Cheap Home Insurance
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Home insurance costs have increased – but even so, there are savings to be had and, with many people's finances impacted by coronavirus, it's even more important to check you're paying as little as possible. So check out our key tricks to slash the price, including never auto-renewing, how to time it right to bag the cheapest deal and what you need to know when looking for a quote.
Coronavirus and home insurance – can you cut costs?
If you're at renewal and looking for a new quote, we've our usual cost-cutting information below. But if your circumstances have changed, eg, you've been made redundant or you're working at home, plus if you're struggling to pay bills, read our coronavirus home insurance cost-cutting tips.
In this guide
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What is home insurance?
There are three main home insurance policies: buildings insurance, contents insurance and combined building and contents cover. Buildings insurance cover protects the structure (the fixtures and fittings in your home), while contents insurance covers your belongings.
Combined buildings and contents cover is only suitable for people who own the freehold of their homes. If you rent or own the lease only, buildings cover should be handled by your freeholder or managing agent. Contents insurance, however, is your responsibility and should be considered by everyone. See our Tenants' Contents Insurance guide for more.
What is covered?
The contents part of your insurance protects you against damage and theft to possessions in your home, garage and shed. The buildings part protects the structure of your home and permanent fixtures and fittings, such as doors and sanitary equipment (baths, basins, toilets and showers). It can differ from policy to policy, but home insurance will usually cover damage from storms, flooding, earthquakes, fire, lightning, explosions, theft, riots and vandalism. It also covers damage from falling trees, motor vehicles and escaping water (such as a burst pipe). Your cover should also protect you against subsidence (a shifting of the ground, which can cause your house to sink).
If you need both building and contents insurance, buying combined insurance can be cheaper and limit any disputes among insurers, for example, if you need to make a claim affecting both the structure of your home and its contents, such as a flood.
Should you decide to buy two separate policies and you need to claim, there may be arguments between your two providers over who should cover what. It is rare, but it is possible.
Most policies will also cover the cost of a hotel or B&B if you can't stay in your home following a fire or a flood, replacement keys and locks if they are damaged or your keys go missing, spoiled food if your freezer breaks down and the replacement of cash stolen from your home. There are limits on how much you can claim for, so if you're concerned about fancy frozen goods or you have cash hidden in your mattress, check your policy carefully.
Both contents and buildings policies give you legal liability protection as the occupier and owner of the home. This means that as part of the contents policy, the insurer will cover you and your legal costs if a visitor to your home is seriously injured and it's deemed to be your fault. A buildings policy will do the same if the structure injures a passer-by or visitor, or damages a neighbour's property.
Home insurance won't insure you against acts of terrorism. It also doesn't cover damage due to wear and tear. Your policy may also be invalid if your house is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days during the year (see leaving the house unoccupied below). There's also usually only limited cover for accidental damage (see add-ons below). Check the small print carefully before you buy.
Not being in your home can have consequences for your cover. If you sub-let your home, you won't be able to claim if you are burgled and there's no sign of forced entry. Or if you're away for a long time and a pipe bursts, your insurer may not pay out.
Insurers won't protect everything in your home just because you've bought cover – look out for situations where you'll need to make special arrangements. If you've a stash of high value items, there may be a limit on the insurance.
If you run a business from home, then that usually won't qualify for liability protection, while business-related contents may not be covered.
Eight home insurance need-to-knows
For the buildings element of house insurance, a common mistake is to cover the home's market value (the amount it might sell for), instead of the rebuild value – the cost of rebuilding the property if it was knocked down. The key is the cost of materials, labour and architects for your area. However, buildings policies should also cover the cost of somewhere for you to stay while your home's rebuilt or is uninhabitable.
To find a rebuild value, commissioning a survey is most reliable, but it's expensive unless you're getting one anyway (eg, if you're buying a new home). A less accurate, but quicker option is the Association of British Insurers' calculator.
For contents insurance, underinsuring could lead to you getting less than the value of your items if you need when you claim. Add everything up, including smaller items such as clothes, on a 'new for old' basis.
Your insurer will ask you for an estimated value of your contents. But pricey items, usually ranging from £1,000 to £2,000, have to be separately listed to be covered on many policies. Expensive purchases such as high-end laptops and jewellery (including engagement rings) may not be covered if they were bought after your policy was taken out.
