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Ultimate Guide to Buildings & Contents Insurance


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Home Insurance –
A Buyers Guide

If you are not sure what insurance to get for your home, whether it’s just contents, building and contents or something else, this guide has been written to help you find the right policy for your needs.

Many people would describe their home as their castle regardless of whether they live in a one-bedroom flat or huge stately home. It is therefore vital that you have the correct protection in place should something go wrong.

Ask yourself; what if there was a storm or heaven forbid a fire, could you afford to pay for your house to be repaired and, where would you live if your home was uninhabitable?

In general people store their most valuable and prized possessions in their home, could you afford to replace these items if you were the victim of a burglary or if one of your valuable items was accidently damaged or broken.

Buildings Insurance – What Does It Cover?

Insurance for your home can cover, just the building, just the contents or buildings and contents. Buildings Insurance covers your physical home, that is you roof, walls and windows and items that are classed as permanent fixtures, such as your kitchen or bathroom. Although Buildings Insurance policies vary, all will cover you in the event of a fire, storm damage, subsidence, a burst pipe, a falling tree or theft.

You have the option to pay for additional cover if you think you may need it. Accidental damage is a common addition to Buildings cover although it may well be worth considering adding on legal expenses cover too.

Building Insurance – What’s Not Covered?

Your buildings insurance policy will not normally pay for items damaged due to general wear and tear, acts of war or terrorism. If you are going to be away from your home for more than 30 days during the year, you will need to make sure that in doing so you don’t invalidate your policy.

Always ask questions of your insurer and read the terms and conditions to ensure the cover you decide upon is right for you.


Is Having Buildings Insurance Compulsory?

In most cases it is not compulsory to have buildings cover in place, however, it is worth considering that if you have mortgage on your property, your mortgage provider will certainly want to make sure that you have sufficient cover in place.

If you are in the final stages of purchasing a home, it is advisable to make sure you have buildings insurance in place just prior to exchanging contracts with the seller as you now have an asset you will want to protect.

How Much Buildings Insurance Do I Need?

You should certainly have sufficient cover that if required would cover the cost of rebuilding your home. So, if something catastrophic happened, for example your home burnt to the ground, your insurer would pay out enough money to cover the cost of rebuilding it from the ground up.

It’s worth remembering however, that the cost to rebuild your house, will in most cases, be very different to the actual value of your home if you were to sell it, the cost to rebuild your house is likely to be significantly less than the cost to purchase it.

If you have recently purchased your home, the estimated cost of rebuilding it is usually on your mortgage valuation paperwork. If it is not, may insures have useful tools on their websites which allow you to calculate the estimated cost of rebuild. Failing that, you can visit the Association of British Insures website which is packed with useful information.

It’s crucial that you get the cost to rebuild your property correct as if you purchase too much cover, you may end up paying more for your insurance than you need to and, if you are under-insured, you could be left footing a big bill due to an insurance shortfall.

Some insurance companies do offer a level of cover called ‘unlimited cover’, this means that regardless of how much it will cost they will cover the bill. This sounds fantastic on the surface but remember, you are likely to pay a higher premium. The insurance company may also have done their own sums to calculate how much you are insured for, based on the type of property and location. It is always best to check yourself to ensure you are sufficiently covered.

It is recommended that you review the cost of rebuilding your home periodically as costs are likely to change over time. The level of cover required needs to be as accurate as possible especially if you have invested in renovating or extending your home.

If your property is listed or slightly unusual, this could affect the rebuild costs and can be more problematic to calculate an accurate level of cover required. In these circumstances, it might be worthwhile enlisting the help of a surveyor.

As a final note, tenants do not need buildings insurance cover as this is the responsibility of the property owner or Landlord.

What About the Contents of My Home?

Whilst your home is an asset that it is important to insure, let’s not forget about the contents of your home. You also need to insure your contents against the following situations:

• Loss or damage due to burglary
• Fire, Strom, Lightning related damage
• Flooding or a water leak
• An explosion or earthquake.

You may be surprised to learn that the contents of your home are more valuable than you think. The average family of four estimates their possessions to be valued at approx. £25,000. However, the actual value is generally closer to £55,000. It is important to accurately calculate how much cover you need so that in the event of a claim you are sufficiently covered.

