Some things that may seem perfectly harmless could actually invalidate your home insurance. Get the lowdown now to make sure that your policy won’t be voided if you need to make a claim.
Whether it’s a quick lick of paint or a full-scale renovation, we all like to personalise our homes.
However, allowing builders and decorators to come in and out of your home could affect the terms of your home insurance policy. If they can access your home when you’re not there, your insurer might consider this reckless if valuable possessions then go missing.
It’s possible that home insurers will restrict cover for theft only to money or possessions taken from a locked drawer or cupboard where force has been used to open them.
As such, it’s a good idea to lock away possessions that are usually left out if you’re having builders or other tradespeople in the house
Plus, you should always inform your insurer of any work done to the home itself, whether they are just minor alterations or major structural changes.
This is especially important if you have both buildings insurance and home contents insurance, as some home improvements may increase the rebuild value of your home.
Your home is at greater risk when it’s empty and for that reason, most home insurers will limit the amount of time you are able to leave it unoccupied - usually 30 days.
This means if you decide to take a longer holiday and are likely to be away for more than a month, it’s important to tell your insurance company. Some policies will provide cover for longer. Alternatively, you can arrange for a trusted friend to house sit while you are away.
If any of your personal details change – for example, your name after getting married – it’s vital that you let your insurer know. The same goes for turning your home into a workspace.
If you do not update your policy you could end up being underinsured, which means any claim may not cover the full cost of any damage or loss. Some insurers will even invalidate your policy if your details are not correct.
This one may seem harsh, but some home insurers may reject a claim for theft if you have posted photos of yourself online that make it obvious you’re away from home.
This is because the insurer might consider you’re advertising the fact that your home is unoccupied.
Sadly, more and more criminals are using the web to identify when a property might be empty. Some extreme examples of burglars using this kind of tactic occurred last year when some Premier League footballers’ homes were emptied out while they were playing matches that were televised live!
While it may seem like a small alteration to your home, getting a flap installed to allow your dog or cat to get in and out of the house could invalidate your cover if you forget to inform your insurer.
Sadly, from an insurance point of view, installing a cat flap may make your back door seem less secure. So it’s always worth notifying your insurer about the change, even if it increases your premiums.
For many homeowners, renting out a spare bedroom can be a valuable source of income. Each year homeowners can earn up to £7,500 tax-free by letting out a furnished room in their property through the Rent a Room Scheme.
However, some insurers will not cover you if you rent out part of your property, so it’s important to check with your insurer before doing so.
This is mainly because you’re entrusting your property to someone you may not know, so you could be putting your possessions at risk. If your house is burgled, your insurer may not cover you if you have not previously told them you had a lodger.
If your insurer won’t cover you, you may need to shop around for an alternative policy.
Making changes to your home’s security could impact your policy premium, even if it may not be immediately obvious how. This means it’s always important to inform your insurer of any change, even one as simple as replacing a door lock. This may seem like knit-picking, but insurers use a range of different factors to determine how risky your home will be to insure. Part of this calculation will include the types of locks you have on your doors.
There may even be benefits to letting your insurer know about changes to your home security. For example, installing a burglar alarm is likely to make your home less of a target for burglars. While there are no guarantees, your insurance premiums might go down as a result.
It’s also important to be aware that simply having the right security measures isn’t all it takes to keep your home secure. Your insurer will require you to be responsible too and if windows are left open or doors unlocked and your home is burgled, your claim may well be rejected.
Again, another one that seems harsh, but if you suffer a break-in and do not call 999 within 24 hours some insurers won’t cover you.
It’s important to ring the police to report the burglary and get a crime number as soon as you can. Whether fairly or not, some insurers might consider a delay in contacting the police as suspicious.
One thing that can cause problems in terms of home insurance is a vermin infestation.
If rodents, badgers, woodworm or other pests gain a foothold in your home and you do not deal with it in time, any damage caused might not be covered by your insurer.
So keep an eye out for signs of vermin, like animal droppings, gnaw marks on walls and furniture, foul smells, grease marks and tracks.
If your home is flooded, your first instinct might be to start clearing the damage immediately in an effort to clean things up.
It’s worth being aware that insurance companies will want to see evidence of your damaged goods to calculate the value of your claim. It’s frustrating, but some insurers may force you to ask them for permission to dispose of any damaged possessions before they have had the opportunity to look at them. Fail to do this and your insurance company may not pay your claim in full.
To help prevent flood damage and to ready yourself for potential problems, assess your properties flood risk and be aware of any nearby large bodies of water.