Even if your goods are valued under £1,000, some of them may not be covered, especially if they are mobile phones or tablets. A number of providers insist these items are specifically named on the policy, regardless of their value. After you buy something expensive, always check your policy carefully to ensure it's covered.
Always keep hold of – and safeguard – receipts for valuable items like jewellery and big-ticket items such as specialist cameras or high-spec televisions. Insurers will usually want to see proof of purchase before paying out. A receipt, photograph, valuation (for jewellery or antiques) or even bank statement will suffice. This is also the case if adding such items to an 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' add-on to your contents policy.
Make sure you're especially careful when you set the value of your contents. It may affect any potential claim and your level of coverage, as most insurers will only cover you on a proportional basis.
Sounds complicated? This is how it works. If you have £20,000 of possessions but you only cover £10,000, your insurer will consider you 50% covered. So if you have a claim worth £5,000, you'll only get £2,500 of your claim.
Having lots of contents and expensive items in your home may make it difficult to insure. Follow the steps below to find the right cover.
Decide how much to cover your contents for
With high value contents, it's crucial not to underinsure. It may seem cheaper to err on the low side, but this could lead to insurers not paying out when you need them to. Add up everything you'd want to replace, including smaller items such as clothes.
If you insure £20,000 of possessions when you actually have £40,000, you'll at best only have half of your contents protected or, worse still, the policy could be cancelled for being underinsured. The latter will mean a hike in the future cost of insurance.
To get your magic number, walk from room to room, noting what everything would cost if bought again new.
When you sign up, you must specify individual items worth a lot (£1,500+) – such as an engagement ring or an expensive watch – or risk them not being covered. If you're not sure, phone the insurer.
Very expensive possessions – eg, antiques, paintings – should be professionally valued. Remember their value may increase over time.
Types of cover. Once you've defined the cover level, make sure you're comparing the price like for like.
New for old. Here, the payout should be for the original price of the items, though for clothing there's usually a wear and tear deduction.
Indemnity cover. The provider only pays out the current value of your possessions. It's cheaper, but it can leave you in the lurch.
Add-on cover. There are various types. 'All risks' includes property taken outside your home such as wallets or jewellery, legal cover pays for legal representation or disputes.
No single site captures the entire market, combining a number of comparison sites is the best way to make a really meaningful saving, so try them one by one.
Presents kept in your home will be covered by your usual contents insurance, but if you've bought big-ticket items as gifts they may need to be listed separately. Typically, the limit for single items ranges from £1,000 to £2,000, so check your policy and call your insurer if you've purchased anything above your limit.
Many home insurers automatically increase your contents cover in December (and some even into January) at no cost but, if you need extra and your insurer does not routinely up its limits, you may have to pay a small fee if you want to extend your cover. Some insurers will also increase your contents cover for other special occasions, such as religious festivals and weddings.
Here's a table of some of the market's biggest players that will increase contents cover automatically.
Axa (HomeSmart/HomeSure) £7,500 increase Churchill 10% of the sum insured Direct Line 10% of the sum insured Esure 15% of the sum insured John Lewis (Plus Cover) £7,500 increase LV 10% of the sum insured More Than 10% of the sum insured Saga 20% of the sum insured Sheilas' Wheels 15% of the sum insured Correct at February 2020
Insurers usually offer the best deals to new customers, punishing existing customers with higher rates for failing to challenge them. If your renewal's coming up, jot it in your diary.
They charge more each year, knowing inertia stops policyholders switching. In fact, Citizens Advice submitted a super-complaint to the Competition and Markets Authority in 2018 after finding those who stick with an insurer for five years can pay 70% more than switchers.
Even though there are rules meaning insurers must tell you the premium you paid last year in correspondence to you, don't rely on this to take action. Compare comparison sites and then call your insurer to see if it can match, or even beat, the best quote you find. If they can match or beat it, you're quids in.
The most extreme example we’ve seen is from MoneySaver Billy, who was gobsmacked as his Tesco renewal jumped from £140 to £1,621 in a year, despite there being no changes. Luckily, he’d seen our tips and managed to cut the cost.
