Your home insurance should be like a vital financial safety net, protecting you against minor issues like damaged floors and broken windows, as well as domestic disasters like a fire, flood or burglary.
Any policy that promises the earth but fails to deliver simply isn't worth the paper it's written on.
So you need to make sure that the policy you pay for is up to the challenge.
Here's how to make sure your home insurance will cover everything you need it to and pay out if you need to make a claim:
The smart way to search for home insurance:
1. Beware fussy insurers
Home insurance providers are fussy about the type of properties they'll cover and rather than assuming that your home will meet their criteria you need to be certain. Here's what to check;
Number of bedrooms: Most home insurance companies cap the number of bedrooms they'll cover on their standard policies. Anything over 5 bedrooms can be classed as requiring specialist cover so if your home falls into this category make sure you double check each policy before you apply.
Property age: If you home is over a certain age it may not be accepted by standard home insurance policies, worse still if you get your dates wrong you could accidentally invalidate your insurance policy! So make sure you find out the exact year your home was built - don't just guess when you're getting quotes.
Roof type: This may sound a strange, but the type of roof on your property can have a big impact on the number of home insurance providers you'll have to choose from. If you have a standard slate or tile roof then you should have little trouble finding cover, but if you have a thatch or flat roof you will need to search a little harder for providers that will insure you.
Construction type: As with rooves, insurers can also be a bit fussy about the way your property is built so find out what your home is made of (brick or concrete block for example) so you can make sure you find a policy that suits.
Specialist cover? Most home insurance policies are designed to insure the "average" property so if your home is out of the ordinary - perhaps it's a listed building, situated on a floodplain or made from uncommon materials - you may need to look for a specialist home insurance policy.
2. Be realistic about how much your home is worth
It's tempting to underestimate the amount you're insured for so as to reduce the cost of your home insurance.
However, if you scrimp on cover - whether for your property or possessions - you could be left out of pocket if you need to make a claim.
You need to set a realistic cover limit that would be sufficient to replace all of your belongings and/or the cost of repairing or re-building your home in a worst case scenario.
You need to insure the rebuild cost of your home rather than its market value. If you're not sure what it would cost to rebuild your home from scratch you can either use the calculator on the ABI website or enlist a surveyor. Don't just go for market value as it's actually likely to be less than this.
If you are looking to insure a property over £1,000,000 you may need to look for a specialised high net worth policy - you can compare these policies side by side in our High Net Worth Home Insurance table.
3. Find a policy that will protect your valuables
Most contents insurance policies specify a 'single item claim limit' - this caps the amount you can claim for any one item.
It's essential you get any valuables that exceed this limit listed individually on your home insurance policy - fail to do so and your home insurance won't pay out to replace them if they get lost, damaged or stolen.
Think about all the valuables you own that are worth a comparatively significant amount (over £1,000 for instance) - jewellery, paintings, antiques, computer equipment etc - find out what they would cost to replace and make sure they're isted individually on your home insurance.
Read our guide: Why your Valuables Might Not be Covered by your Contents Insurance for more help ensuring all your valuable items are protected by your Home Insurance policy.
4. Add the extras you can see yourself using
Insurers offer lots of 'add ons' that you can enhance your home insurance with for an extra fee - accidental damage, home emergency and legal cover tend to be the most popular.
While some can be worthwhile you need to weigh up whether you're likely to use them before you start comparing quotes.
Read our guide: How to Find the Best Home Insurance Quotes for more info on your options.
5. Don't get caught out by hidden ts and cs
It can be surprisingly easy to invalidate your home insurance so you need to make sure the policy you choose not only covers your home but also fits with your lifestyle before you buy.
Carefully check through the terms and conditions before you accept a quote so you know exactly where you stand.
The smart way to get a claim paid:
If you already have your home insurance policy in place and want to ensure that it pays out to cover a claim there are some simple steps to take to make sure you don't miss out:
1. Act quickly
If you need to make a claim it's best to get the ball rolling as soon as possible rather than waiting for repair quotes and the like. This is important because most home insurers will only pay out for claims lodged within a certain amount of time.
They're also likely to question delays so contact your insurer as soon as you can - they'll then advise you of the time-scales for submitting your claim and the information you will need.
2. Gather evidence
Whatever you're claiming for, you will need to prove that your claim is legit and this means gathering evidence to appease your insurer.
write down what happened, when and how
list any items that have been affected
take photos or a video of the scene of the incident
get written statements from any witnesses (if relevant)
Remember, the more evidence you can pull together the easier and quicker it will be to make your insurer pay out for your claim.
3. Contact the police
If your claim is the result of criminal activity, a burglary or vandalism you will need to report what's happened to the police.
To prove your claim in genuine, you will need to get a crime reference number from the police before your insurer will consider paying out.
The same applies if your claim relates to a lost item - you just need to contact your local police station to file a report
4. Pay your excess asap
It's likely you'll need to pay your excess fairly soon in the claims process and it's a good idea to do this promptly as your insurer is unlikely to take things further until you do so.
However, if your policy has a high excess and the claim is for a lesser amount it is worth double checking that it's worth proceeding.
Confirm the excess you'll need to pay and find out whether it's cheaper to pay for the work or replacement yourself - i so you can stop the claim.
If the cost is comparable or just a little bit extra it may be worth covering the cost yourself anyway so you avoid pushing the claim through your insurance policy.
5. Record everything
Keep a clear record of your insurance claim, including who you speak to and when (note down dates and times), written quotes and any letters or emails you receive from your insurer.
This will ensure you have a record of all your communications with your insurer if there are any problems or disputes relating to your claim.