Protect the structure of your property
Buildings insurance is the part of your home insurance that covers the actual structure of your house. While taking out buildings insurance separately from a contents policy is uncommon, you may decide it's the better option for you. In this guide we look at exactly what buildings insurance is, how to find the best deals and what to do if you need to make a claim.
What is buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance is one half of home insurance (the other being contents insurance). It's designed to cover the cost of any repairs needed if the structure of your home gets damaged in an emergency or accident. It's the part of home insurance that protects the actual building (the walls, the roof and floors) and will often also include fixtures, such as a fitted kitchen or bathroom.
You usually only need buildings insurance if you're a homeowner; you'd normally take it out as part of a combined home insurance policy. If you're a tenant, your landlord will be responsible for arranging buildings cover (though you might want to consider getting your own renter's contents insurance policy to protect your personal belongings).
Is building insurance required in the UK?
While there's no legal requirement to have buildings insurance, many mortgage lenders will require you to have it in place as a condition of their offer.
What does building insurance cover?
Each provider will offer slightly different cover, but you should normally expect buildings insurance to cover damage caused by:
- Natural events such as floods, earthquakes and storms
- Criminal activity such as vandalism or theft
- Collisions such as from a vehicle or fallen trees
- Leaking pipes and faulty electronics
How much does buildings insurance cost?
Insurers view certain types of houses and areas as more risky than others, which mean the cost of buildings insurance can vary quite a lot. The best way to benchmark how much your policy should cost is to use a range of comparison sites.
When calculating a quote for your policy, an insurer will consider:
- The type of property you're hoping to insure. Houses typically cost more to insure than bungalows or flats.
- Your postcode. Properties in flood-risk, or high-crime rate areas can cost more to insure.
- The number of bedrooms the property has. Insurers often assume that properties with more bedrooms are larger, and therefore have higher potential repair costs.
- When the property was built.
- Whether the property is listed or in a conservation area.
- Whether you've previously made a claim on a buildings insurance policy.
Add-ons can also impact how much your policy costs. Check carefully what's included, as some insurers will include accidental damage and alternative accommodation as standard, but others will charge extra.
How to find buildings insurance
There's not much wiggle room to make buildings insurance cheaper (you can't change where the house is or how long ago it was built...) but there are ways to ensure you're getting the best possible bang for your buck.
Below are our quick tips to help you get a policy at the cheapest price possible. If you want a more in-depth look, head to our full Cheap home insurance guide.
- Get quotes from multiple comparison sites. Comparison websites are a great way to see lots of quotes from different providers in one place. Plus, some insurers offer cheaper prices on certain comparison sites than they do direct, so it's always a good idea to check a few.
There are a fair few to choose from, our suggested sites (and the order we recommend you check them) can be found in our main Home insurance guide.
Top tip: It can also be worth checking whether a combined buildings insurance with contents insurance works out less expensive for you.
- Check deals not on comparison sites. Even if you find a good deal on a comparison site, it may still be possible to beat it. You can find a selection of deals from such providers on our main Home insurance guide.
- See if you can get cashback. It's possible to get some policies through a cashback site such as Topcashback* or Quidco*. These websites contain a version of a comparison site (in this case, Confused.com) which give you some cashback when you take out a policy through them.
Though do bear in mind, you won't always get the best deal through these sites, and cashback is never 100% guaranteed, so do your research first and weigh up how good the offer is before you decide.
See our Top cashback sites guide for more info.
- Haggle with your existing insurer. If you already have a buildings insurance policy, you can also try haggling. If you've found a cheaper quote in the steps above, you can use it as leverage to ask your current provider if they'll match it or even beat it.
Our Car and home insurance haggling guide has tips on how to do this.
- Check the policy is exactly what you want. Finally, check the quote you're going for is 100% what you're after. Some comparison sites can make assumptions about your property automatically to save time, so go through everything with a fine-tooth comb and amend anything that isn't right.
Additionally, it's worth playing around with the finer details – only get the coverage you need, and see if changing the excess could get you a cheaper deal.
Important. Double check your provider is regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA). It's unlikely you'll end up being insured with a dodgy firm if you follow the steps above, but having an FCA registered insurer means you can escalate complaints to the Financial Ombudsman if you have to.