I’ve seen Martin talking about it on TV, but I was not prepared for a 1,000%+ hike. So I switched and paid £182. Billy
Don't assume switching is only for those at renewal, as you may find switching early saves anyway, especially if you didn't follow our full cost-cutting system in the past. There are three points to consider when doing this:
- You can usually cancel existing policies and get a refund for the rest of the year, providing you haven't claimed.
- There will normally be a cancellation fee – which varies – so your savings from switching could outweigh the cancellation fee to make it worth it. The longer you've got to go on your policy, the more likely you'll be better off switching your policy.
- You won't earn the current year's no-claims discount if you switch, so you'll need to be making a substantial saving to make this work.
- You can usually cancel existing policies and get a refund for the rest of the year, providing you haven't claimed.
A number of insurers will hold the price of the quotation for 90 days. So if you get a quotation two or three months before your renewal is due, you've locked in a price in case costs rise in the near future.
Once locked in, the price is fixed as long as your details don't change, but you can always change your mind if you find a cheaper deal (see why buying 21 days ahead is cheapest).
Remember, the quotations are subject to your details not changing.
An MSE investigation in which we analysed more than three million quotes from the four biggest price comparison sites – Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket – revealed buying your home insurance three weeks ahead of the day you want your policy to start can save you 20%+, compared with leaving it until the last minute.
Based on an average price, the cheapest time to buy your policy is 17-30 days before the start date, with 21 days before being the optimum time. The differences in price are closely aligned to how much of a risk you're deemed to be, and when the highest number of insurers are likely to provide quotes (see the full price investigation).
The following are listed roughly in order of what's considered most secure, but there are no hard and fast rules to cutting costs.
MOST SECURE: Five-lever mortise deadlock conforming to BS (British Standard) 3621.
This is the gold standard of locks recommended by police and loved by insurers. If you're thinking of changing your locks, this is the one to go for. The British Standard kitemark is stamped on the metal plate, so it's easy to see – it's heart-shaped with an 's' in the middle.
Five-lever mortise deadlock.
This is the same as above, but without a British Standard kitemark.
Key-operated multi-point locking system.
A multi-point locking system has a minimum of three points that all lock simultaneously at the turn of a key. Multi-point locks are most common on uPVC doors or patio doors.
Rim automatic deadlatch with key-locking handle.
These offer security at night, allowing you to lock your door more securely from the inside.
Any other lock?
If it's none of the above, it's probably classed as "other lock type". To cut costs and improve security, they recommend you consider getting one of the recognised locks above.
The lock pictured directly above – the 'any other lock?' image – is of decent quality. But it doesn't meet insurance standards when it's fitted alone on a door. It has no external deadlocking feature, which means the latch can be bypassed and forced open.
If you have one of the top four locks above (ie, not 'any other lock'), you should have decent security and lower premiums.
Sometimes, insurers will distinguish between the four. Where they do, the five-lever mortise deadlock conforming to BS 3621 is normally the best, followed by the same lock but without the kitemark.
But approaches vary among insurers, so it's a good idea to compare quotes from as many providers as possible.
What lock you can have fitted may also depend on how sturdy your door frame is. A quality lock is only as strong as what it's attached to, so you'll need to take that into consideration.
The better your lock, the more secure your home is, and the less you pay for your insurance.
We ran some quotes on a price comparison website. The difference in premium between a five-lever mortise deadlock (preferred by insurers) and a rim automatic deadlatch with key-locking handle with the same insurer was £50 for the year.
A five-lever mortise deadlock comes in at about £25 to buy, so it's cheaper to change the locks and get a lower premium with the added comfort of extra security for your home.
Insurers recommend the lock is professionally fitted, the cost of which may be similar to or higher than the lock itself. But don't let that put you off. Even if it means the lock doesn't pay for itself in year one, it's an investment, so it will in the future.
You can't just say you have the lock to get a cheaper premium. If you're burgled and it turns out you don't have these locks, or you haven't used them, your insurer may not pay out or will want a higher excess should you claim.
Most standard policies usually cover you for limited accidental damage, such as a broken window. Some contents may also be covered, for instance electrical goods, but if you spill paint on your carpet, it's unlikely to be covered.
