Things home insurance will cover – and things it won’t

Understanding exactly what your buildings and contents insurance covers will help you get the best value from your policy and spare you the frustration of a rejected claim. From storm damage to break-ins, find out where you stand with our guide.

Understanding exactly what your buildings and contents insurance covers will help you get the best value from your policy and spare you the frustration of a rejected claim. From storm damage to break-ins, find out where you stand with our guide.

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
Last Updated
5 min read
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What does home insurance cover?

A good home insurance policy made up of buildings and contents insurance should give you the peace of mind that both the structure of your home and everything in it are protected from disaster. But what exactly does that mean? 

Although there will be differences between insurance providers, there are eventualities that policies generally will and won’t cover.

For example, a standard home insurance policy should cover damage to your home caused by:

  • Flooding 
  • Subsidence
  • Fire
  • Storms 
  • Burst water pipes, frozen pipes, water damage
  • Theft.

This means – unfortunately – that you can’t call on your home insurance, every time you’re faced with a repair bill on your home.

You can’t, for example, claim for:

  • General wear and tear
  • Poor maintenance
  • Mechanical breakdown of old appliances
  • Frost damage
  • Storm damage to gates and fences
  • Deliberate damage
  • Damage caused by pets.

Read on to find out more about what is and what isn’t usually covered by a standard home insurance policy, and when it might be wise to add a little bit of extra cover.

What’s typically covered by home insurance?

The following examples can give you a better idea of how home insurance works and what will and won’t be covered.

A fire at home

Cover for fire comes as standard with buildings and contents insurance. If you have both, you should be covered for damage to the structure of your home and everything in it – from your furniture and appliances through to your, jewellery, tech, clothes and books.

Stolen smartphone

Cover for theft also comes as standard with contents insurance, but only for items that are stolen from your home.

Realistically your phone is more likely to be stolen while you’re out and about, and for that you’ll need cover for personal possessions outside the home, which isn’t normally included as standard. Check with your insurance provider – if you’re not covered, you should be able to add it to your policy for an additional fee.

Your engagement ring is stolen

Contents insurance covers thefts from your home, but if you want cover for your engagement ring while you’re out, you’ll again need cover for personal possessions outside the home.

If your engagement ring is worth more than the single-item limit on your contents insurance (the maximum amount your provider will pay out for a single item), then you’ll need to ask your provider to list it separately on your policy.

Storm damage

You’ll almost certainly have cover for storm damage included in your buildings and contents insurance. This can protect you from financial losses caused by a storm, such as tiles being blown from your roof. Unfortunately, though, it will normally only cover your home and any outbuildings. Storm damage to fences, hedges and gates are normally excluded.

Stolen car keys

Even if your keys are stolen from your home, you might actually find that they’re covered by your car insurance. Replacing modern computerised keys can be very expensive, so check both your car and home insurance to make sure you’re covered for theft, wherever your keys are taken from.

What’s not typically covered by standard home insurance?

The springs on your sofa going

Sadly, if your beloved sofa is sagging and the springs are going, you’ll need to shell out for a replacement yourself.

Home insurance doesn’t cover the normal wear and tear of your possessions. The same goes for broken appliances.
Your insurance provider may also reject a claim if you haven’t maintained your home properly. For example, if there’s a leak because you haven’t replaced broken roof tiles.

Your home if you’re away for six months

Generally, insurance policies will state that you need to tell your provider if you’re going to be away for more than 30 days.

An empty house is considered a higher risk than an occupied one, that’s because there’s a greater risk of theft, for example, if you’re not home, or a leak if you’re not around keeping your eye on things.

Speak to your insurance provider if you intend to be away for longer than 30 days – they may be able to add endorsements to your policy to ensure your property is fully covered. Alternatively, it you’re likely to be away a while you might need to take out specialist unoccupied home insurance.

Asbestos removal insurance

Your home insurance policy is unlikely to include any kind of dedicated asbestos insurance cover. However, if asbestos is discovered or disturbed after a so-called ‘insurable event’ like a fire or flood, your buildings insurance may well cover the cost of removing it.

Spilling tea on your laptop

Spilling tea – or coffee – on your laptop can kill the keyboard. However, this sort of mishap won’t be covered as standard by most contents insurance policies. You’ll only be able to claim if you have accidental damage insurance. This can be added to your home contents insurance for an additional fee.

Pest infestations

Pests, such as rats and mice, can damage your property as well as being a health hazard. Most home insurance policies don’t cover damage by pests, though. But you could get a payout for their removal if you have home emergency cover – this is optional insurance you can add to your policy for an additional cost.

Top tip

While add-ons like accidental damage insurance can give you more protection, make sure you really need them, as they can significantly push up the price of your premium. It’s worth comparing standard policies with add-ons against premium cover packages to see which offers the better value

Frequently asked questions

Will my home insurance cover damage by pets?

Unfortunately, damage caused by pets is unlikely to be covered by your standard home insurance. So, if your puppy chews the table leg or your cat scratches the carpet, you’ll have to live with the damage or arrange repairs or replacements yourself. To make this really clear, policies specifically exclude any damage caused by chewing, scratching, tearing or fouling.

You’ll also need to tell your home insurance provider if you have a pet. If you don’t, it could invalidate your policy.

Will my home insurance cover losses or damage caused by a power cut?

It depends on your policy. You might be covered for the knock-on effects of a power cut. For example, if there’s no power for a while and the food in your freezer goes off, your contents insurance may cover you up to a certain limit.

Will my home insurance cover me if I work from home?

If you run a home-based business, you should tell your insurance provider that you work from home.

Having members of the public coming in and out of the house, for example, will be regarded as a risk.

Standard home contents insurance also doesn’t usually cover work equipment like computers, tools and stock. This means that you may need to adjust your home insurance policy or take out separate business contents insurance to ensure your business items are properly covered.

However, if, like lots of people, you’re just working from home a bit more regularly after the pandemic there shouldn’t be any major issues.

Of course, if you have any doubts it’s always a good idea to call your insurance provider.

How can I find out what’s covered and what’s not before I buy my policy?

When you compare with us, we’ll show you a list of suitable quotes including key features of each deal. You’ll also be able to read the terms and conditions of each policy, so you’ll know exactly what’s covered and what’s excluded before you go ahead and choose.

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Helen Phipps - Car and home insurance expert

Having worked in both sides of the industry, Helen’s a real insurance expert. She’s worked directly with several insurance providers and now Comparethemarket. She’s always searching for the cheapest prices for customers and is passionate about saving people money. Being married with two kids, Helen knows all about the cost of living and the benefits of having the right products and insurance for the whole family.

Learn more about Helen

Rachel Lacey - Insurance and money expert

Rachel’s a self-confessed money nerd who’s been writing about personal finance for more than 20 years. She spent 17 years writing for Moneywise, including a few years as Editor, and likes making complicated subjects like insurance, pensions, investing and tax, easy for people to understand.

Learn more about Rachel

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