What is buildings insurance?
It is an insurance policy that can cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it is damaged.
If you have a mortgage on your home it will be a condition of the loan that you have a buildings insurance policy in place.
If you own your home outright it is not a legal requirement, but it can cover the cost of rebuilding your home if it is destroyed, which would cost you hundreds of thousands of pounds.
If you rent your property it is responsibility of your landlord to arrange buildings cover.
What is covered?
It protects you against damage caused by:
Weather, including storms and flooding
Water or oil leaking from pipes or heating systems
Fire, explosion, lightning, earthquake and smoke
Theft, attempted theft and vandalism
Falling trees, branches and TV aerials
Frost damage to internal water pipes
There are other cover benefits that you should look out for when looking for a buildings insurance policy:
Trace and access: This covers the cost of removing and replacing any part of your buildings in order to find and repair a leak.
Loss of keys: If you lose your keys you can claim for the cost of replacing locks on the outside of your home or to any alarm systems or safes inside your property.
Emergency access: This can cover the cost of any damage to your property caused by emergency services, for example breaking into your home.
If it is unsafe to stay in your home, following flooding for example, your insurer will cover the cost of alternative accommodation until it is ready to live in again.
Most policies will give you comparable alternative accommodation, so if you live in a three bedroom semi-detached home you should be covered for a similar property.
Check the level of cover carefully, because if your home is badly damaged you may not be able to return for over a year.
Some insurers will cover up to a percentage of the sum insured, for example 20%, or they will set a claim limit which can range from £12,500 to £80,000 depending on the policy.
This means any accidental damage caused to your buildings will be covered under your policy.
Accidental damage is usually defined as any sudden and unintentional physical damage that is caused to your property unexpectedly.
The cost of accidental damage, for example putting your foot through the ceiling when in the loft, could cost hundreds of pounds to repair, so it is worth making sure this is covered before you buy a policy.
Most insurers offer extra cover options you can add to your policy for an extra cost:
Legal expenses cover: This can cover legal costs you face for things like property disputes, faulty goods or services and employment claims. You will also have access to a 24 hour legal advice helpline you can call for guidance.
Home emergency cover: This covers the cost of calling out a tradesperson to prevent an emergency causing damage to your property, for example fixing a burst pipe.
Are there any exclusions?
All buildings insurance policies have a list of things you cannot claim for, known as policy exclusions.
Common exclusions include:
General wear and tear of your property
Frost damage to outside pipes and brickwork
Storm damage to things like gates, fences and plants
Deliberate damage caused by you or anyone living in your home
Damage caused by insects, birds or other pests
Most policies will not cover your property if you have not stayed there for an extended period, usually 30 or 60 days.
Here is how to cover an unoccupied property if you know you will not be staying there regularly.
How much cover do you need?
There are three main ways insurers work out how much cover you need for your property:
Blanket cover: Some insurers set a standard claim limit for their policies, regardless of how much your house would cost to rebuild. This is usually a high amount, for example £1 million or unlimited, so you should be covered for any repairs you need.
Bedroom rated insurance: Some insurers base how much cover your property needs by looking at the number of bedrooms you have. For example, if you have a two bedroom house, they may give you up to £250,000 of buildings insurance cover.
Rebuild cost: Some policies set the cover level at the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch. You work this out by asking a chartered surveyor to assess your property, or using the Association of British Insurers (ABI) rebuild calculator*.
Using the rebuild cost means you will only pay for the cover you need, but not all insurers use this method to work out your cover.
Getting a quote
When you apply for a buildings insurance quote the insurer will ask you for information about your property so they can work out how much your cover will cost.
Before you start looking for a policy make sure you know:
The year your home was built
How much of your roof is flat
What your home is made of
If you live on a flood plain
If your home is listed
What alarms you have
Has it suffered subsidence
Are any tall trees near your home
If your home is listed, has a flat roof, or is made of non standard materials you may need a specialist home insurance policy. Here is everything you need to know about non standard home insurance.