Many insurers offer extra cover for an additional cost, so if you're particularly clumsy, you should give it some thought – just make sure you check the T&Cs first to see what is covered as standard.
Something else worth considering is an 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' add-on to your contents policy. Most policies don't cover contents outside the home as standard, but by paying a bit more you can usually get cover for items including your handbag, smartphone and tablet – basically, if it's designed to be taken out of the home, it'll fall under this extension.
For valuable bicycles worth £1,000 or more, you could be better off taking out a specialist bicycle insurance policy. Equally, if you carry a lot of valuable gadgets, eg, a laptop, tablet and smartwatch, then gadget insurance could be worth considering.
8. Working from home? You only need to tell your home/contents insurer if you've brought stock home or have business visitors
We've checked with a raft of major home insurers including Axa, Aviva, Churchill, Direct Line, Esure, Hastings, LV and More Than. All have said during the coronavirus crisis period there's no need to change or update your cover if you're now working from home and, crucially, you don't need to call and tell them.
This applies if you're doing clerical work – generally defined as working on a laptop and making phone calls. It won't cover any claims arising from visitors to your home who are there as part of your work, but this shouldn't be a problem in the current lockdown as you shouldn't be having visitors in your home anyway.
It also won't cover any stock you might have brought home – for example, if you've a mail order business which you're now operating from home. If that's the case, call and tell your insurer as you may need to pay a premium to have the stock covered, or you may need to get an extension to your usual business insurance.
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How to buy your home insurance
First up, start by visiting the comparison sites, which zip your details off to a number of insurers' and brokers' websites to find the cheapest quotes. As no single site captures the entire market and prices vary, combining a number of sites is the best way to make a meaningful saving.
When ranking comparisons, we want to get you to use the best ones, as quickly as possible. We focus principally on price, as depending on who you are, you can get cheaper quotes on different screen scrapers. However, we also factor in 'softer' features to assess the quality of each.
Ranking on price
We analysed the prices of a large range of insurance quotes given by Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket.
- Step 1. Check how many times each comparison site returned the cheapest or within 5% of the cheapest quote.
- Step 2. Rank the comparison sites based on their 'score' in the first category.
- Step 3. Assess how often each comparison gave a unique cheapest quote, ie, not just equal cheapest with a higher-scoring comparison.
- Step 4. Alter the order to see if it's possible to increase the speed with which you access the cheapest quotes.
Yes and no. Comparison sites send your details to a raft of insurers, they then use information on your credit file to judge your quote. This leaves a 'soft search' on your file, which you can see as a reference if you get your credit report – but this worries many people.
Yet crucially lenders CAN'T SEE these soft searches, so they have no impact on your creditworthiness. The only time a hard search – which lenders can see – may go on your file is if you then go on and actually apply for insurance, specifically 'pay monthly' insurance (because the firm effectively pays upfront for you and you repay the loan over the year).
More info can be found in our Will buying insurance from a comparison site affect my credit score? guide.
Some comparison sites include 'free' gifts for every policy you take out. At Compare The Market there's a soft toy meerkat (you can choose from eight) for each new policy plus 2for1 cinema tickets and 2for1 at 1,000s of restaurants (see Meerkat Movies & Restaurant trick for full details).
But remember: don't end up paying a higher premium than you need to because you are sucked in by the incentives on offer from one particular comparison site.
It's best to use all four sites, but if you don't have time, we've ranked them in order of the sites that most often return the cheapest quotes so you've the best chance of bagging the top deal.
Some groups, such as those in areas prone to flooding, subsidence or whose home is left unoccupied for long periods, can find it difficult to find cheap insurance cover as they are considered too high a risk. Those with a chequered financial past – such as bankruptcy or county court judgments – may struggle too.
If flooding is the reason you're struggling to find affordable insurance cover, Flood Re has a useful tool that will list insurers to try.
One final option is to try speaking to a broker about your individual circumstances (find one on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website).
Improve your risk profile and increase your chances of getting the lowest possible quote.
Make sure you have the right security – not only to your 'self-contained' room, but to the main entrance to your home or flat. Without an approved lock, it's difficult to find a policy giving you theft cover. So know your locks – see the info on them above.
