Household cover on your doorstep

Remember household insurance? Most people would rather forget it. Many do. But there are now deals worth shopping for.

If all insurance is a necessary evil, then choosing cover for one's home and possessions seems one of the last items on which to waste effort - and even outlay.

If all insurance is a necessary evil, then choosing cover for one's home and possessions seems one of the last items on which to waste effort - and even outlay.

That is why one person in four is at least partially uncovered, either because they never bothered about the contents or else they allowed a policy to lapse after the premiums jumped. Even so, insurers collect about £91 for every UK inhabitant each year from premiums averaging about £300.

This emerges from a survey for the insurance industry by the consultancy Bacon & Woodrow. Its domestic expert, Edward Plowman, says: "Premiums are still historically low, as many companies and channels are now competing for business".

Yet the survey finds there is so much inertia about renewals that policy-holders tend not to shop around. It might benefit home-owners to review the level and extent of their cover, comparing current premiums with other insurers' rates. That applies especially to people with mortgages who are still conditioned by the historical right of the lender to name its own tied insurer - and pocket the commission.

The Halifax link with Sun Alliance has survived the amalgamation called R&SA, while Abbey National continues with what used to be called Commercial Union, whose own household lines are being rebranded as Norwich Union.

Since 1983, home-buyers have been generally free to decide on cover, but the Mortgage Code still allows lenders to recommend an insurer or insist on coverage; and, in certain circumstances, they are even entitled to place the risk themselves. Seven out of ten new borrowers are still leaving it to the lender - possibly paying too much and delaying any claim.

Yet there are more than 50 companies offering combined policies, including Tesco and Sainsbury. Copying Centrica, the latest is British Telecom with a discount based on calls. This does not worry leading insurers like Norwich Union. Its spokeswoman, Jill Elliott, says: "Feedback suggests that the public is getting so confused by the new brands with all their deals and discounts that they cannot make a straight comparison about what they regard as a tiresome duty."

It is hard enough to choose a policy among traditional insurers. Take a semi-detached, pre-war house with three bedrooms in a Midlands area rated 10 for risk on a scale of 13. Prudential quotes almost £102 for the building, with £104 for contents worth £40,000, or £129 for the latter only. Like most insurers, it does not load instalments. The same combination adds up to £18.95 per month with Legal & General, which also underwrites Gresham policies from Woolwich.

It might seem simpler to get a quotation from an insurer that sells directly - in other words, they operate only from calling centres or add them to branches. Direct Line and Churchill are among these. But the lines are usually busy and, after the recorded rigmarole, a live voice may interrogate you about everything from date of birth to rebuilding costs. Never call Alliance & Leicester's partner, Eagle Star (whoops, Zurich), on behalf of a relative!

A few insurers do have advanced and friendly sites for purchase online, but the telephone is probably still needed. This usually means going to an intermediary, preferably one of the 2,000 firms in the British Insurance Brokers Association (BIBA). Its spokeswoman, Jennifer Weller, says: "That is the only way to get really sound and straight advice based on personal requirements, especially as BIBA has strict rules."

Apart from a need for higher cover, there may be special items like jewellery or legal liability, not to mention easing travel cover by putting items on a domestic policy. And some people may have a claims history. Various insurers are also forever changing conditions such as flooding or subsidence - not to mention rates and ratings. In any case, the threshold before pay-out may be anything between £50 and £1,000. If a ridge-tile blows off, get some cement - not a claim form.

Applicants should remember three points, says Tracey Dickinson, operational manager at John Charcol Insurance Brokers, in Brighton: "First, it is vital to be totally honest rather than conceal something to save a few bob, like pretending to have special locks, because false disclosure could prejudice a claim. Secondly,do not blindly accept what seems to be an ideal quotation - you are entitled to request a specimen copy of the policy to spot any pitfalls. Thirdly, read the document afterwards to double-check that the cover and conditions exactly suit your needs."

Most people buy both buildings and contents cover together, as it is economic and convenient. But renters, especially students, should insure their contents anyway - unless there is well-defined provision on the parents' policy. The specialist for them is Endsleigh Insurance, with outlets on 82 campuses through its link with the National Union of Students.

Householders over age 55 should see what offers are available from organisations like Age Concern and Saga.

Everybody should look for no-claims bonuses and special offers - such as Prudential's advice on locks or Norwich Union's alarms - as well as the discounts for security measures, including membership of Neighbourhood Watch.

Susan Sarandon described David Bowie as
peopleSusan Sarandon reveals more on her David Bowie romance
sportDidier Drogba returns to Chelsea on one-year deal
Arts and Entertainment
The Secret Cinema performance of Back to the Future has been cancelled again
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Christian Grey cradles Ana in the Fifty Shades of Grey film
filmFifty Shades of Grey trailer provokes moral outrage in US
Louis van Gaal would have been impressed with Darren Fletcher’s performance against LA Galaxy during Manchester United’s 7-0 victory
The new dawn heralded by George Osborne has yet to rise
voicesJames Moore: As the Tories rub their hands together, the average voter will be asking why they're not getting a piece of the action
Dejan Lovren celebrates scoring for Southampton although the goal was later credited to Adam Lallana
newsComedy club forced to apologise as maggots eating a dead pigeon fall out of air-conditioning
Arts and Entertainment
Jo Brand says she's mellowed a lot
tvJo Brand says shows encourage people to laugh at the vulnerable
Life and Style
People may feel that they're procrastinating by watching TV in the evening
Rhys Williams
commonwealth games
Isis fighters travel in a vehicle as they take part in a military parade along the streets of Syria's northern Raqqa province
Arts and Entertainment
Southern charm: Nicolas Cage and Tye Sheridan in ‘Joe’
filmReview: Actor delivers astonishing performance in low budget drama
Life and Style
fashionLatex dresses hit the catwalk to raise awareness for HIV and Aids
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

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

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Money & Business

    Senior Risk Manager - Banking - London - £650

    £600 - £650 per day: Orgtel: Conduct Risk Liaison Manager - Banking - London -...

    The benefits of being in Recruitment at SThree...

    £18000 - £23000 per annum + Comission: SThree: SThree, International Recruitme...

    Test Analyst - UAT - Credit Risk

    £280 - £300 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Test Analyst, Edinburgh, Credit Ris...

    Trainee Recruitment Consultants - Banking & Finance

    £20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £40,000: SThree: SThree Group have been well e...

    Day In a Page

    Finding the names for America’s shame: What happens to the immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert?

    Finding the names for America’s shame

    The immigrants crossing the US-Mexico border without documents who never make it past the Arizona desert
    Backhanders, bribery and abuses of power have soared in China as economy surges

    Bribery and abuses of power soar in China

    The bribery is fuelled by the surge in China's economy but the rules of corruption are subtle and unspoken, finds Evan Osnos, as he learns the dark arts from a master
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Highland terriers stole the show at the opening ceremony

    Highland terriers steal the show at opening ceremony

    Gillian Orr explores why a dog loved by film stars and presidents is finally having its day
    German art world rocked as artists use renowned fat sculpture to distil schnapps

    Brewing the fat from artwork angers widow of sculptor

    Part of Joseph Beuys' 1982 sculpture 'Fettecke' used to distil schnapps
    BBC's The Secret History of Our Streets reveals a fascinating window into Britain's past

    BBC takes viewers back down memory lane

    The Secret History of Our Streets, which returns with three films looking at Scottish streets, is the inverse of Benefits Street - delivering warmth instead of cynicism
    Joe, film review: Nicolas Cage delivers an astonishing performance in low budget drama

    Nicolas Cage shines in low-budget drama Joe

    Cage plays an ex-con in David Gordon Green's independent drama, which has been adapted from a novel by Larry Brown
    How to make your own gourmet ice lollies, granitas, slushy cocktails and frozen yoghurt

    Make your own ice lollies and frozen yoghurt

    Think outside the cool box for this summer's tempting frozen treats
    Ford Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time, with sales topping 4.1 million since 1976

    Fiesta is UK's most popular car of all-time

    Sales have topped 4.1 million since 1976. To celebrate this milestone, four Independent writers recall their Fiestas with pride
    10 best reed diffusers

    Heaven scent: 10 best reed diffusers

    Keep your rooms smelling summery and fresh with one of these subtle but distinctive home fragrances that’ll last you months
    Commonwealth Games 2014: Female boxers set to compete for first time

    Female boxers set to compete at Commonwealth Games for first time

    There’s no favourites and with no headguards anything could happen
    Five things we’ve learned so far about Manchester United under Louis van Gaal

    Five things we’ve learned so far about United under Van Gaal

    It’s impossible to avoid the impression that the Dutch manager is playing to the gallery a little
    Screwing your way to the top? Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth

    Screwing your way to the top?

    Good for Lana Del Rey for helping kill that myth, says Grace Dent
    Will the young Britons fighting in Syria be allowed to return home and resume their lives?

    Will Britons fighting in Syria be able to resume their lives?

    Tony Blair's Terrorism Act 2006 has made it an offence to take part in military action abroad with a "political, ideological, religious or racial motive"
    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter, the wartime poster girl who became a feminist pin-up

    Beyoncé poses as Rosie the Riveter

    The wartime poster girl became the ultimate American symbol of female empowerment
    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones: Are custom, 3D printed earbuds the solution?

    The quest to find the perfect pair of earphones

    Earphones don't fit properly, offer mediocre audio quality and can even be painful. So the quest to design the perfect pair is music to Seth Stevenson's ears