Underestimating the value of your home contents, for example, could result in any payout you’re due being clipped by the same proportion.
Failing to admit to any previous convictions or insurance claims, meanwhile, could result in any claim you make being rejected altogether – leaving you with what could be a very large bill.
In fact, getting the details wrong could even result in you being mistaken for a fraudster who has deliberately misled the insurer involved.
And that could lead to your being automatically rejected when you apply for cover in the future – not to mention the prospect of legal action.
Fortunately, MoneySupermarket is here to explain how to avoid inadvertent inaccuracies – helping you to get the protection you need at the best possible price.
It is not always obvious what information you need to give your insurer – either when taking out a policy or during the policy term – to ensure your cover is watertight.
To help prevent innocent non-disclosure from invalidating your cover, it is therefore useful to be aware of some common grey areas.
These are particularly dangerous because, while you might not think it is necessary to inform your home insurance provider, failure to do so could end in severe financial strife.
So if you take in a tenant or paying lodger, work from home or live in an unusual property such as a converted barn, don’t forget to let your insurer know.
And if you – or anyone living in the property – have had a criminal conviction or insurance refused or cancelled in the past, it is also crucial to pass this information on.
Other grey areas include the value of your home contents, which is very easy to underestimate.
Research shows that the average family of four believes its home contents are worth about £25,000. But the true value of the belongings in a typical home of that size is actually closer to £55,000. The discrepancy arises, no doubt, because items are accumulated over the course of the years, meaning people have difficulty keeping track of everything they’ve bought.
To avoid any issues, it is therefore sensible to go from room to room counting up the cost of replacing everything from your curtains and carpets to your clothes and electrical goods.
As most insurers limit the amount you can claim for a single item at £5,000 or £10,000, very valuable items will also need to be listed on your policy or covered separately by a specialist insurer such as Hiscox.
And to ensure that your claim is paid in full, it is worth getting these items revalued on a regular basis and increasing your cover if necessary.
The potential impact of inaccuracies
The most common problem arising from insurance policy inaccuracies is that any affected claims will be refused or reduced.
Even if the cover you have is higher than the payout you need to settle your claim, underestimating the value of your property or belongings could still lead to it being slashed.
Sarah Bailey of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) said: “If your home contents are found to be worth 25% more than the amount you chose to insure them for, any claims you make could be underpaid by 25%, even if they are for much less than the total amount you have. This is due to a technical term called the ‘average condition’.”
Fail to inform your insurer of a change in your circumstances, meanwhile, and once again you risk being left out of pocket should you need to make a claim. This could be a change from working at home to going out to work, or vice versa, or taking in a paying lodger.
That is why it is always worth playing it safe and ensuring that all the information you give to your insurer is correct and up to date.
Peter Harrison, insurance expert at MoneySupermarket (pictured right), said: “There may be instances in which you feel a change in circumstances or a past event is not worth mentioning to your insurer.
“But whatever the situation, the risk you take is that, when it comes to making a claim, the claim could be reduced or refused based on the omission of the information.”
The basic message is, if anything changes in your life which means you would have filled in your insurance application form differently, then tell the insurer before your next renewal. One phone call could make all the difference.
You can find out all you need to know about home insurance – along with the cheapest quotes from the UK’s top providers – at MoneySupermarket’s dedicated home insurance channel.
Deliberate inaccuracies (fraud)
Insurers take a hard line on policy inaccuracies in a bid to combat fraudulent claims, which hike the cost of cover for everyone.
Industry figures show that insurance fraud costs insurers about £2billion a year – adding more than £40 to the average annual premium.
Peter Harrison said: “Insurance fraud increases the cost of premiums for honest consumers as insurers look to re-coup the money paid out on false claims.”
As a result, anyone found guilty of insurance fraud will not only find it extremely difficult to get cover in the future, they could even be sentenced to up to 10 years in jail.
Despite the risks, however, recent MoneySupermarket research indicates that an incredible 4.3million recession-struck Britons would consider making a false home insurance claim.
Even more worryingly, almost 780,000 people have already defrauded their home insurer by successfully making a false claim in the last five years.
These people are playing with fire, though, as insurers will investigate all claims that seem even vaguely suspicious using the latest anti-fraud technology.
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