Make sure you are covered for when trouble blows in
St Jude's Storm emphasises the importance of being prepared for winter calamities, says Chiara Cavaglieri
Saturday 02 November 2013
Hurricane-force winds aren't something we see too often, but St Jude's storm was a timely reminder that the winter months can take their toll on our homes.
Common claims during bouts of bad weather include aerial damage, roof tiles being blown off, trees and boundary walls falling down, damaged gutters and broken glass.
Even seemingly innocent occasions can cause havoc – almost a quarter of UK households have paid an average of £227 to repair damage caused on Hallowe'en and Bonfire night, according to a new Santander survey, while Aviva found there are 22 per cent more thefts reported on Bonfire night compared with the average day.
Whether you're dealing with storms and floods, or stray fireworks, having the right policy in place could save you from digging deep into your pocket.
To protect the property, you'll need buildings insurance. Mortgage lenders will insist you have this in place before they give you a loan but there is no onus to buy a policy from them. If they do try to flog their own product, compare the premiums with the rest of the market and make sure the level of cover is adequate.
"It is essential that the correct sum insured is declared at the start of any home insurance policy to avoid the risks of being underinsured when it comes to making a claim. For buildings insurance, you must base the sum insured on the rebuild cost and not the value of your property," says Mike Powell, insurance analyst at Defaqto.
You can pay a surveyor to work out the rebuild cost for you, or use the calculator on the Association of British Insurers' website (abi.bcis.co.uk). Today, many insurers automatically provide a flat sum (of £250,000 or £500,000 plus) which can make life much easier, but you will still need to inform them if you make improvements such as an extension, or central heating.
Home contents cover is for possessions inside the house including clothing, furniture, white goods and personal belongings. Many households underestimate the value of their contents. You may even be tempted to do this on purpose to reduce your premiums, but be warned you will end up paying more in the long run. This is because insurers use "averaging" clauses and will only pay out a proportion of the claim if you are underinsured. As an example, if you have £20,000 worth of contents cover but your possessions are actually worth £40,000, the insurer will only pay out for half of any claim.
Draw up a list of items in your house room by room including clothing, curtains and carpets, electronics and items in the garden or shed. Photographs and receipts will make claiming easier, but remember to calculate the cost of replacing these items at today's prices, not what you paid for them. If you have valuable items such as antiques, get an expert valuation. Art lovers are urged to list prized paintings on their policy after new research found that the average value of art in people's homes stands at £531.
Gareth Lane, head of home insurance at Confused.com, says: "More than a third of people have not had their art work valued, despite the cost generally increasing over time." Watch out for exclusions. Firstly, there is usually a compulsory excess to pay (the minimum amount you need to contribute towards the cost of a claim) of around £50-£100. If your property is at risk of subsidence the mandatory excess could be more like £1,000, or even £5,000 if you've made a claim in the past. You may be able to add a voluntary additional excess which can reduce your monthly premiums. Make sure you can comfortably afford to cover this excess in the event of a claim though – if it's so high that you're put off from making a claim, the whole policy will be a waste of money.
You may be surprised as to what is and isn't covered under your policy. Fences, gateposts and outbuildings aren't usually covered as standard, for example, and buildings insurance doesn't cover gradual deterioration, so that rules out rising damp and infestations such as dry rot and woodworm. Some lenders even require winds to achieve certain speeds before paying out for any damage they cause so always check the small print carefully.
If you leave your property unoccupied for a long time, typically 30 days in a row, your insurer might refuse to pay out for damage caused by things like escape of water. Cover for accidental damage cover (including DIY disasters) and home emergencies usually have to be added as optional extras.
You also need to do your bit to protect your home by fixing problems as soon as possible and making regular maintenance checks to detect issues early on. The insurer needs to know that you keep your gutters clear, check the roof tiles and insulate pipes. They could refuse any claim for damage if they can identify "gradually operating causes". For example, if you had loose tiles and they were dislodged by the storm the insurer might argue that you're partly responsible. Fortunately, home insurance premiums have been falling since 2012, says the latest AA British Insurance Premium Index. Buildings cover costs around £129, down 5.8 per cent over the 12 months to 30 September, while contents cover costs £69, down 3.8 per cent over the same period. It is often cheaper to buy both from the same company.
Some insurers will also shave off 5 or 10 per cent if you fit alarms and premium locks on your doors and windows. You can also build up no-claims discounts with many insurers including Nationwide, which offers up to 35 per cent on contents and up to 10 per cent on buildings if you have been claim-free for up to five years.