A great way of working out how much cover you require is to walk around your home, room by room, making a note of all the expensive items such as computers, jewellery, televisions etc as these items can quickly add up. Don’t forget the contents of items in your garden such as your shed. Your contents insurance also covers items such as clothes, furniture, carpets and curtains.

It is important to familiarise yourself with the terms and conditions of the insurance cover as many insurers will set a limit as to how much they will pay out for one item. For example, if a laptop worth £2000 was stolen from your home, and your single item cover limit was £1500, you are going to be left £500 out of pocket.

It is normal practice for your insurer to ask you for details on any particularly valuable items, and it is very important that you them accurate information. If you fail to do so, it could invalidate your insurance and the insurer could decide not to pay out in the event of a claim.

Types of Contents Cover

The vast majority of contents insurance policies work on a new for old basis. This mean that if your laptop was damaged due to burst water pipe in your home, the policy would pay out for a new one.

However, do check what type of policy you have, as some insurers offer indemnity policies which considers not only the age of your laptop but any wear and tear.

So, if your laptop was 5 years old, the insurance company would only pay out its current value, which is likely not to be enough to cover replacing it, this type of policy tends to be much cheaper but, most people prefer to go for new for old cover.

Much like Buildings Insurance, additional cover is available and often its worth paying the extra.

Accidental damage is an add-on that many people consider as it covers your possessions in the event of an accident.

For example, if you dropped your laptop and the screen smashed or if you dropped a classed of red wine on your carpet.

It is also worth considering personal possession insurance as it covers items such as your mobile phone, camera and laptop when you take them out of your home.



Tenants Contents Insurance

If you are a tenant, you are not responsible for making sure you have buildings insurance, but it is certainly worth considering tenants insurance for the contents of your rented home. Tenants are no different to home owners in terms of the value of their possessions. Depending on what type of rented accommodation you live in, you may be more at risk of theft for instance if you have a shared entrance or live in a house of multiple occupancy (HMO).

If you are a tenant, it tends to be a good idea to extend your cover to accidental damage, just in case damage occurs to the Landlords carpets and/or curtains. But, some insurers will not insure you for contents if you live in shared accommodation or if the home you are renting is a furnished property.

Student Insurance Cover

Contents insurance is not generally high on the list for students to consider if you are moving away to go to university. However, just like anyone else, students can become victims of crime. Student contents insurance will provide you with cover that protects your possession in the event of a fire, flood or vandalism.

It is possible for you as a student to add your contents onto your parent’s policy. However, this can often work out more expensive than having two separate policies. So, it is worth considering both options to get the best quote.

Don’t forget that you will need your own contents insurance if you like in shared accommodation. It is also worth checking your policy to see if it covers you for any bikes or musical instruments and that you are also covered during the holidays as well as term time.

Flood Risk

There are millions of homes in the UK that are at risk of flooding, which will make it more difficult to arrange home insurance. Flood insurance claims are not easy to assess, and can be very expensive so, naturally, insures are not keen on insuring houses that are prone to flooding.

The Association of British Insurers agreed a deal with the government to ensure that houses that are prone to flooding are guaranteed cover, until June 2013. However, you should expect to pay far more for your insurance if you live in an area that is likely to flood. Furthermore, the excess the insurance company asks you to pay is likely to be far higher in the event of needing to make a claim. It is not unusual for these excesses to run into many thousands of pounds.

If you need to check if your home is at risk, you can do so by visiting the Environment Agency website at www.environment-agency.gov.uk.


Are You Cracking Up?

If you have noticed any large cracks in your walls, you may have a subsidence issue. Subsidence often affects homes that are built on clay soil. The south of England is particularly effected. What happens in a nut shell is, that after a sustained dry spell of weather, the soil under the house shrinks and the property can start to sink into the ground.

If you own a property that is vulnerable to subsidence, you can almost guarantee that it will be more expensive to cover.

Insuring an Unusual Property

In the UK, most homes are built with brick walls and tiled roofs however, there are properties that are more unusual. If your home is built in a non-standard way, you may need to have specialist home insurance as the mainstream insurers may refuse to insure you. Properties that are defined as being built in a non-standard are:

• Built with wattle and daub
• Houses that are timber framed
• Properties with flat roofs.

Listed and Historical Buildings

A listed building is defined as being of special architectural or historical interest and are usually built before 1840. In the UK, there are approximately 350,000 listed homes.

There are three categories which are called ‘grades’ with most homes falling into the grade two category. For more information on listed properties please visit see the National Heritage List.

If your home is listed you will have to have permission from your local authority if you wish to alter the property in any way. For example, if you wanted to install a conservatory or build an extension. Additionally, you are obliged to restore the property back to its original condition if it is damaged.

A general home insurance policy many not be sufficient for a listed home, so it may be worth considering listed building insurance as the rebuild costs are often very difficult to estimate and you will often need help from an expert. Furthermore, claims can also be more complicated as you will need to involve specialist craftsman and materials.

Thatched Roof Insurance

A thatched cottage in a village location is a romantic ideal for many but, trying to insure a property with a thatched roof can be nothing short of a nightmare. Thatched roofs are far more likely to catch fire than that of a standard tiled roof and due to the nature of the thatching, if it does catch fire, the fire can spread rapidly causing extensive damage.

If you own a thatched property it is essential that you have Thatched Roof Home Insurance. It may also be worth considering some preventive measures such as chimney lining or a fire-retardant coating.

Landlords Insurance Protection

As a landlord, you will have many and often varied responsibilities including insurance. Having buildings insurance in place is essential to protect your asset and investment property. If you decide to let your property fully furnished it is important to pay special attention to your contents insurance.

An ever-growing number of insurers now offer buy to let landlord’s insurance which often includes liability insurance to cover you in the event someone is injured at your property.

As a Landlord, you may wish to consider adding rent guarantee insurance and legal expense cover. Although you will pay an additional premium for this, it is generally seen as money well spent for the peace of mind it offers.


The 30-Day Rule

If you are away from your home for more than 30 days, it is unlikely to be covered by a standard home insurance policy.

However, there are many reasons why a property may be empty for a period of 30 days or more. Perhaps you have inherited a property but probate has not completed. Or maybe you have purchased a new house but you are yet to sell your old house. There are several more reasons why you might have to leave your property empty for more than 30 days.

However, vandals and thieves often target unoccupied homes as they are less likely to be disturbed. There is also the added risk of you being unaware of a burst pipe if a house is left unattended. You can purchase unoccupied home insurance which covers you should the worst happen whilst you are away from your property. Many policies will also offer liability insurance so you are covered should someone be injured on your property.

What If I Own a Farm?

If you own a farm, it’s not just your home, it’s your business too. In this situation, you will require specialist cover. Bespoke Farm Insurance is available and can be tailored to your individual needs.
Most Farm Insurance policies will cover all the farm buildings including their contents.

It may also be necessary to consider various business insurances, such as employers liability and environmental liability depending on the type of business you run.

Holiday Home Insurance

As your holiday home is not usually in use all year round, you will need specialist cover. You can take out both buildings and contents insurance on your holiday home, offering you peace of mind that you are covered all year round. Holiday Home Insurance also covers you if you were to let it out to friends or family.

Self-Build Home Insurance

Building your own home can be a daunting yet highly rewarding experience. However, there are so many different things that could go wrong, which is why it is important to be sufficiently insured. You will need a home insurance policy design for those who are looking to build their own home from scratch.

You are likely to need insurance that covers you at varying stages of the build. Such as insurance to protect the construction site whilst the builders are busy building your dream home. Site Insurance will normally cover things like tools, plant and other machinery against loss, theft or damage.

It may be worth considering Public Liability Insurance just in case a member of the public is hurt on site. Employers Liability Insurance is a must as it covers you if a builder was injured on site amongst other things. Last but by no means least, Legal Expense cover is likely to be useful if any disputes arise over planning permission.


How Can I Save On Home Insurance Cover?

You may be pleasantly surprised at the cost of home insurance, in particular, contents insurance premiums have fallen in recent years. This has been attributed to the number of burglaries falling year on year.

The typical cost of a combined home insurance policy, which covers you for both buildings and contents insurance, taken out with the same insurer now cost approximately £115 – £120 per year.

Remember that loyalty doesn’t always pay, which is why it is important to shop around for the best available cover at the cheapest price possible.

Utility Saving Expert provides you access to an industry leading home insurance comparison engine which compares over 40 of the leading insurers, saving you both time and money by just completing one short form.

Compare, switch and save on your building and contents insurance with Utility Saving Expert today.