Your property is greater than the sum of its parts. It’s a home. Unfortunately life has a habit of producing occasional unwelcome surprises and for this reason it makes sense to provide cover for all possibilities.
The difference between buildings and contents insurance is relatively simple. Buildings insurance covers all the non-moveable parts of your home such as the walls, roof, fixtures, fittings and essential bricks and mortar. If you own your property you’ll have to get buildings insurance by law, and this protects your home from fire, flood or other “acts of God”.
Contents insurance covers all the loose, removable parts of your property such as televisions, jewellery, laptops, dishwashers, furniture and anything else of value that can be stolen or destroyed in a fire or flood. Unlike buildings insurance it isn’t compulsory to have contents insurance, but the majority of homeowners prefer the peace of mind it provides.
This covers costs associated with the repair of damage to your home’s structure, or to any fixtures and fittings. This will typically include any destruction caused by nature – such as floods, storms and fire and even subsidence. But it also covers man-made damage such as theft or vandalism. Buildings insurance will not cover wear and tear, frost damage, damage cause by animals or indeed any type of damage if your home has been left empty for a significant period (varies according to policy, but usually 30 or 60 days). Your insurance may even cover accommodation costs should you have to move out during repairs.
Nothing can mitigate the distress caused by discovering you’ve lost your treasured possessions to fire, flood or burglary. But contents insurance can at least provide you with the reassurance that you won’t have to worry about breaking the bank to replace many of those essential items. General wear and tear isn’t covered, neither is accidental damage (unless specifically included), or any items lost or stolen outside of your property (you’ll need personal possessions cover for this).
If you’re a homeowner, most mortgage lenders insist you have buildings cover in place to protect their investment.
You don’t usually need buildings cover if you’re renting, but you may want contents insurance to help cover the cost of replacing your things if you suffer a loss.
Adding a joint policyholder allows the other person to make a claim, so it’s not only you who can deal with communications with your insurer.
Under some circumstances it can also lower your premium.
Most insurers define accidental damage as an unintentional one-off incident that harms your property or its contents.
Most standard policies cover key items like home entertainment, but there may be varying exclusions depending on your insurer.
Your need depends on your circumstances – many accidental damage claims come from people with young children.
It’s also important to know what’s covered under your standard policy. Checking the small print is the best way to make sure you’ve got adequate cover.
No – unless it’s a specific requirement of your mortgage contract.
By being the only insurer offering you buildings cover when you’re arranging your mortgage, there’s less need for them to competitively price your insurance policy.
You can often save money by shopping around with a price comparison site to get a range of quotes from a number of insurers.
Only the owner of a property can buy the buildings insurance. If you’re not the building owner but you’re worried about appropriate buildings insurance, you can check with the building’s proprietor or landlord to check this cover is in place.
If you’re a tenant, you make want to look at contents insurance to make sure your personal possessions are covered.
As a rule of thumb, anything you’d take with you if you moved house should be included on your contents policy – including items like curtains and carpets.
It’s worth taking the time to go around your house from room to room and putting a reasonable value on everything.
It’s easy to underestimate the value of your contents, but it’s important to make sure you’re not underinsured.
You need to inform your insurer of any changes to your building and/or your contents which may impact on the cover you have.
The key point to remember is that your contract with your insurer is based on mutual disclosure of information – they charge you a “fair” premium, based on the risks you’ve made them aware of. If these risks change, so too does the value of a “fair” premium.
If in doubt, ask your insurer. The time taken for a quick phone call could save any problems that arise in the event of a claim.