1. Not understanding the different types of home insurance
The first thing to realise is that there are two, very distinct, types of home insurance: buildings cover, and contents cover. Buildings insurance pays out if the fabric of your home is damaged: for example, if your roof blows away in a storm, or if subsidence causes structural damage. Contents cover will replace possessions or furnishings which are damaged in a fire, or stolen, say. If you have a mortgage on your home, your lender will in most cases stipulate that you have buildings insurance in place. But this doesn’t apply to contents insurance, and this is the type of cover that is most often found to be lacking.
If you’re renting, your landlord will probably pay for buildings insurance, and may even have contents cover for their own items such as furniture or white goods. But protecting your possessions will most likely be up to you.
2. Underestimating the value of your goods
When you apply for contents cover, your insurer will ask you how much your possessions are worth.
It is important to get this figure right, even if it means your premiums are slightly higher. If an insurer discovers that you have declared too low a value, it is within its rights to reduce any payouts proportionately. When you calculate the extent of your cover, think about things like carpets, curtains and clothes as well as the kind of items you’d expect to be stolen, such as TVs or computers. After all, you could be asking your insurer to replace everything you own in the event of a fire.
3. Being dishonest
The size of the premiums you pay will depend on factors such as previous claims, where you live, and what security measures you have in place. Insurers share a lot of information now, so you would probably get caught out if you failed to declare a recent claim. But it’s just as important to be accurate about the level of security: if you don’t have industry-standard window locks, don’t write on your application that you do, just to reduce the cost of your policy. (Better still, get those locks fitted!)
This is the kind of error that could give your insurer an excuse to turn down your claim altogether.
4. Not keeping your policy up to date
The more stuff we acquire, the more we need to be insured for. This is especially true of high-value items: if, for example, you were lucky enough to receive an expensive piece of jewellery on Valentine’s Day, check that your insurance policy covers it. Most policies have a value limit above which you need to declare items – and you may be charged extra. But, remember, you are paying for peace of mind.
5. Not double checking if you aren’t sure
There’s no point just assuming that your new bicycle or lawnmower will be insured. Some policies cover items kept in your garage or shed as standard, and others don’t. If you’re not sure, the simplest solution is to give your insurer a call – most will be able to extend cover if necessary, even if your policy is not up for renewal for a few months.
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