Home insurance is one of life’s hassles. It’s certainly tempting to want to get it out of the way with a speedy purchase and then forget about it.
It’s vital though to remember that as our lives and the way we use our homes change, this can impact the validity of our insurance.
Failing to notify an insurer of a change, even inadvertently, may impact on whether your insurance provider will honour a claim. These are also the sort of details that you’ll fill in when applying for a new policy – and ones that you have to update if the new quote is to be still valid.
Here are five common things people may fail to notify home insurance providers about that could impact on the validity of their policy:
1. Renovations/building works
It’s important to inform your insurance provider before you begin the renovation works at your home.
Renovations increase the risk of an incident, and therefore a claim, and your insurer will want to check you have the right level of cover. Increased risks may come, for example, due to the property being left empty for periods, being less secure, due to the increased likelihood of a fire, or structural or other damage during the works.
In some cases, there’ll be nothing to pay. In others, you may need to pay a top-up fee, or you may even consider getting a specific renovation insurance policy.
If you’re adding significant floor space or value to your home with the renovations, it may also impact on your insurance long term.
It’s also worth remembering that if you drill through a pipe or break a window while doing some DIY work you may not be able to claim on standard house insurance, especially if you don’t have accidental damage cover.
When budgets are tight, it can be tempting to want to avoid running the risk of an inflated insurance premium, but if your cover isn’t right and you have a claim refused, it’s likely to be much more costly in the end.
2. A long holiday or period away from home
Most home insurance policies include a clause requiring the policyholder to notify the insurer if a home is going to be empty for a prolonged period – perhaps of 30 days or more and this is due to the increased risk for empty homes. Some of the reasons for notifying your insurer are malicious damage, break-ins and pipes frozen and bursting in cold weather.
An insurer may require certain assurances if a house is going to be left for an extended period, such as concerning burglar alarms being set or regular checks by a nominated person.
Similarly, it is worth being aware that insurers are likely to stipulate that you take reasonable care to protect your home and if you’re found to be in breach of that requirement it could impact on your cover. Making a declaration on social media that you are away from home, for example, could be seen as failing to take reasonable care.
3. Not using a house alarm
In some cases, insurers may offer premium reductions if you have specific security features fitted to your home, such as a house alarm which is a good reason to have one. Remember to use it when you’re not home as not doing so may backfire and you may be penalised.
If the alarm was not set or in working order when an incident occurs you may face a fight to get your insurance claim approved.
Any changes to other security features also need to be highlighted to the insurer who may view the risk differently due to their presence. That may include the types of window locks or doors you have.
On the plus side, if a new or amended feature is seen by the insurer to reduce the risk of a claim, you may see your premium reduced.
4. Renting out a room
Having a lodger or tenant within your home is seen as an increased risk by many insurance providers and some will not agree to offer cover for those that rent out a room.
Ensure you discuss it with your insurance provider before entering into an agreement.
5. Running a business from home
Running a business from home, especially if that means storing stock or equipment on the premises, may impact on house insurance.
In some cases a regular policy will continue to be enough – but in others, more specialist cover is required.
Even working from home can have an impact on home insurance and you ought to speak to your provider if this is something you intend to do.
Special dispensation may be available during Government work-from-home requests due to the coronavirus.
The Association of British Insurers has said: “If you are an office-based worker and need to work from home because of government advice or because you need to self-isolate, your home insurance cover will not be affected.”
Steps to take to insure your home insurance remains valid
As with all insurance, the key to ensuring your home insurance provides a useful safety net should you need to claim is to be aware of the small print.
It’s not just failing to notify of changes you make that could be an issue. Failing to meet requirements, such as keeping your home in good working order could also have an impact. If there is water damage due to a blocked gutter, for example, your insurer may deny your claim.
Read through your policy when you get it and check again if you’re going to make any changes to your home or the way you live in it. If you’re unsure if the difference you’re making may impact on the policy, speak to your provider.
Taking note of the time, date and name of the person you spoke to when you notify of any change is a good idea, or better still, have a written record of the exchange.
Insurers should never seek to avoid honouring a genuine claim deliberately, and there is legislation to protect consumers from this happening. If you act with a reasonable level of diligence home insurance is your friend, not your foe.