Published On: Wed, Mar 27th, 2024
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‘I’m a home insurance expert – these errors destroy any chance of claiming on your policy’ | Personal Finance | Finance

Protecting your home and contents against fire, flood, theft and accidental damage is getting more expensive as home insurance premiums jump almost 20 percent in a year. The average combined buildings and contents policy now costs a hefty £364 a year, according to latest figures from the Association of British Insurers.

Bad weather was partly to blame, as insurers paid £352million to 36,000 customers following Storms Babet, Ciaran and Debi.

Six named storms hit the UK in the last quarter of the year, along with a tornado in Manchester. Now Storm Nelson is set to strike, too.

January also saw a surge in burst pipe claims following a cold snap. Inflationary increases in raw materials and labour have also pushed up repairs and rebuilding costs.

As premiums go through the roof, it is doubly important to make sure you are able to claim on your policy when you need it, an insurance expert warns.

Yet many can’t after making simple errors when taking out or renewing their policy.

Insurance expert Gary Hemming from ABC Finance is urging everyone to check the fine print of their household insurance policy at least once a year, as “small and surprising details” could lead to a rejected claim at a later date.

Here are seven ways you could unwittingly invalidate your home insurance.

Fit the wrong locks. Hemming said that most people do not think much about the type of lock on their door, but insurers do. Most specify that you need a five-lever mortice deadlock conforming to BS3621 standards on all external doors.

He warned: “If you suffer a break-in and your insurer discovers the locks don’t meet these specifications, your claim could be invalidated. It’s a small detail with potentially huge financial implications.”

Similarly, check whether your policy stipulates that you need window locks. If it does, make sure you actually have them (and use them, too).

Working from home. If you work from home occasionally, you probably don’t need to tell your household insurer. However, if you create or store products at home, have customer visits or have adapted your home for business use, such as using an outbuilding as an office, you probably do.

Hemming said: “If you have a high-end printer or other specialised equipment for work-related activities and it’s damaged or stolen, your standard policy might not cover it. Clarify with your insurer to prevent unexpected claim rejections.”

Do up your home. If you carry out major work on your home, such as converting an attic into storage space or a bedroom, or building an extension, you must tell your insurer.

Inform them before you start work, otherwise you may not be covered for issues such as collapsing walls, electrical fires, water leaks and any other building mishaps.

Some insurers may charge a higher premium during the works, others may not, it depends on the insurer. Either way, they need to know.

If the work increases the rebuilding costs of your property following fire or flood, your premiums may rise in the longer run, too. You must still tell your insurer, otherwise you risk being underinsured.

READ MORE: Insurers make call for ‘hidden in plain sight’ tax to be cut

Social media slip-ups. Hemming said “oversharing” on social media, such as posting your holiday plans, can also invalidate your policy.

“If burglars use this information to target your home while you’re away, insurers might consider this as negligence on your part, potentially leading to a denied claim.”

If you buy expensive new gadgets, jewellery or even art, tell your insurer. “Failing to update these changes can lead to underinsurance, where you might not be fully compensated in case of a claim,” he added.

Failing to maintain home. Insurance companies еxpеct homeowners to take reasonable steps to look after their home, say, by maintaining heating and plumbing systems, addressing leaks promptly, and heating your home during a cold spell to prevent frozen pipes. “If you don’t, any subsequent damage might not be covered.” 

Taking long trips away. You must also tell your insurer if you leave your home empty for longer periods, typically 30 days or more. 

Buying too little insurance. Finally, avoid the temptation keep premiums down underinsuring your property. It will save you money in the short run, but could cost you dear if you claim.

That’s because the insurer may reduce any payout by the same proportion as you are under insured, or reject your claim outright. Small slip-ups can have major consequences.

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