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What is covered in home insurance

Understanding exactly what’s covered in home insurance could help spare you the frustration of a rejected claim. From storm damage to break-ins, find out all you need to know about home insurance coverage.

Understanding exactly what’s covered in home insurance could help spare you the frustration of a rejected claim. From storm damage to break-ins, find out all you need to know about home insurance coverage.

Written by
Helen Phipps
Insurance comparison expert
Reviewed by
Rachel Lacey
Insurance and money expert
Last Updated
14 AUGUST 2023
5 min read
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What does home insurance cover?

A good home insurance policy, made up of buildings insurance and home contents insurance, could give homeowners the peace of mind that both the structure of their 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

Flooding insurance is generally included as standard in most buildings and contents policies. By flooding, we mean unforeseen damage caused by a natural event like heavy rainfall or a burst riverbank.

Buildings insurance should cover damage to the building itself and permanent fixtures and fittings. Your contents insurance should cover damage to any items in your home such as clothes, electronics, furniture and carpets.

Subsidence

Most standard buildings insurance policies will include cover for subsidence damage, but only if your home has never suffered from it before. Some policies might also include cover for lost or damaged items due to subsidence, and alternative accommodation if you need to move out while your home is being repaired. 

Fire

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. 

Storms

You’ll almost certainly have cover for storm damage included in your buildings and contents insurance. This could help 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 sheds or outbuildings. Storm damage to fences, hedges and gates is normally excluded.

Burst water pipes, frozen pipes and water damage 

Most standard buildings insurance policies include damage to your home caused by a sudden water leak or burst pipe. Insurance providers typically call this ‘escape of water’ cover.

Check to see if you’re covered for the repair or replacement of burst pipes, as some policies only cover the damage caused by the leak. Also, note that you won’t be covered for damage caused by a slow leak. This is because it’s considered a maintenance issue that should have been identified and repaired sooner. 

Theft 

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

Smartphone 

Realistically, your phone is more likely to be stolen while you’re out and about. 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. 

Engagement ring 

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. This is true of any valuables worth more than the single-item limit on your policy. 

If you never leave the house without your ring on your finger – again, it’s worth considering extra personal possessions cover for outside the home.  

Car keys 

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

What is not covered by home insurance? 

Although home insurance policies can vary from provider to provider, they all have things they won’t cover. Standard exclusions typically include: 

General wear and tear

Home insurance doesn’t cover the normal wear and tear of your possessions. The same goes for broken appliances. Sadly, this means that if your beloved sofa is sagging and the springs are going, you’ll need to shell out for a replacement yourself.

Prolonged absence

Generally, insurance policies will state that you need to tell your provider if you’re going to be away from home for more than 30 days. Check your policy to be sure as a few policies might allow up to 60 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, you might need to take out specialist unoccupied home insurance.

Asbestos

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.

Accidental damage

Spilling tea – or coffee – on your laptop could 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.

Poor maintenance 

Your insurance provider might 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. Damp and mould problems due to poor ventilation will also be considered a maintenance issue, so they’re unlikely to be covered.

Frost damage 

Most insurance providers won’t cover for damage as a result of frost. This is because home insurance is there to protect your home against unpredictable and unexpected events such as flash flooding or a freak storm. Frost is something that happens every winter, so it’s not considered an insurable event. 

Deliberate damage 

Standard home insurance should cover acts of vandalism carried out by a stranger – for example, a brick through your window or graffiti sprayed on your walls – but it won’t cover deliberate damage done by you, family members living in your home, or any guests you invite around. 

Pest infestations

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

Damage caused 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. 

Top tip

While add-ons like accidental damage insurance could give you more protection, make sure you really need them as they could 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

Are garages, sheds and outbuildings covered by home insurance?

Some policies include garages, sheds and outbuildings as standard if they’re within the property boundary. Others may only include buildings that are attached to the main home.

When you compare with us, you can select policies that include garages, sheds and outbuildings in your home insurance coverage. Check the policy wording, as it will set out exactly what your insurance provider considers an outbuilding to be. 

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 I get home insurance coverage working from home?

If you’re an office-based employee and work from home a couple of days a week, standard home insurance should be enough to cover you.

However, if you run a home-based business, a standard policy won’t cover work equipment, stock or provide public liability protection if you have customers or clients coming to your home. In this case, you might need to adjust your home insurance policy or take out separate business insurance

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

How can I find out what’s covered by home insurance 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 - 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 Compare the Market. 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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