Keep all your contents in your locked room. Anything left in a communal area is unlikely to be insured against theft. Remember, theft only applies when there's violent and/or forced entry.
Getting insurance for a room in a shared house or flat doesn't need to be expensive.
If you rent, your landlord's responsible for insuring the buildings, so you only need contents insurance.
Our Cheap Contents Insurance for Tenants guide highlights why contents insurance is essential for renters and how to get the right policy to suit you at the cheapest price. Bear in mind, insurers usually only pay out if there is a sign of forced entry – hence the importance of having the room your contents are in kept locked.
Combine the comparison sites in this order...
Comparison sites zip your details to insurers' and brokers' websites, finding the cheapest. So be aware they often feed your personal details to insurers. They don't all compare the same sites, so combine them. We've analysed the comparison sites to find the cheapest results.
No single site captures the entire market – combining a number of sites is the best way to make a really meaningful saving, so try them one by one.
So benchmark your cheapest comparison quotes against prices offered by the following insurers that you won't find unless you go direct:
While comparison sites offer a large chunk of the market's deals, we often get insurers offering special voucher deals to MSE users. So, if any of the providers below are among your cheapest on comparison sites, use the links below to buy instead and get the voucher thrown in too. Here are the current top deals...
Buy a new buildings & contents policy by 11.59pm on Wed 30 Sep via this MSE Blagged Intelligent Insurance* link and you'll get a £55 Amazon gift card emailed to you within 60 days of your policy starting. You can't have had an Intelligent Insurance policy in the last 12 months.
Note: It may not be cheapest if you've standard needs – it specialises in cover for unusual properties and situations, eg, people in flood-prone areas, unoccupied or listed buildings, or who've a chequered financial past.
We've blagged you a £30 Amazon voucher when you go via this Urban Jungle* link to buy a contents-only policy, when using the code MSE30. To be eligible for the voucher, you must be a new customer and keep the policy for six months. The voucher will then be emailed within 30 days.
Step 4: Once you've found the cheapest quote, try to haggle a bigger discount
Haggling often won't get you the market's best deal. But it can cut the cost if you don't want to switch insurer.
Once you've followed the steps above and have the best price, get on the phone and haggle. If your insurer can beat or match your best quote, it saves the hassle of switching policy. If that doesn't work and you're still in the mood, enlist the help of a broker.
Sainsbury's renewal was £252. Rang Sainsbury's, talked it down to £181.
Once you know which your cheapest provider is, check you're not missing out on any cashback deals.
However, there is no guarantee the quote will be the same going through a cashback site as it is going through a comparison site, so make sure you check the cost carefully. And it's important to be aware the cashback comes from the cashback site, not the insurer, so getting the cashback relies on the deal tracking correctly (see Top Cashback Sites).
Things you need to know before getting cashback...
Cashback is never 100% guaranteed. There can be issues with tracking and allocating the payment. Many cashback sites are small firms with limited backing, and you've no protection if anything happens to them.
Money held in your cashback site account has no protection at all if that company goes bust. Always withdraw it as soon as you're eligible.
While it shouldn't be a problem, if you've used comparison sites before, there's a minor risk that the cashback may not track due to cookies on your computer – so it's good practice to clear those first (read about cookies).
If you're new to cashback sites, make sure you read the Top Cashback Sites guide for pros and cons before using them.
I got paid more cashback than the policy cost, so I made £20 profit.
Step 6: Finally, check the policy carefully before buying
Once you've found the cheapest quotes from the screen scrapers, make sure you:
Double-check the quotes
Click through to the insurance provider's own website to thoroughly read the quote. Some comparison sites make a few assumptions to speed up searches.
Examine the policy's coverage
Check whether it's suitable. While you're there, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can finesse the price down. Look at the excess, and see if any tweaks can cut the cost.
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Coronavirus home insurance cost-cutting, incl how to review your add-ons
Many of us are spending much less time away from the home, whether that's because we're furloughed from work, working at home or just not going out as much due to the lockdown.
If you're struggling to pay for cover, or need help to cut costs, here are ways to help for both scenarios...
