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Everything you need to know before taking out home and contents insurance

We all know that we should be taking out home and/or buildings and contents insurance each year, regardless of whether we own our home or we’re renting it, but do we fully understand why we need to do that, and what our policies actually cover?

Interestingly, 69% of Brits don’t fully understand what is covered in their home insurance policy. With that in mind, we asked the British public about which terminology they don’t understand relating to home insurance, and the factors that could unknowingly invalidate their home insurance.

Half of Brits spend over £150 on their home insurance

When it comes to purchasing your home insurance, sometimes it doesn’t include everything that you need, which is why you have the option to pay for add-ons. The five most popular add-ons we’ve found are: 

  • Accidental damage cover (35.4%):  This will help to cover the cost of either replacing or repairing an item in your home that’s been damaged by accident.
  • Home emergency cover (27.1%):  This enables you to sort out any urgent problems that negatively affect your living conditions – for example, your central heating breaking, or severe plumbing issues.
  • Personal possessions (24.9%):  This covers you if your personal belongings are stolen, lost or damaged when you take them outside of your home. Depending on the specific add-on, you may need to state exactly which items you want covering with this.
  • Legal assistance cover (23.8%):  This covers you should you need to go to court over specific home-related disputes, such as noise complaints, injury claims if someone were to try and sue you after being injured in your property, and boundary disputes.
  • Freezer contents (21.9%):  This will cover the cost of your freezer food if you can no longer use it – most commonly because of a power failure that causes your food to defrost.

Home insurance jargon buster 

As part of any home and contents insurance policy, there are specific terms that are used, but if you don’t fully understand what they mean, it’s a good idea to read up on them. 

The five terms that Brits are most unsure of are: 

  • FLEA cover (92.5%):  This stands for fire, lightning, explosion and aircraft impact, and it protects unoccupied properties against these eventualities.
  • Trace and access (89.2%):  This covers the cost for detecting water leaks in your home, and it means you can call a plumber to help you identify the source, without having to pay for it. What trace and access doesn’t cover, is the cost of repairing any damage that the leak has caused.
  • Heave (88.9%):  The opposite of subsidence, heave is also referred to as ‘swelling’, and is where the ground beneath a home moves upwards, usually because the soil expands. If you spot cracks on your walls, it might be because of heaving.
  • Joint proposer (79.9%):  A joint proposer is where two or more people are named under one policy.
  • Single article limit (SAL) (79.1%):  This refers to the maximum amount you can claim for any one item on your insurance policy that’s been stolen or damaged.
  • Continuous payment authority (CPA) (79.1%):  This is a type of recurring payment, similar to a direct debit, whereby you give permission for a company to take money from your account on a regular basis using your payment card details.

The five things Brits didn’t know could affect their home insurance policy 

When considering terminology and add-ons, there are certain factors within your home that can affect your policy and might mean you need to take out extra cover – if you don’t, you may not be able to make a claim. 

We spoke to Brits and found out that the five things they didn’t realise could impact their policy are: 

  • Smart home devices (81.5%):  Some insurers will reduce their premiums if they know a policyholder has a smart device (e.g., home automation systems such as smart lighting and security) in their home, as these devices can help to detect issues earlier on, which can reduce the chance of a policyholder having to make a claim.
  • Pets (74.7%):  A lot of home insurance policies don’t automatically include damage done by pets, so it’s important you let them know if you have a pet – otherwise, if you have to make a claim from any destruction your furry friend has caused, your claim may get rejected.
  • Number of people in the property (71.7%):  Ultimately, the more people that live in the property, the more damage that can be caused, so it’s important that you let the insurance company know how many people live in your home, as that can affect how much you pay.
  • Building work (70% ): A lot of standard home insurance policies don’t cover accidental damage that’s been caused by renovations, so your policy probably won’t pay out if you make a claim for it. That being said, most builders should have their own insurance, which will cover any damage that they may cause, so make sure you check with them beforehand.
  • Having a lodger (65.7%):  Whilst most insurance policies will cover you if you have a lodger, not all do. It’s important you let them know as they may add in some extra conditions if you want to rent out your spare room, such as vetting checks. Failure to let them know could result in your insurance becoming invalidated.

If you’re unsure of anything – whether that’s terminology, or things you need to make your insurance company aware of – it’s always best to check.

Brought to you by the home insurance experts at


Consumer poll of 2,000 UK adults with building and/or contents insurance via TLF in March 2022.