How Much Cover Do I Need?
The amount you insure your property for should be the amount it would cost to rebuild the property if it is completely destroyed and should include professional fees. This amount might be higher or lower than the current market value of your property.
You could use a chartered surveyor and they would be able to advise you how much cover you need. The chartered surveyor would charge you for their service which would be an additional cost to you. The cost of rebuilding a property usually increases over time so you need to make allowance for this unless you have a policy which is index linked.
To obtain a rough estimate of how much it would cost to rebuild your property you can use the calculator from the Association of British Insurers (ABI).
Policy Features To Check For
Features the Policy Must Have
- Sum insured – this must be enough money to clear the site and rebuild your home if it was totally destroyed by fire or flood, for example.
- Alternative accommodation – covers the cost of staying somewhere else (like a hotel or rented house) while your house is being repaired if you can’t live in it following major damage like a fire or flood.
- Public Liability – covers you for the cost of being sued if anyone dies or is injured, or their property is damaged, because of something which happens at your home.
Features the Policy Should Have
- Accidental damage to glass & sanitaryware – cover for replacing windows, glass in doors, toilets and washbasins, if they are broken accidentally.
- Accidental damage to services – cover for the pipes and cables bringing water, gas and electricity to your home and sewage away from your home.
- Tracing and accessing a leak – help with the cost of finding a leak and gaining access to the leak. An example would be if there is leak under your shower and the plumber had to cut a hole in the ceiling to get to and fix the pipe. You would usually be covered for the cost of finding the leak, cutting a hole and repairing the hole, although the repair to the hole would usually be covered in the repair to your property caused by the leak.
- Unoccupied property – You need to establish how long you can leave your home unoccupied. This could be going on a long holiday or going away for work. After a certain length of time the insurer may restrict or remove the cover altogether. Most policies will usually allow you at least 30 days of unoccupancy.
Features Which are Nice to Have
- Accidental damage – covers you against the cost of any accidents that damage your home.
- Loss or theft of keys– if you lose your keys or they are stolen your insurer will pay to replace the affected locks at your property.
- Legal expenses – cover for your personal legal expenses if you have problems such as bodily injury claims, employment disputes, etc.
Keep Your Policy Up To Date
You need to keep your policy updated to date make sure you have enough cover. For example, if you add a conservatory or an extension, your property will cost more to rebuild. If your purchase valuable items such as pictures, works of fine art or jewellery then you may need to specify these on your policy. A policy has a single item limit which is the most the insurer will pay for one item.
An example of this is - you purchase a painting for £5,000 and then need to make a claim. If you do not specify the painting on the policy for the full value of £5,000 the insurer will only pay up to the single item limit which is usually much lower.
Non-Standard Construction Homes
If your property doesn’t have brick or stone walls and a slate or tiled roof, it might be classified as non-standard construction. Also if the property is very large or has a flat roof it might fall under this category also.
The following might be classes as non-standard construction properties:
- Houses with a flat or thatched roof
- Timber-framed or timber-clad properties
- Listed buildings
- Properties built from concrete or which have more than five floors
There are a lot of insurers who will insure these types of properties. You could contact an insurance broker or search online for ‘non-standard construction insurance’.
You need to inform your insurer if your home has a non-standard construction because if you fail to disclose this to the insurer and you want to make a claim then it is highly likely they will not cover the claim. Also they might cancel your policy because you failed to answer the questions accurately when you set up the policy.
Properties Which May Be Affected By Subsidence
If your area is at risk from subsidence you might have problems getting buildings insurance. If you are offered a policy then you may find that your policy is subject to an increased premium and have a higher subsidence excess applied. Insurance policies are usually priced by postcode so you may be affected by this even if your property has never suffered from subsidence.
There are some specialist insurance providers who offer schemes for properties that are subsiding or at risk of subsidence. These insurers look at the individual property as well as the postcode.
The Association of British Insurers recommends using a specialist broker to arrange insurance for a property at risk from subsidence. Visit their site to find a broker - ABI
Can I Insure An Empty Property?
Usually, insurance policies won’t cover an unoccupied property. Properties are usually classed as unoccupied if nobody lives in them for at least 30 days. Some policies offer a longer period such as 40 or 60 days. You need to check with the insurer to find out what their period is for unoccupied properties.
This may affect you if:
- You’re away on a long holiday
- You’re working away from home
- The house is being renovated, or,
- The house is waiting to be sold or let
- The owner has died or been taken into care
- The property is a holiday or second home. If this is the case you usually need a specialist insurance policy and you must inform your insurer that the property is not your main home.
If the property is going to be unoccupied for longer than the time specified on the policy you must contact your insurer. Some insurers will extend the time limit if you let them know in advance and agree to some conditions.
Some conditions might be:
- Turning off the water
- Improving the security
- Someone going to the property to pick up the post
If you don’t contact your insurer and something happens, you may not be able to claim if you come home to find the building is damaged.