If you contact your insurer to tell it you're struggling to pay for your home insurance, it should help you out. The first thing it should look at is whether it can make your policy cheaper. On home insurance, this can be difficult, as your home will cost the same to rebuild if it was destroyed, and you're unlikely to be able to cut your contents cover by much either.
So it's likely you can only make limited savings on your home insurance premiums. Nevertheless, we've highlighted things you may be able to remove from your home insurance that could result in a saving. So try these to see if they work for you:
This is a useful add-on to a home insurance policy meaning valuables such as phones, laptops and other gadgets are covered when you're out. But if you're home a lot more due to lockdown, it may be worth temporarily removing it (you can usually add it on again when you need it).
Or check if you can reduce the amount of cover you have outside the home, eg, a £500 limit rather than £1,000.
If you take either of these routes, make sure that when you or a family member leaves the home, you keep the number of valuables, clothing and gadgets you take to a minimum.
Some home insurance policies give travel insurance as part of the cover. If you have this extension, and don't have plans to travel (as it's not currently allowed anyway), look at removing it.
Before removing your travel insurance, check whether it covers you for coronavirus-related claims (many policies bought before March 2020 do). If it does cover them, weigh up whether you want to ditch that important extra protection, as it may be that if you got a new travel insurance policy later, it wouldn't cover coronavirus.
Other add-ons that you may want to consider removing include:
- Home emergency. If it's an all-singing, all-dancing policy, see if you still need such a high level of cover.
- Legal expenses. It's worth checking this, but it usually doesn't cost much, and can give important cover that can be used for a variety of different legal disputes.
Is it worth changing an existing policy for these savings?
Our view is that it can be a faff, and cutting these add-ons isn't likely to save you much, even if you've many months left on your policy. You could always check, but also use this as a trigger to see if you should look for a new policy. Big changes to your circumstances can mean another insurer is cheaper, and you may have been overpaying anyway.
Yet if you can't cut costs, and switching provider isn't an option, and you still can't afford your home insurance...
If you're struggling to pay for your insurance, whatever you do, don't just cancel your direct debit. Always get in touch with the insurer first to let it know you're struggling and you need help.
If you pay monthly, most insurers will now offer the option to defer payments for up to three months. This allows cover to continue while you take a break from payments. Once the payment holiday is over, most insurers will spread the amount you owe evenly over the remaining payments (though some insurers will ask for the full amount to be repaid in the first month or when the policy ends), so make sure you budget for higher payments later.
Try to do this only if really needed, as extra interest can rack up on top (as paying monthly for insurance is actually taking out a loan), so you could pay more in the long-run. If it's right for you, you can apply for help at any time up until 18 August 2020.
You'll need to be paying monthly for your insurance and experiencing financial difficulty due to coronavirus. Beyond this, it varies by provider, as each insurer would usually assess each request on a case-by-case basis.
In general, 'affected by coronavirus' means:
- You (or your spouse/partner) have been furloughed and have not yet received payment from your employer, or are self-employed and haven't yet received payment from the Government.
- You've been made unemployed at any point since March.
No insurer we asked told us it would ask for any evidence – though don't lie, as it can be classed as fraud.
How do I make a change to my policy, and is there a fee?
This depends on your insurer. Many will let you make a change online (eg, Admiral, Aviva, Axa and Direct Line). However, if you're in financial hardship, you'll usually need to call your insurer to discuss your options. Check its website, as some insurers have online forms to request a call back. Insurers will usually waive change fees if you contact them because you're struggling to pay and they agree to make changes to your policy.
However, if you're just making a change and it's not down to coronavirus, you'll usually still need to pay an admin fee of up to £50 for this.
Cancellation fees are unlikely to be waived if you're cancelling mid-term because you've found a cheaper policy. Though if you're struggling and can't afford to pay for your current policy but could afford the cheaper one with another insurer, you could try to negotiate with your existing insurer to see if it'll waive the fee in this case.
However, it's best not to go without home insurance completely as, for example, you'd be left with all of the rebuild and refitting costs if your home burned down. Plus, it's usually a condition of most mortgages that you have valid home insurance while you have the mortgage. So by all means see if you can save, but don't go without!
You need to tell your insurer about big changes in your circumstances, such as losing your job or moving home. However, you don't need to tell it if you're furloughed from your current employer.
