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Five Questions About: Building and contents insurance

Who needs building and contents cover?

Everyone should have contents cover to pay for the replacement of their belongings if they are destroyed, damaged or stolen. Contents cover is not a legal requirement but it's a sensible insurance to have – the cost of buying all your belongings again as new is likely to run into thousands of pounds.

Homeowners (including landlords) need buildings insurance to protect their property from accidental damage such as fire and flood, and also to cover the rebuild costs if catastrophe struck and their home was reduced to rubble. Mortgage lenders typically demand this cover is in place before they agree to release funds.

What is protected?

Buildings insurance covers the actual property; the bricks and mortar, plus any structural fittings and utilities. Contents cover protects everything else. Imagine turning your house upside-down and shaking it; anything that would fall out will come under contents, everything else will be covered by buildings insurance.

What if I can't get cover?

A growing number of households now find it difficult to insure their properties because they have been built on flood plains or have developed a problem such as subsidence. Fortunately, there are home insurance companies that specialise in problem properties. The Association of British Insurers may be able to advise you.

How can I pay less for my insurance?

You can usually obtain a discount on buildings and contents cover by buying them together from the same insurer. Upping your home's security with approved door and window locks, a burglar alarm and even joining a Neighbourhood Watch scheme can also reduce your premium. You can shave further off the cost by paying for the year upfront, rather than in monthly instalments, and by agreeing a higher excess if you do need to claim. Buying online also tends to be cheaper than going into a bank or building society.