How to make a buildings insurance claim
Making a claim on your building insurance policy can feel incredibly stressful, but luckily making a claim is a fairly straightforward process:
- If necessary, call the police. If your claim comes about as a result of a crime (for example, a break-in or arson) call the police as soon as you can.
- Call your insurer. You should be able to find its phone number on your policy documents. Most insurers have a 24-hour hotline to call in an emergency for issues that affect your ability to safely stay in your home.
- Send evidence. You'll need to show proof of what's gone wrong before to help your insurer decide on your claim. This might be in the form of photos of the damage or a police report.
- Get repairs approved. If your insurer approves your claim, it will either arrange any repairs you need, or send you a cheque.
Try to avoid getting any repairs done before they've been approved by the insurer. If you have to make repairs (for example, for health and safety reasons), make sure you thoroughly photograph the damage beforehand and keep the receipts for any work done.
How to complain about your insurance provider
The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others. If you're not happy with the way your claim has been handled you can complain.
Your first step to making a complaint should be to get in touch with your provider, either by phone or email, and request their official complaints procedure.
You can also use our free complaints tool Resolver. The tool helps you draft a letter, and manage your complaint, and if the company doesn't play ball, it'll notify you when it's time to escalate your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.
Buildings insurance FAQs
Buildings insurance policies normally come with a compulsory excess, plus an additional voluntary excess. If you make a claim, the excess is the amount you pay towards the cost.
For example: if your TV is stolen and you make a claim to replace it for £500, and have a compulsory excess of £50, you'd get £450. If you have a £50 voluntary excess and a £50 compulsory excess, you'd get £400.
Opting for a higher voluntary excess will usually lower the cost of your premium, as it reduces the financial risk to the insurer – they'll pay out less if you have to make a claim.
However, when you set your excess, think carefully. If you can't afford to cover a large chunk of the cost, don't set a high voluntary excess. While it may feel like you're saving money in the short term, if an emergency strikes you could find yourself struggling to afford your claim.
How you make a change to your policy will depend on your insurer. Many let you make changes online, but not all.
You'll usually be charged an admin fee for altering a policy. The amount will vary by insurer, but fees are typically between £10 and £50. You'll usually find changes made online are cheaper than calling.
If you don't have a job, you face a potential jump in insurance costs if you declare yourself unemployed. The same hikes don't apply to homemakers. If that's you, say so to avoid a hike in costs.
But only enter 'homemaker' if you're genuinely not seeking work, or not receiving benefits which require you to seek work. Otherwise, it's fraud.
The short answer is yes, unless you're going away for ages. Almost all insurers restrict the number of days you can leave your home unoccupied for, but it's usually up to around 30 days. If you go away for longer your home won't be covered.
However, there are some extra measures your insurer might require you to take if you're going away during the winter. These include leaving the heating on at a low but constant temperature to stop the water in your pipes freezing.
For example, if you're insured with Admiral and go away for five days or more between November and March, you'll only be fully covered if you keep your home constantly heated to 12°C or turn off your water supply at the mains and drain the water system.
Failing to leave the heating on when you're away could see any claims made for that period being declined, risking costs running into £1,000s.
Each provider has slightly different terms and conditions, so check your policy documents before you go away. If you're unsure, give your insurer a call.
If you've decided to rent out your property and move elsewhere, you'll need to let your insurer know. Once you become a landlord you'll likely find that your current buildings insurance policy will no longer be valid.
In most cases you can call your existing insurer which will simply 'upgrade' your ordinary home insurance policy into a basic landlord policy.
However, while this new policy will cost more, you'll normally find that simply upgrading your insurance will leave you without important landlord-specific extras such as loss-of-rent guarantee or public liability insurance.
Instead, it's usually better to look out for a specialist landlord policy that includes all the add-ons, as well as basic contents and buildings cover. Ensure you get the cheapest deal by doing a landlord insurance comparison.
Got a thatched roof or walls made of wattle and daub, or wychert? If your home is of non-standard construction, your choice of insurers is usually limited – and policies can be pricey.
If the comparison sites above don't return many results, Intelligent Insurance* may be able to help. It can even provide policies if the property is left unoccupied for more than 30 or 60 consecutive days.
Another option is to speak to a broker about your individual circumstances – find one on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website.
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