Case of more form than contents: People with few belongings face too much cover, Mary Wilson reports

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The Independent Online
PEOPLE with few possessions often find it difficult to insure them at a reasonable price - in other words, at a premium that insurance companies consider as too low to make it worth taking on the business.

Suzanne Goldklang, a public relations consultant who has started her own company, PR Department, in south-west London, says she has found it impossible to insure just her office computer and fax machine.

'I rent one room in a large office block, so security is good. I have a few pieces of furniture that are worth very little and are not my responsibility, plus my computer and fax machine.

'I do not see why I should have to pay for more than I need. First, there is the problem of a minimum premium: the best I could find was pounds 150 from General Accident. Secondly, I have to take a business package which includes insurance I am not interested in - business interruption, public liability, theft of money, etc.'

All these are irrelevant to Miss Goldklang and many other solo businesses which operate on the phone or out of the office and do not handle cash or employ staff. Minimum premiums vary from pounds 100 to pounds 250, and most insurance companies insist on a batch of insurances along with their contents policies.

For home contents, most companies require that minimum sums be insured varying, from pounds 7,500 to pounds 35,000. C E Heath does not set a minimum sum insured, but requires a minimum premium of pounds 100 in central London or pounds 50 outside. Many companies offer small discounts for people who fall into special categories: for example, up to 5 per cent for members of neighbourhood watch schemes; up to 15 per cent if you undertake certain security measures. And the AA, Commercial Union and Nottingham Building Society all offer a 20 per cent discount to first-time buyers.

Two categories that are getting a good deal are students and the over-60s. Endsleigh Insurance Services has relaunched personal possessions insurance for students amid rising thefts from their digs. For a modest premium, pounds 26, Endersleigh will cover contents up to pounds 2,000 for students living in halls of residence. For students living off-campus, premiums start at pounds 31, rising to pounds 84.

Another scheme, Cityplan, is aimed at students in high-risk areas. It covers contents up to pounds 1,000 for a premium of pounds 99 and includes personal injury benefits up to pounds 50,000, cost of replacing locks after break-ins and up to pounds 1,000 for re-sitting exams missed due to accident.

Age Concern provides buildings and contents policies for pensioners of reduced means with few possessions. On the standard cover (minimum sum insured pounds 5,000) the premiums range from pounds 11 to pounds 35 depending on location. The Jubilee cover (minimum pounds 6,000), costs between pounds 2.40 and pounds 10 per pounds 1,000 insured.

Endsleigh Insurance Services, Endsleigh House, Cheltenham Spa, Gloucestershire, 0242 258258. Age Concern Insurance Services, Garrod House, Chaldon Road, Caterham, Surrey CR3 5YZ, 0883 346964.

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