out separate ‘student insurance’ for your child’s possessions might be a better option.

Can I get cover for gadgets such as my smartphone?

Yes, but expensive items such as laptops, phones and cameras may need to be listed separately on your insurance policy. Check the ‘single item limit’ which is the maximum amount an insurer will pay for any item. This is typically between £1,500 and £2,500, so if you own something worth more than this you’ll need to name it separately.

Am I covered if I take belongings out of my home?

In most cases you’ll need to add personal possessions cover to your policy and pay a little extra. This will help ensure the items you regularly carry with you, such as your mobile phone or MP3 player, are covered.

Just be aware insurers won’t pay out if you’re negligent with your stuff.

Are my home contents covered while I’m away on holiday?

It depends how long you’re away for. Most policies cover unoccupied properties up to a maximum of 30 days, although a handful of providers will offer cover for longer.

If you’re taking valuable items away with you check to see whether your home insurance policy will cover them and how long for.

What's accidental damage cover?

Accidental damage is anything from knocking over your TV to spilling wine on the carpet. Accidental damage cover can be added to your policy separately and is handy if you have young kids, but it won’t cover damage by pets.

Does home insurance cover my bicycle?

It might do – check your policy. You might find your bike is only covered up to a certain value and you’ll also need to meet the insurer’s conditions about locking it securely while you’re out and about.

How can I save money on contents insurance?

Shop around every year and pay your premium annually rather than monthly. Think twice before making a small claim as this will mean higher premiums in the future and you’ll also lose your no claims bonus.

Buildings insurance FAQs

What does buildings insurance cover? 

Buildings insurance is intended to protect your home's structure, including walls, the roof, fittings and fixtures, kitchen and bathroom units, and doors and windows. It should pay out if your home is damaged by fire, extreme weather, floods, earthquakes, falling trees, subsidence, car or aircraft crashes, water leaks or vandalism.

Do I have to get my buildings insurance through my mortgage provider?

No. Your lender will probably offer you cover but you can save money by shopping around.

I own a flat. Do I need buildings insurance?

Probably not, but check your lease. The freeholder of your block should arrange buildings insurance for the whole block with the cost split between flat owners.

How much do I need to insure my home for?

Its full re-building cost, i.e. how much it would cost to rebuild your home if it was totally destroyed. This is different to the market value of your home.

If you have recently bought your home the rebuild cost will be on your mortgage valuation or survey. Alternatively, you can use the Association of British Insurers rebuilding costs calculator here.

What's subsidence?

Subsidence occurs when the ground beneath a property moves or sinks, causing the foundations of the building to move. The most common sign of subsidence is cracks in the walls. You’ll pay more for buildings insurance if your property has a history of subsidence.

How can I save money on my buildings insurance?

Buying a joint buildings and contents policy is normally cheaper than two separate policies. It’s also worth making your home as safe and secure as possible and consider paying small claims yourself.

Where to next?

Understanding the ‘single item limit’ on your contents insurance

Home insurance policy types

Home insurance security and money saving tips


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