Savvy Money: Going away? Make sure your home cover is leak-proof
Burst pipes or broken boilers are bad enough so don't let your insurance leave you high and dry
Saturday 21 December 2013
You're making your final preparations to go and see family and friends over Christmas: you've packed the presents, you've stocked up with mince pies, chocolates, once-a-year liqueurs and you're about to set off. But have you checked your household insurance policy? The answer is probably no. Why on earth would you?
Rising tide of water claims
If you don't know what your home insurance policy covers, you could have a nasty surprise if you need to claim because, for example, a water pipe bursts while you're away. Figures from the Association of British Insurers show that almost one in five claims on home insurance were as a result of 'escape of water' – damage from an internal supply, rather than by water coming in from outside.
Over the past couple of years there seems to have been an increase in the number of insurers that impose a higher excess (the part of any claim payout that is withheld by the insurer) if you make a claim as a result of a burst pipe or other leak, than for other claims. In effect, the excess is a back-door premium rise, so when assessing which policy to go for, be aware that you may not be comparing like with like. A few pounds saved through a cheaper premium can be a false economy if you find you are paying out hundreds when claiming because of a very high excess.
Often, while a £50 policy excess is standard, insurers won't pay the first £250 for frozen/leaking pipe-related claims. I checked a handful of insurers, including Tesco, Aviva, Halifax, Axa, Direct Line and Allianz. Most had an excess of £250 for escape of water claims, but Axa First's policy (one of several Axa policies sold only through brokers) imposes an excess of £500, while Direct Line policies and Axa's bought direct typically have an excess of £350.
It is not just frozen pipes that cause problems. Somehow central heating boilers seem instinctively to know when plumbers are on double time or in short supply. If you have emergency cover included in your home insurance – either as part of the policy or as a paid-for extra – you can claim for the cost of essential repairs.
But you may not get a penny if your boiler is older. Most insurers will allow emergency cover claims for boilers up to the age of 15, but some (such as Direct Line) won't cover boilers over the age of ten. I know that condensing boilers don't tend to last as long as older-style, less-efficient ones, but my understanding is that ten years is not exactly geriatric, even for a condensing boiler.
Several insurers, including Axa, may not pay a boiler-related claim if you cannot show that it's been serviced regularly. Others refer to regular servicing in the policy documents, but insist that it's a recommendation rather than a condition of making a claim. And the Financial Ombudsman Service, the free-to-use complaints service, says it may force a company to pay a claim if not having the boiler serviced didn't cause the problem.
You may have seen a flurry (sorry!) of articles explaining how to prevent frozen pipes. Typically the advice is to leave your heating on at a low temperature and to open your loft door if you have a water tank in the loft. If you're leaving the property empty for anything more than 'a few days' to 60 or more (the time varies from insurer to insurer) or, for example, you're selling an unoccupied property because a relative has died, check what you're expected to do by way of prevention.
Insurers may insist you turn off the heating and electricity and drain the heating system, or that you leave the heating on low. But what counts as a low temperature can vary from ten degrees (Halifax) to 15 degrees (Direct Line).
Be aware of the excess levels for water claims. You might not mind paying the first £350 – or more – of a claim, but if you do, there are insurers that impose a lower excess on burst pipe claims. If you're going to leave your property unoccupied for any length of time, make sure you don't fall foul of the policy small print, particularly over the number of days you are allowed to be away from home in a calendar year – but complain if you think the insurer is being unfair. If you do complain, always make a record of the date and time you lodged your complaint and who you spoke to. Once you exhaust the internal complaints system, you then have the right to take your case to the Ombudsman.
- 1 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 2 Iain Duncan Smith's expenses credit card is suspended after he runs up £1,000 debt to taxpayer
- 3 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 4 French woman dies in freak bungee jumping accident
- 5 Jennifer Garner and Ben Affleck to divorce and end their 10-year marriage
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: IMF was pushed around by Angela Merkel and Nicholas Sarkozy – and now it is being humiliated
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
They are neither a 'state' nor 'Islamic': Why we shouldn't call them Isis, Isil or IS
Tunisia beach attack: How can British Muslims respond to the latest outrages?
iJobs Money & Business
£15000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Advisors are r...
£20000 - £25000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: SThree were established in 1986....
£40000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A Compliance Manager is require...
£22500 - £27000 per annum + OTE £45K: SThree: Since our inception in 1986, STh...
Day In a Page
Close to the market town of Eye, this four-bedroom detached home offers a double-height living room which takes the place of the original, 19th-century, chapel nave.
Dating back to the 19th century, this four-bedroom home needs modernising. Spanning three storeys, the red-brick house has a fireplace, a small terrace and a cellar.
Just outside of Cambridge, this single-storey home offers three double bedrooms, a living room with vaulted timber ceiling and ladder steps that lead to a mezzanine study area.
This six-bedroom Georgian home is on three floors with open fireplaces, a two oven Aga, an annexe, and cottage gardens with outbuildings and a car barn.
A former coach house, Glebe Farm Stable is now a three-bedroom cottage with a double car barn, an attached office, kennels and an outbuilding that's currently used as a gym.
Located beside an impressive Victorian viaduct, this four-bedroom home has an open-plan living area that is glazed on two sides, with skylights and high ceilings.
A former furniture workshop, this three-bedroom home has high ceilings and painted brick walls, in a village setting only fifteen miles from the coast.
This five-bedroom stone townhouse features a pine staircase and an Inglenuk fireplace, double doors from the lounge give access to an enclosed courtyard.
