Should you need to make a claim on your home insurance, there are several reasons your insurer may decide not to pay out. Here are some of the most common ones:
Extended breaks: If your home is left empty for more than 30 consecutive days and you need to make a claim for any kind of damage, you may find you’re turned away.
This is because insurers often have a ‘vacancy’ exclusion clause, as empty houses are more at risk of burglary or damage during bad weather. If you’re planning an extended holiday, it’s therefore worth calling your insurer to see if you can buy additional cover.
Dodgy DIY: If drilling a hole in the wall goes wrong, or you puncture a pipe, don’t automatically assume you’ll be covered.
Most insurance policies don’t include accidental damage cover as standard and you’ll have to pay extra to have it added to your policy separately.
Failing to fix your home: It’s important to keep your home in a good state of repair, particularly during the colder months. Your insurer may refuse to pay out otherwise if, for example, you haven’t fixed a leaky roof for months.
Forgetting to mention home improvements: If you’re building a new conservatory, say, or an extension, this will increase the rebuild cost of your home and your home insurance premium will go up as a result.
It’s therefore important to inform your insurer about the improvements (ideally before the work starts) so that you don’t find yourself underinsured in the event you need to make a claim. And if you employ workmen, also ensure they have public liability cover to guard against any damage.
Rodents: If rats or mice get into your home and they cause damage, you may find you aren’t covered.
It’s therefore a good idea to check your policy to see which pests it covers, and take action if you think you might have some unwelcome residents. Calling your council’s pest control department is a good place to start.
Short-term lets: The explosion in popularity of sites such as Airbnb enables many people to make money from their home. However, if you plan to register as a host, give your insurer a call first. If your home is damaged during a guest’s stay you may find you aren’t covered.
Checks to avoid invalidating your cover
There are a number of simple steps you can take to help reduce the chances of invalidating your home insurance policy. Here are seven:
1. Read the small print: Before signing your home insurance policy, make sure you’ve read the terms and conditions carefully so that you are aware of any exclusions. If you’re unsure about anything, give your insurer a call and ask them to explain.
2. Check locks on doors and windows: Always close and lock windows in unoccupied rooms, if possible. Also, correctly describe the type of locks fitted on your policy – and let your insurer know if you change them.
3. Avoid leaving spare keys outside: If a burglar uses these to gain entry, your policy may be invalidated as entry won’t be forced.
4. Activate burglar alarms: If you have an alarm, use it. If you’ve told your insurer this is in place, but fail to activate it when you leave the house, this reduces your chances of a pay-out.
5. Report burglaries quickly: Ideally, contact the police and get a crime reference number within 24 hours of a burglary. This will help in the event of a claim.
6. Secure garden valuables: If you have garden furniture, for example, or lawn mowers, ensure these are covered, and secure them in a garage or shed when you’re away from home. Likewise, lock any tools such as hammers or drills away.
7. Tell the truth: Failing to be honest with your insurer in order to get a cheaper quote may invalidate your cover. Similarly, don’t exaggerate the value of a claim. This is one of the most common types of insurance fraud, and risks invalidating your claim entirely.