What does building insurance cover?

Protecting your home with buildings insurance can save you a great deal of money if something goes wrong. If you’re wondering precisely what buildings insurance covers, this guide has the answers.

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There are two types of home insurance – contents insurance which protects all of your belongings in your property, and buildings insurance which covers the structure of the building. 

This guide explains exactly what you can expect from a buildings insurance policy and how to find the right level of cover.

What is buildings insurance?

Buildings insurance is an insurance policy that will cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it is damaged due to fire, flooding or theft. It will cover the structure of the building, including the walls, roof and floors, as well as permanent fittings such as bathrooms, kitchens and built-in wardrobes.

You can buy buildings insurance as a standalone policy or as part of a combined home insurance policy with contents cover.

Do you need buildings insurance?

If you have a mortgage on your home, it will usually be a condition of the loan that you have a buildings insurance policy.

If you own your home outright, buildings insurance 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 otherwise.

If you rent your property, it is the responsibility of your landlord to arrange buildings cover.

Does buildings insurance cover leaks?

Yes, buildings insurance protects your property against damage caused by:

  • Weather, including storms and flooding

  • Water or oil leaking from pipes or heating systems

  • Fire, explosions, lightning, earthquakes and smoke

  • Subsidence, heave and landslip

  • Theft, attempted theft and vandalism

  • Falling trees, branches and TV aerials

  • Frost damage to internal water pipes

What else does buildings insurance cover?

There are other cover benefits that you should look out for when comparing buildings insurance policies, such as:

  • Trace and access: this covers the cost of removing and replacing any part of the building to find and repair a leak.

  • Loss of keys: if you lose your keys, you can claim the cost of replacing locks on the outside of your home or repairing 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.

Further cover options are explained below:

Alternative accommodation cover

If it is unsafe to stay in your home, following flooding, for example, your insurer will cover the cost of alternative accommodation until your home 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 set a claim limit that can range from £12,500 to £80,000 depending on the policy.

Accidental damage cover

This means any accidental damage caused to your building will be covered under your policy.

Accidental damage is usually defined as any sudden and unintentional physical damage caused to your property unexpectedly.

The cost of accidental damage, such as putting your foot through the ceiling when you’re in the loft, could cost hundreds of pounds to repair, so it is worth making sure this is covered before you buy a policy.

Optional extras

You will also usually have the option of adding additional cover to your policy for an extra cost. This could include: 

Legal expenses cover: this can cover any legal costs you face for property disputes, among other things. You will also have access to a 24-hour legal advice helpline that 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 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 can work this out by asking a chartered surveyor to assess your property or using the Association of British Insurers (ABI) rebuild calculator*.

* This calculator is free to use, but you will need to sign up to use it

Using the rebuild cost means you will only pay for the cover you need, but not all insurers use this method.

Case study – Richard's story

"I check for my car and home insurance twice a year and my energy once a year. I’m really good at setting myself reminders to look for new quotes. Every time a renewal letter comes through the post, I make it a priority to get done, so that way it all stays organised before it’s too late."
Richard, Paignton

Getting a buildings insurance quote

When you apply for a buildings insurance quote, the insurer will ask you for information about your property to determine 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

  • Whether your property has suffered subsidence

  • Whether there 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.

Protect your home and belongings for less by comparing home insurance policies to cover a range of property types and individual circumstances.

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