This five-bedroom, detached home blends traditional and modern design; the sleek kitchen features a gas hob and oven set within an exposed chimney breast.
Moored in Chelsea's Cheyne Walk, this houseboat offers two double bedrooms and a teak deck that's ideal for al-fresco dining.
Surrounded by woodland, this five-bedroom manor house has plenty of outdoor storage space in the form of three converted loose boxes, two smaller outhouses and a woodstore.
This six-bedroom home is set amongst three acres of grounds. Currently a large family home, Clift Hill has potential to make a B&B or countryside retreat, subject to change of use permissions.
This Grade II-listed three-bedroom home is situated on a private road, just a short walk from the sandy beaches of Frinton-on-Sea.
Less than five miles from Malmesbury, this four-bedroom cottage comes with equestrian facilities and gardens that extend to approximately three acres.
Spanning three storeys, this late-Victorian five-bedroom farmhouse is a spacious family home with a modern interior and B&B potential.
With an original church arch, this triplex one-bedroom church conversion has a light, spacious, feel and comes with a secure off-street parking space.
This recently-refurbished three-bedroom home has bi-folding doors that lead out to a decked seating area - ideal for alfresco dining this summer.
Well-located for coastal walks and popular restaurants, this detached four-bedroom home offers views over farmland, to the Solent, the Purbecks and Bournemouth.
If you love high ceilings, school conversions like this one are bang on the money. This two-bedroom flat is minutes from Burgess Park and the foodie haven at Borough Market.
Set within a church conversion in Bermondsey, this two-bedroom maisonette combines existing features, such as original arches and brickwork, with a contemporary finish.
In the pretty market town of Bungay, this grade II-listed Mill House is arranged over four floors, offering four bedrooms and three reception areas.
This four-bedroom Edwardian home offers a combination of original features and contemporary design after a renovation by the current owners.
This four-bedroom home offers a vaulted ceiling in a breakfast room that's ideal for summer entertaining with doors that open to the patio and garden.
On the market for the first time in more than 50 years, this six-bedroom home is a project with vast potential - spread over three floors of living space.
This five-bedroom home comes with a range of outbuildings including a large barn which could be converted into a self-contained granny-flat or rental.
Surrounded by rolling countryside, this four-bedroom barn conversion comes with a self-contained, one-bedroom annexe that could serve as an office or a holiday let.
Located near Harrogate town centre, this five-bedroom Victorian terrace is arranged over three storeys while a current study serves as an optional sixth bedroom.
A ground-floor flat in a country house, located a mile from Sway; this two-bedroom home would make an ideal weekend retreat on the edge of the New Forest.
On a popular residential lane in Caterham on the Hill, this four-bedroom family home offers a secluded garden and a convenient location for local schools and public transport.
Just a short walk from Westerham green, this three-bedroom cottage has a light kitchen with exposed brickwork and double doors that lead to a south-facing garden.
In a prime spot opposite the River Thames, this one-bedroom flat has an 18sq ft reception room with glass doors that open out to a private terrace.
Set in the hills above Llanwrda Village, west Wales, this 18th-century three-bedroom farmhouse has holiday-let potential from a separate barn conversion and annexe.
This charming end-of-terrace townhouse is arranged over three floors, with two double bedrooms and a private courtyard garden located at the rear of the property.
Located in the University area, this semi-detached five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors - there's even a rear garden and off-road parking too.
Only a few minutes' drive from the charming town of Marlow, this two-bedroom home sits on the private riverside estate of Harleyford.
This detached four-bedroom home in Middleyard is arranged over two floors, with features that include a wood-burning stove and bespoke oak staircase.
In a row of eight detached Georgian residences, this five-bedroom home offers views of The Sound, Mount Edgcumbe and Cornwall from its impressive veranda and full-length balcony.
If you love cooking for friends this two-bedroom flat - complete with views of the iconic Battersea Power Station and an open-plan kitchen/dining area - will go down a treat.
Located above Grasmere village, this five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors and offers countryside views across Grasmere Lake towards Silver Howe.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with a double carport, useful workshop, garden and two walkways that offer views of the adjacent countryside.
With space for an equestrian business, a greenhouse for growing your own veg, a wine store and a gym; this five-bedroom home has all the ingredients for a country retreat.
The decked roof terrace of this two-bedroom flat is perfect for summer drinks while large windows and ample storage space make for a light and spacious interior.
Set sail for this four-bedroom farmhouse in Cowes. With five acres of land and an indoor pool, this home oozes character. There is even potential to let a one-bedroom annexe.
Surrounded by approximately 15 acres of grounds, this six-bedroom grade II-listed home has been extensively refurbished yet retains many period features.
This four-bedroom home comes with a two-bedroom cottage and commercial office, with planning to extend, in a stunning courtyard setting.
In a pretty Norfolk village, this four-bedroom family home is surrounded by landscaped gardens, with even a self-contained annex for guests.
A few miles from the seaside at Perranporth, this four-bedroom farmhouse sits amongst nine acres of idyllic grounds - including a lake and two barns used as holiday lets.
This five-bedroom home is arranged over three floors of a converted Victorian hospital, offering spectacular views of the Pentland Hills - only three miles from the city centre.
This four-bedroom detached home comes with grounds that span to approximately 2.5 acres, as well as two large patio areas and a double garage.
This four-bedroom cottage is a Grade II-listed town house, well-located for the thriving market town of Nailsworth.