Working from home? You only need to tell your home/contents insurer if you've brought stock home or have business visitors
We've checked with a raft of major home insurers including Aviva, Axa, Churchill, Direct Line, Esure, Hastings, LV and More Than. All have said during the coronavirus crisis period there's no need to change or update your cover if you're now working from home and, crucially, you don't need to call and tell them.
This applies if you're doing 'office' work – generally defined as working on a laptop and making phone calls. However, most insurers won't cover any claims arising from visitors to your home who are there as part of your work. They also won't cover any stock you might have brought home – eg, if you've a mail order business that you're now operating from home. If that's the case, call and tell your insurer as you may need to pay a premium to have the stock covered, or you may need to get an extension to your usual business insurance.
If you're struggling to find cover, eg, due to living in an area prone to flooding or subsidence, or because you have a chequered financial past – such as bankruptcy or county court judgments – see the 'I'm struggling to find cover' tab above.
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 (housewives/househusbands). 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. Read the full MSE News story: Unemployed walloped with high insurance.
Almost all insurers restrict the number of days you can leave your home unoccupied for while still covering you – usually 30 days. Leaving it empty for long periods makes it more at risk of burglary, and the cost of any claims greater as any damage can be left undetected for weeks.
What's more, during the colder months insurers reduce the number of days you can leave your home empty for to as low as five days UNLESS you keep the heating on at a minimum constant temperature or drain the water heating system (not for the faint-hearted). The reason for this is to reduce the risk of burst pipes and the damage they cause.
For example, with Admiral, if you go away for five days or more between November and March, you would 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.
Also, if you're insured with Policy Expert and leave your home unoccupied for 15 days or more during November until the end of March, you may not be fully covered unless you've set the heating at a continuous minimum temperature of 14°C or have switched off your gas and water supplies at the mains.
Failing to leave the heating on when you're away could see any claims made for the period you were away being declined, risking costs running into £1,000s.
Some insurers have these stipulations in their T&Cs but others, such as Aviva and Direct Line, don't – so make sure you know your provider's stance on this. If unsure, just give it a call.
More and more people run micro-businesses from their homes. Whether your working equipment will be covered varies from policy to policy. Some insurers will cover your computer or work phone automatically, others may not. It's important to check with your insurer and notify it if you work from home – it might drastically affect your policy and could even invalidate your cover. Any business stock is usually excluded under a normal policy, so always check to see if you need specialist cover.
There are growing numbers of accidental landlords – those who marry and move into a partner's home and rent out their old one, for example, or who inherit a property and decide to let it out rather than sell.
Fail to let your insurer know (and, just as important, your lender!) and any claim on the cover would be invalid since your existing home insurance policy won't be deemed valid because you've now got tenants in.
For convenience, you can ring your existing insurer who – in most cases – will simply 'upgrade' your ordinary home insurance policy into a basic landlord policy. It takes just one phone call and there'll usually be a higher premium to pay to reflect this greater risk.
But do this and you'll usually find your new policy won't include key landlord-specific extras such as loss-of-rent guarantee or public liability. Instead, you'll likely be better off looking for a specialist landlord policy from elsewhere 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.
If you have a child studying, and living away from home, they may automatically be covered against theft or loss as part of your home insurance policy under its 'temporarily removed from the home' section.
Many policies have this cover (but do check yours), as long as your home is your child's main permanent address (ie, they'll return to your home when not a student). However, it only applies while the contents are in their accommodation (or indeed at your home).
If you want cover for mobiles or laptops, or other items your child normally wears or carries away from your home, or their accommodation, you can add an 'all risks' or 'unspecified personal possessions' section to your policy. This covers your child's belongings while they're out and about, but it typically comes at an added cost.
Alternatively, if you prefer your child to have their own policy, see our Contents Insurance for Tenants guide.
Each policy normally comes with a compulsory and a voluntary excess, if you have selected one. A compulsory excess does what it says on the tin. If you make a claim, it's the amount you pay towards the cost. If your TV was stolen and you made a claim for £500, and had a compulsory excess of £50 – a typical sum – you'd get £450.
If you have a £50 voluntary excess and a £50 compulsory excess, you'd only get £400.
