What is contents insurance?

It is an insurance policy that covers personal items in your home.

Contents insurance is available as a standalone policy, or as part of a combined home insurance policy with buildings cover.

If you rent your property you will need a contents policy to protect your things, but it is the responsibility of your landlord to insure the buildings.

What is covered?

It covers your personal belongings against loss or damage caused by:

  • Theft, attempted theft or vandalism

  • Fire or explosion

  • Natural dangers like lightning, storm or earthquake

  • Flooding

What items can you cover?

A contents policy is designed to protect your household goods like your sofa and any personal belongings in your home, garage or shed.

Common items covered in a contents policy are:

  • Furniture: Beds, sofas, wardrobes, drawers, chairs and tables

  • Electrical goods: TVs, laptops, games consoles, DVD or Blu-Ray players and tablets

  • Kitchen items: Microwaves, kettles, toaster, cutlery, plates, pots and pans

  • Entertainment: DVDs, CDs, books, video games and vinyl

You can also cover your clothes, curtains, carpets and:

  • Any items you take out of your home, like your mobile phone

  • Money in your home

  • Garden contents, including plants

  • Frozen and chilled foods if your freezer or fridge breaks down

Not all insurers offer these benefits as standard, so check each policy document carefully to see what is covered.

New for old cover

Many policies offer to replace your contents if they have been damaged or stolen with a brand new replacement.

If the exact item is no longer available, your insurer should pay out enough for you to buy a new similar model.

New for old cover usually excludes items like clothes, bedding and curtains because they tend to be more prone to wear and tear than other items.

Some take away the cost of wear or tear when they pay out to replace or repair your belongings; this is called indemnity cover.

Accidental damage cover

It protects your belongings against accidental incidents, like spilling wine on your carpet or knocking over your TV.

Some policies offer accidental damage as standard as certain items, for example damage to television sets, non portable games consoles and mirrors.

Check the policy terms and conditions before you buy to find out what is covered, and what you will need to add.

Optional extras

Some insurers let you add extra benefits to improve your cover, such as:

  • Personal possessions cover: This protects things you take outside of your home, like jewellery and mobile phones. Most policies can cover you anywhere in the UK and if you go abroad.

  • Garden cover: This covers items kept in your garden, including plants, furniture and gardening equipment. Some policies also cover the cost of landscaping if your garden is damaged.

  • Bicycle cover: Most policies do not cover bikes kept outside as standard, but some let you add it to cover your bicycle if locked up in your garden, or when you take it away from home.

Anything you add to your policy will increase the cost of your insurance, but could offer valuable cover if you need to make a claim.

What is not covered?

  • Wear and tear: Any damage caused by general wear and tear will not be covered, for example, your carpet wearing thin over time.

  • If your home is left unoccupied: Most policies do not cover any loss or damage if you are not in your property for a certain length of time, usually 30 days.

  • Theft by deception: You cannot claim if your contents are stolen through deception, for example, if you give your keys to a tradesperson who then steals from your home.

  • Damage caused by a computer virus: Some policies do not pay to repair or replace your computer or laptop if it is damaged by a virus.

If you are moving home, most policies will exclude cover for money, fragile items and bicycles while they are in transit.

All contents insurance policies have a list of exclusions that will not be covered, so make sure you read each policy document carefully before you buy.

Cover for high value items

If you want to protect your valuable items, then you need to find a policy that offers this cover.

Most insurers define valuable items as:

  • Works of art

  • Jewellery

  • Watches

  • Any items of gold, silver or any other precious metal

Your valuables will be covered by a single item limit, which is the amount your insurer will pay per item. This is usually around 1,500 but some policies offer a higher limit.

Make a list of all of the valuables you want covered before looking for the right policy. Some insurers could ask you for proof of value, especially for jewellery, but others do not.

Most policies also set a total valuables limit, which is the maximum you can claim to cover the loss of several valuables together. This is often a percentage of the total contents sum insured, for example 30%.

So if your total contents cover is 50,000, you could only claim up to 15,000 for multiple valuables.

How much cover do you need?

Many insurers offer a set total claim limit to cover all of your contents, based on the size of your home, for example 50,000.

You may be given the option of increasing the amount of cover when you apply for a quote if your contents are worth more than the set claim limit. Most insurers can also increase your cover during the policy if you make an expensive purchase.

Work out how much it would cost to replace all of your contents so you know what level of contents insurance you need.

You can do this by going through your home and adding up how much all of your contents cost in each room.

You can use an online contents insurance calculator to do this, or make your own list.