Inadequate insurance can cost a fortune

Check you have the right cover before a disaster, not after, says Harvey Jones

Your home is by far the most valuable thing you own, so make sure it's properly insured against nasties such as burglary, fire, flood, subsidence and accidental damage. One in six homeowners has no buildings insurance, which protects your bricks and mortar plus any permanent fixtures such as fitted kitchens and bathrooms. And one in four has no insurance for their home contents, which covers everything you would take if you moved.

Going without could cost you tens of thousands of pounds, so don't take the chance. When buying or renewing cover, shop around and scrutinise the small print of your chosen policy. Most people only discover what is - and isn't - covered when they make a claim.

The average premium for buildings cover is pounds 209, and pounds 151 for contents, according to AA Insurance; but you can cut your premiums by up to 30 per cent by shopping around. Insurers such as Churchill Insurance, Esure, Direct Line and Tesco Personal Finance offer discounts for buying online.

Watch out for premium hikes at renewal. Insurers often woo new customers with tempting discounts, then sneakily boost premiums in future years. You may get a discount if you buy buildings and contents cover from the same insurer, plus further discounts if you also have its motor insurance. But make sure rates on all these products are competitive. You are not obliged to buy cover from your mortgage lender, which can include a hefty mark-up. Again, shop around.

Calculate the correct level of buildings cover. This should cover the full cost of rebuilding your home - not its market value. If you have converted your loft or added an extension, increase cover in line with the new rebuilding value.

Don't underestimate the value of your contents. If your belongings are insured for pounds 15,000 but are worth pounds 30,000, your insurer will only pay half of any claim. Alternatively, you can choose a policy offering "unlimited cover".

Tell your insurer about any expensive individual items, says Neil Thomas, director of IFA Simpsons, of Brighton. "Many require proof of purchase or valuation certificates for items above pounds 1,000 or so. You may need separate cover for more valuable items such as jewellery and antiques."

Check whether your policy offers "new for old" cover, or makes deductions for wear and tear. Also consider all-risks cover, to protect valuables outside the home, including on holiday. If you do this, you can save money by excluding personal possessions cover from your travel insurance.

Check you have the right security locks. Cilla Black had a pounds 1 million burglary claim rejected because she failed to install locks on her downstairs windows, where burglars broke in. Sharon Osbourne suffered a similar fate last year. Installing an approved burglar alarm or secure locks should cut down your premiums.

Consider paying premium annually rather than monthly. "Some insurers charge up to 30 per cent APR to pay monthly, costing you an extra pounds 20 a year," says Richard Mason, director of the price-comparison website www.Insuresupermarket.com. Also check how much excess you will pay on any claim.

Where possible, seek prior approval before paying for any work and keep all receipts for work done. Take photos of the damage before work starts and keep any damaged or destroyed goods for your insurer to inspect. Get a couple of estimates from different builders - your insurer can usually recommend approved tradespeople.

If your property has previously suffered flood or subsidence, you might struggle to get cover elsewhere. Insurers have a "gentleman's agreement" to continue covering existing customers whose homes are in flood- or subsidence- prone areas, or have made previous claims - which is better than not getting any cover at all.

If you are unhappy with the way your insurance company has handled your claim, first complain directly to them. If still unhappy, take your grievance to the Financial Ombudsman Service (0845 080 1800, www.financial-ombudsman.org.uk).

News
news
Life and Style
Popular plonk: Lambrusco is selling strong
Food and drinkNaff Seventies corner-shop staple is this year's Aperol Spritz
Voices
A Siberian Tiger
voices
News
Gardai wait for the naked man, who had gone for a skinny dip in Belfast Lough
newsTwo skinny dippers threatened with inclusion on sex offenders’ register as naturists criminalised
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebookA wonderful selection of salads, starters and mains featuring venison, grouse and other game
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Property Finance Partner

    Very Competitive Salary: Austen Lloyd: LONDON - BANKING / PROPERTY FINANCE - ...

    Agile Tester

    £28000 - £30000 per annum + competitive: Progressive Recruitment: An ambitious...

    Senior SAP MM Consultant, £50,000 - £60,000, Birmingham

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Benefits: Progressive Recruitment: Senior SAP MM C...

    SAP BW BO

    competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP BW BO - 6 MONTHS - LONDON London (Gr...

    Day In a Page

    A new Russian revolution: Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc

    A new Russian revolution

    Cracks start to appear in Putin’s Kremlin power bloc
    Eugene de Kock: Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    Apartheid’s sadistic killer that his country cannot forgive

    The debate rages in South Africa over whether Eugene de Kock should ever be released from jail
    Standing my ground: If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?

    Standing my ground

    If sitting is bad for your health, what happens when you stay on your feet for a whole month?
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Dai Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Greene prays for chance to rebuild after injury agony

    Welsh hurdler was World, European and Commonwealth champion, but then the injuries crept in
    Israel-Gaza conflict: Secret report helps Israelis to hide facts

    Patrick Cockburn: Secret report helps Israel to hide facts

    The slickness of Israel's spokesmen is rooted in directions set down by pollster Frank Luntz
    The man who dared to go on holiday

    The man who dared to go on holiday

    New York's mayor has taken a vacation - in a nation that has still to enforce paid leave, it caused quite a stir, reports Rupert Cornwell
    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business, from Sarah Millican to Marcus Brigstocke

    Best comedians: How the professionals go about their funny business

    For all those wanting to know how stand-ups keep standing, here are some of the best moments
    The Guest List 2014: Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks

    The Guest List 2014

    Forget the Man Booker longlist, Literary Editor Katy Guest offers her alternative picks
    Jokes on Hollywood: 'With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on'

    Jokes on Hollywood

    With comedy film audiences shrinking, it’s time to move on
    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    It's the best of British art... but not all is on display

    Voted for by the British public, the artworks on Art Everywhere posters may be the only place where they can be seen
    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Critic claims 'I was the inspiration for Blanche DuBois'

    Blanche Marvin reveals how Tennessee Williams used her name and an off-the-cuff remark to create an iconic character
    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Sometimes it's hard to be a literary novelist

    Websites offering your ebooks for nothing is only the latest disrespect the modern writer is subjected to, says DJ Taylor
    Edinburgh Fringe 2014: The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee

    Edinburgh Fringe 2014

    The comedy highlights, from Bridget Christie to Jack Dee
    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    Dame Jenny Abramsky: 'We have to rethink. If not, museums and parks will close'

    The woman stepping down as chair of the Heritage Lottery Fund is worried