How to avoid invalidating your home insurance

Having an insurance claim rejected can be infuriating and make you wonder why you bought it in the first place. To stop you getting caught out, we reveal the common mistakes homeowners make and what you can do to ensure your claim is paid.

Having an insurance claim rejected can be infuriating and make you wonder why you bought it in the first place. To stop you getting caught out, we reveal the common mistakes homeowners make and what you can do to ensure your claim is paid.

Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
minute read
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Last Updated 22 SEPTEMBER 2022

Why are some home insurance claims rejected?

There are many reasons why your insurance provider might, infuriatingly, reject your claim.

Problems often arise if you fail to mention something important to your provider or mistakenly claim for something that isn’t covered by your policy.

There will also be conditions that you, as the homeowner, need to meet for your home insurance to be valid. For example, when you buy buildings and contents insurance, you’ll be expected to take steps to maintain your property. You’ll also need to share accurate information about your home with your insurance provider.

As formal as it might sound, your insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance provider, and if you don’t meet the conditions stated in it, your provider could reject your claim.

Read on to find out what you can do to ensure your next claim isn’t rejected.

10 things you can do to avoid invalidating your home insurance

1. Keep your property well maintained

It’s important to look after your home. If you don’t keep it in a good state of repair, you could find that a claim is rejected on the grounds of poor maintenance. For example, you failed to keep your gutters clear and that led to damp in the walls. Regular home maintenance is particularly important during the winter months when bad weather is more likely to cause problems.

It’s also worth noting that general wear and tear won’t be covered by your home insurance.

2. Lock windows and doors when you go out

Insurance providers may not pay out for a burglary claim if there are no signs of forced entry at your home. Leaving windows or doors open or unlocked, or you hiding keys near the front door, could possibly mean part or all of your claim is not paid. And try to be accurate when you describe your door and window locks – in the event of a claim, loss adjusters are likely to check they match with what you told your provider.

3. Secure your outbuildings

Make sure you lock your garage or shed, especially if you have valuable tools or bikes inside. Don't forget, opportunist thieves might take advantage of you popping into the house for a few minutes. It’s also worth checking whether your policy has a pay-out limit for outbuildings.

4. Change your locks if you lose your keys

If your keys go missing, change the locks as soon as possible. It’s worth checking your policy as you may have cover for replacement locks and keys. If you don't change the locks immediately, then someone could break in without technically 'forcing entry', which could mean any subsequent claim won’t be paid.

5. Remember to activate alarms

If you’ve got an alarm system, use it. If you’ve told your insurance provider that you’ve got a working burglar alarm fitted, then any claim for theft may be rejected if it wasn’t set at the time of a break-in.

6. Don’t trash the house

Although most policies cover malicious damage, insurance providers won’t usually cover you for deliberate damage caused by you, a family member or tenant living in your home. To make a claim for malicious damage or vandalism, you’ll also usually need to report to the police straightaway.

7. Don’t use appliances you know to be faulty

If you have home emergency cover as part of your home insurance, some insurance providers may refuse to pay for a claim if damage was caused by using an appliance that you knew was faulty. For example, if you were aware of a manufacturer’s recall for an electrical item that you chose to ignore and that item then caught fire and damaged your house, you may not be covered. Make sure you always follow the manufacturer's latest guidance.

8. Stay off social media while you’re on holiday

Insurance providers are paying more attention to social media. So if you post a photo on Facebook or Instagram of the hotel you’ve just checked into, you’ve effectively told the world that your home is currently empty. Insurance providers could argue that in doing this you haven’t taken ‘reasonable care’ of your home. That said, we haven’t found an example where a claim has been refused in the UK – yet. But it could make your home more vulnerable and there is always a chance that a provider could invoke one of their duty of care or reasonable care clauses at some point in the future.

9. If you make a claim, don't exaggerate it

If you’re burgled and tell your insurer that you’ve lost your receipt for a £2,000 laptop that actually cost £1,000, there’s a real chance they’ll rumble you and your whole policy could be invalidated. So, despite having your laptop being genuinely stolen you’ll get no insurance pay out and could even be prosecuted for fraud.

10. Be upfront, honest and accurate

Telling a few porkies to get a cheaper home insurance quote really isn’t a good idea – it could catch up with you if you need to make a claim. Always be honest when you take out a policy, if the insurance company finds out that you have lied, withheld or provided misleading or inaccurate information, it may not pay your claim.

Pay your insurance monthly? 

If you pay for your insurance monthly, it’s important to be aware that your cover could be invalidated if you make a late payment or miss one altogether. If you know you won’t be able to make a payment, get in touch with your provider to see if you can come to an arrangement so that your policy isn't voided.

Five things you need to tell your home insurance provider

There are also a number of things that you must tell you insurance provider to ensure your home insurance isn’t invalidated:

1. If you’re planning a long trip

Heading off on a round-the-world trip or working away from home for the next two months? Be sure to tell your insurance provider. If your property is left empty for 30 days or more, your cover may be reduced or and your provider could refuse to pay out if you make a claim.

2. If there are changes in your circumstances

Life happens. And sometimes the last thing on your mind when there’s a change in your circumstances is to update your home insurance policy. 

But it’s essential that you make your provider aware of any changes that could affect your policy. This includes: 

As minor as these changes might seem to you, your insurance provider may think it changes the risk profile of your property. Mentioning these changes to your insurance provider could mean that your premium goes up (although not always), but at least you have the peace of mind that your house is properly covered. 

3. If you’re carrying out home improvements

If you’re having any work done to your property, whether that’s a new kitchen or an extension, you should let your insurance provider know. The work could involve builders entering the property, and your house may be less secure, so an insurance provider could see this as an increased risk. Your provider may place special conditions on your policy during the building work to cover for this risk.

If you’re making significant alterations to your home, you may also need to consider whether the rebuild cost of your home has increased. This is likely if you’re adding a bedroom or an extension. But as always, it's sensible to check with your insurance provider.

4. If you’re renting out a room

If you have a spare room, taking on a lodger is a great way to make a bit of extra money, but it could have implications for your insurance. Some insurance providers will allow you to rent out part of your home to a tenant, but this will usually increase the cost of your cover. That’s because having an extra person in the house poses more risk. It’s possible you may have to take out landlord insurance if your tenant has their own front door – for example you’ve let out an annexe.

5. If you use your home as business premises

If you run a business from home and customers visit, or you store valuable equipment on-site, your insurance provider could see this as an increased risk of theft or damage. Make sure you declare that you have a home business when you start a home insurance quote. You might want to consider taking out additional business insurance if your home policy doesn’t offer the cover you need.

If you’re continuing to work from home after the pandemic, you shouldn’t need to tell your insurance provider if you only carry out normal office-based duties.

Find out more about working from home insurance.

How do I know what I’m insured for and what I’m not?

Home insurance can be confusing, so always read your policy documents thoroughly. We get that it’s not the most exciting task in the world, but it’ll be worth if it means you don’t have a claim refused.

Look carefully at any exclusions so you understand them fully. Not only do the policy documents set out the levels of cover offered, they also explain your responsibilities as a homeowner. Ensuring you meet those obligations will help keep you covered if you need to make a claim.

And for your claim to be paid in full, you’ll need to make sure you’re not underinsured. It’s important to correctly value the contents of your home and calculate up-to-date rebuilding costs. If you get a quote through Compare the Market, we can help you do both of these easily when you get a quote for home insurance.

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