How to avoid invalidating your home insurance

It can be hugely frustrating if you try to claim on your home insurance, only to find that your insurance provider refuses to pay out. To help make sure you don't find yourself in that unfortunate situation, we’ve outlined some common mistakes that homeowners make and how to avoid them.

It can be hugely frustrating if you try to claim on your home insurance, only to find that your insurance provider refuses to pay out. To help make sure you don't find yourself in that unfortunate situation, we’ve outlined some common mistakes that homeowners make and how to avoid them.

Chris King
Home insurance expert
8
minute read
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Posted 2 JANUARY 2020 Last Updated 8 JUNE 2022

Why are some home insurance claims rejected?

When you buy buildings and contents insurance, you’ll be expected to take steps to protect your property for your home insurance policy to be valid. You’ll also need to share accurate information about your home with your insurance provider.

If you don’t meet the conditions of your contract, your provider could reject your claim. Problems with claims usually stem from forgetting to mention something important to your provider or trying to claim for something you assumed was covered but isn’t. So let's clear this up and help make it more likely that any future claim is paid out.

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 dampness 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 of or all of your claim is not paid. And try to be accurate when you describe your door and window locks – if you make a claim, your provider may check your descriptions match what the loss adjuster finds.

3. Secure any outbuildings

Make sure you lock your garage or shed, especially if you have valuable tools 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 may not be paid.

5. Remember to activate alarms

If you’ve got an alarm system, use it. If you’ve stated to your insurance provider that an active burglar alarm is fitted, then any claim for theft may be rejected if your alarm 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. Typically, to make a claim, you must tell the police straight away about the malicious damage or vandalism.

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 an appliance that you knew was faulty – but still used anyway. 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 caused damage to your house, you may not be covered as this could be considered negligence. Make sure you 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 tell everyone on Facebook that you're going on holiday, you’re effectively announcing to burglars that your home will be empty for several days. And while police have warned thiscould invalidate your insurance as some providers may view your actions as not ‘taking reasonable care’, 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 time in the future.

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

If you are burgled and say claim for the loss of a laptop that you say was worth £2,000 and you can’t find the receipt, but in fact you know you paid £1,000 for it. If the insurance provider discovers this, you could find your whole policy void and your claim invalidated, so you won't receive anything at all even though you have had a laptop stolen. You also could be prosecuted for fraud.

10. Provide honest and accurate information

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 because supplying misleading information could invalidate it.

If you've opted for paying your home insurance monthly, rather than an annual premium in advance, if you pay late or miss a payment you might find that you invalidate your policy. 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

Make sure that you keep your provider updated too.

Five things you need to tell your home insurance provider

There are certain things that you must tell you insurance provider to prevent your home insurance being invalidated:

1. If you plan to take an extended break away from home

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 adding a new room, setting up a business from home, someone in your household is convicted of certain types of criminal offences, having children or even getting a pet. That’s because they can all pose different risks to your property from the ones accounted for in your original policy.

3. If you’re carrying out home improvements

If you’re having any work done to your property, whether that’s a new kitchen fitted or an extension built, 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 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, you might be looking to take in a lodger to help share the bills. 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. Admittedly, it’s not the most exciting task in the world, but it’s got to be worth it if it saves you from having a claim denied.

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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