The excess is outlined when you buy the policy. What you pay is entirely up to you. A higher excess will lower the cost of your premium, with the insurer paying less if you have to make a claim. But if you make a claim, you'll get less money back.
When you set your excess, think carefully. If you can't afford to cover a large chunk of the cost if you need to claim, don't set a high voluntary excess, as you'll have to pay that as well as the compulsory excess.
If you need both buildings and contents insurance and you opt for a combined policy, make sure you check the details carefully. Some insurers will have a separate excess for both parts of your policy, which means a claim affecting both the structure of your home and its contents, such as a flood, will result in a double deduction.
The Co-op, Hastings and Tesco may all charge two excesses on combined policies.
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says customers should contact their insurers as soon as possible. When claiming, you may have to pay towards repairs and replacements, known as an 'excess', so check your policy for the full information.
You'll need to provide full details of the circumstances surrounding anything that's been lost or damaged, plus any evidence of that. Take photographs of the damage to your home, contents or car, or film the footage. This may help provide proof.
If your possessions have been badly damaged or washed away, any photographs of you with a particular item when undamaged, or held by friends or relatives, will demonstrate you owned it. Receipts, credit card bills or bank account statements that show your purchases can also be used as evidence.
It can take weeks, sometimes longer, for a property to fully dry out, and you should only return to your home when it's safe to do so. Also, don't be in a rush to redecorate your property. It needs to dry out properly and it'll need to be disinfected with antibacterial treatments. The restoration will start with the removal of debris and silt from the flood and properties are then stripped out, which includes hacking off damaged plaster and woodwork.
More information is available in this guide on how to protect your home and make a claim on your insurance.
Adverse weather: What do I do if there's an emergency?
With the ever-increasing risk of flooding, we can all do our bit to minimise any loss.
If you've been affected by storms or flooding, see how to protect your home and make a claim on your insurance if hit.
Here are some need-to-knows for starters...
My property has been damaged. What should I do?
If you've emergency damage, act quickly to sort it:
- To report a possible gas leak, contact the National Grid on 0800 111 999.
- If you've electrical problems, call your local electricity distributor, NOT your energy company (see a list of emergency contact numbers).
- Report any sewage hazards to your local council.
When it comes to making repairs, don't do anything unsafe yourself. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says you should contact your insurer first – it should have a 24-hour claims line – and it should arrange for someone to do any work that's covered.
But if you can't get through, or it won't be able to fix the problem quickly enough, arrange to have the damage fixed yourself by calling a qualified plumber, electrician or builder. Make sure you keep any receipts as these will form part of your claim.
As long as you have adequate home insurance, you'll be covered for any damage. It also nearly always includes cover for alternative accommodation if you have no access to your property. Buildings insurance will cover the structure of your home as well as fixtures and fittings, while contents insurance will cover your possessions.
My possessions have been damaged. What should I do?
The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says people shouldn't rush into throwing away damaged items, unless they're a danger to their health. Items may be able to be repaired or restored – your insurer will be able to give you more information on this.
Often, when claiming, vital documents or proof of possessions will have been washed away or damaged. If such documents are damaged or destroyed, get copies from the relevant provider. For example, you can go to the DVLA for motoring documents, brokers or insurers for duplicate insurance documents, or utility providers and the Passport Office. Check Gov.uk for how to replace birth certificates.
New for old: will my old goods be replaced with new ones if I have to claim?
There are two main types of cover when it comes to replacing your goods. New-for-old entitles you to brand new stuff (or the requisite value) if your insurer agrees to replace your damaged or stolen goods. Or there's an indemnity policy, where you get the value of the goods at the time of the loss.
An indemnity policy may be cheaper, but you only get a minor payout if you need to claim. So new-for-old is the best way to go. When you calculate the cost of your contents, factor in the value of your items as if they're new.
What to do if something goes wrong
First, you need to complain to your insurance company directly. If it doesn’t respond, or if you don’t like what it says, then you don’t need to just take it.
You can escalate your complaint to the free Financial Ombudsman. The ombudsman is an independent adjudicator which will make the final decision on a claim if you are locked in a dispute with your insurer. For more on how to make a complaint, read our Financial Rights guide.