As a final word of warning, never automatically renew your annual policy. You should be sent a letter about three weeks before it is due to expire so use this time to get quotes for a cheaper policy. You can use this to haggle with your provider and if they don't play ball, you're free to cancel and switch to a new insurer.
Apple agrees deal with Visa on contactless payments
- 1 Is Apple's iCloud safe after leak of Jennifer Lawrence and other celebrities' nude photos?
- 2 Joan Rivers: 'Palestinians deserve to be dead'
- 3 Perez Hilton apologises for Jennifer Lawrence naked photo leak
- 4 A teacher speaks out: 'I'm effectively being forced out of a career that I wanted to love'
- 5 Mexican woman becomes world’s 'oldest person' at 127
Rotherham child sex abuse scandal: Labour Home Office to be probed over what Tony Blair's government knew - and when
Robin Williams Emmys tribute led by Billy Crystal criticised for including 'racist' joke about Muslim woman
The Rotherham child abuse scandal is a tale of apologists, misogyny and double standards
What do immigrants really think of Britain? Polish immigrant's Reddit post goes viral
Do you realise just how foolish the UK looks?
With Douglas Carswell joining Ukip, my party has taken another giant step forward
iJobs Money & Business
£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...
£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...
£650 per day: Harrington Starr: .NET Developer C#, Win Forms, WPF, WCF, MVVM,...
£350 - £375 per day: Harrington Starr: Looking for a Java/C++ Developer to wor...
Day In a Page
A first-floor flat with two bedrooms, a spacious reception room and communal grounds in a leafy part of London
A three-bedroom flat with a spacious rootop terrace and balcony, accessed from a private gated courtyard
A Grade II-listed pile with six bedrooms, stables and 39 acres of grounds in Standlake
A two-bedroom flat with boutique hotel-style interiors, close to the foodie haunt of West End Lane
A two-bedroom flat in a beautiful old vicarage, with many original features, close to the city centre
A three-bedroom 16th-century home with an aga kitchen, private gardens and heated outdoor pool, in Hadleigh
A three-bedrom home in sought-after Queen's Gate Mews, with Italian marble-finished bathrooms
Surrounded by glorious countryside in the village of Udimore, sits this impressive four-kiln oast and barn conversion
A five-bedroom house in the picturesque village of Kettlewell, north Yorkshire
An 18th-century former coaching inn with original staircase, open fireplaces and beams throughout
A Grade II-listed Georgian town house with three bedrooms and a south-facing courtyard, near Arundel Castle
Feel on top of the world at this über chic penthouse on the 37th floor of one of Europe’s tallest blocks.
A Grade II-listed Victorian villa with six bedrooms and two further cottages, all with spectacular sea views
A grade II-listed, Georgian cottage with mature 50ft garden, perfect for summer entertaining
A magnificent Georgian pile with turrets, seven bedrooms, a heated pool and four acres of gardens
Fairoak Farm has five bedroom suites, gym, outdoor swimming pool and golf course
Chic two-bedroom river-fronted flat with a private lift that delivers you directly to your home
A spectacular seven-bedroom Tudor pile, once owned by Henry VIII, with 18 acres of land
A seven-bedroom Georgian property previously used as a picturesque wedding venue
A split-level flat in a church conversion with two en suite bedrooms and 1,200sq ft of living space
A three-bedroom bungalow situated behind an impressive stone wall, £645,000
Windsor Castle overlooks this three-bedroom Victorian cottage located on one of Windsor's smartest roads
Chapel House is a former vicarage with nine bedrooms in the beautiful Upper Wye Valley
A five-bedroom B&B and separate owner's accomodation with potential for conversion
Enjoy summer by the Thames in this two double-bedroom converted warehouse in Rotherhithe village
A one-bedroom, luxury apartment with private gym and concierge service in Moorgate
A four-bedroom house in Hermitage Gardens with three reception rooms and landscaped gardens
A seven-bedroom Grade II-listed property with a separate self-contained apartment
A five-bedroom Victorian house with three reception rooms and galleried landing, £695,000
A six-bedroom farmhouse with five acres of land in a former cloth-making village
A secluded seven-bedroom detached house with large private garden, £490,000
A three-bedroom cottage overlooking Sarratt village green with open fires and solid oak floors
A three-bedroom maisonette flat in a Grade I-listed, Georgian townhouse in a sought-after location
A one-bedroom apartment located within a private gated development, north of Turnham Green
Look forward to a brighter future at two-bedroom Sunny Cottages, ideal for Londoners looking to downsize
A three-bedroom red-brick cottage with outbuildings and pretty gardens, £200,000
This three-bedroom flat within a former textile factory spans the corner of the fourth floor and has a balcony