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.

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 £209, and £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 £15,000 but are worth £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 £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 £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 £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).

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Finacial products from our partners
Property search
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 Money & Business

    Christine McCleave: FP&A Analyst

    £36,000 - £40,000: Christine McCleave: Are you looking for a new opportunity a...

    Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - OTE £40,000

    £15000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a great opportunity for...

    Austen Lloyd: Law Costs HOD - Southampton

    £50000 - £60000 per annum + Excellent Salary: Austen Lloyd: An outstanding new...

    SThree: Recruitment Resourcer

    £20000 - £21000 per annum + uncapped commission: SThree: As a graduate you are...

    Day In a Page

    Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

    Climate change key in Syrian conflict

    And it will trigger more war in future
    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    How I outwitted the Gestapo

    My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    The nation's favourite animal revealed

    Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
    Is this the way to get young people to vote?

    Getting young people to vote

    From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot
    Poldark star Heida Reed: 'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'

    Poldark star Heida Reed

    'I don't think a single bodice gets ripped'
    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    The difference between America and Israel? There isn’t one

    Netanyahu knows he can get away with anything in America, says Robert Fisk
    Families clubbing together to build their own affordable accommodation

    Do It Yourself approach to securing a new house

    Community land trusts marking a new trend for taking the initiative away from developers
    Head of WWF UK: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    David Nussbaum: We didn’t send Cameron to the Arctic to see green ideas freeze

    The head of WWF UK remains sanguine despite the Government’s failure to live up to its pledges on the environment
    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Author Kazuo Ishiguro on being inspired by shoot-outs and samurai

    Set in a mythologised 5th-century Britain, ‘The Buried Giant’ is a strange beast
    With money, corruption and drugs, this monk fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’

    Money, corruption and drugs

    The monk who fears Buddhism in Thailand is a ‘poisoned fruit’
    America's first slavery museum established at Django Unchained plantation - 150 years after slavery outlawed

    150 years after it was outlawed...

    ... America's first slavery museum is established in Louisiana
    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    Kelly Clarkson: How I snubbed Simon Cowell and become a Grammy-winning superstar

    The first 'American Idol' winner on how she manages to remain her own woman – Jane Austen fascination and all
    Tony Oursler on exploring our uneasy relationship with technology with his new show

    You won't believe your eyes

    Tony Oursler's new show explores our uneasy relationship with technology. He's one of a growing number of artists with that preoccupation
    Ian Herbert: Peter Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    Moores must go. He should never have been brought back to fail again

    The England coach leaves players to find solutions - which makes you wonder where he adds value, says Ian Herbert
    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn