Loopholes that could mean your insurer won’t pay out

Written by
Kate Hughes
Insurance expert
26 November 2021
5 min read
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Finding out that your insurance has been invalidated could be a disaster if you need to make a claim. That's why it's important to provide the right information and keep following the rules carefully. 

Anyone can make an honest mistake, but the law holds that if you “deliberately or carelessly withhold information or mislead your insurers”, they can hold that your policy is invalid. 

Here are ten ways that you could be invalidating your insurance without even knowing it. 

1. Car maintenance matters 

When it comes to car insurance, bear in mind that your cover is based on the expectation that your motor is roadworthy. 

A timely MOT is a given. 

But basic maintenance also includes correctly pressured tyres and regularly changed oil. 

Let the water in your radiator run low and your insurer could have grounds to refuse a claim. 

2. Use your car correctly 

The typical road user is insured as a private driver, not as a taxi service, so if you make a profit (rather than simply covering your costs) out of giving people lifts you could be invalidating your insurance in the process. 

One way around this is to download an app such as Skoot, the drive sharing app, as it does the maths for you. Here it means that you only receive 45p per mile (irrespective of how many paying passengers there are in the journey), so there is no profiteering being made and therefore no changes to insurance or licencing. 

If you say you have smoke alarms in your insurance application, but it’s later found they are not working, your insurer may not pay out on a fire claim. 

3. Safety first 

It goes without saying that smoke alarms are important; yet many of us have taken out the batteries when cooking – or burning – dinner. 

But did you know that you could be left out of pocket should you need to make a home insurance claim for fire damage? 

If you say you have smoke alarms in your insurance application, but it’s later found they are not working, your insurer may not pay out on a fire claim. 

So, check those batteries and alarms often. You won’t regret it. 

4. Getting tipsy while travelling 

Being under the influence of alcohol or illegal or even some over-the-counter drugs can be one of the fastest ways to scupper your claim - from travel insurance to car cover. 

A few too many holiday cocktails can invalidate your travel insurance if you fall and hurt yourself, just as a couple of pints in the local can void your car cover (that’s before we, or the police, even start on the matter of drink-driving). 

Remember too, that if you’re unfit to drive it’s illegal to do so, full stop. 

Even if that’s only because that innocuous-looking flu remedy has made you too drowsy to drive safely. 

And if you’re driving illegally, you’ve just knocked out your car insurance faster than you can say “police impairment assessment”. 

DIY aficionados should step away from the lump hammer, because if you smash straight through something important, you won’t get a payout 

5. DIY going wrong 

DIY aficionados should step away from the lump hammer, because if damage to your property or contents is a result of getting a little over-enthusiastic and smashing straight through something important, you won’t get a payout. 

Be a bit careful too, if accidental damage does happen and you’re tempted to try to fix it, even temporarily, before the loss adjusters arrive. 

If everyone is safe, there is no immediate danger from whatever calamity is going on, and the gas, or water, or electricity has been switched off as necessary, the next job is not to reach for the plasterboard - it’s to call your insurer’s claims line phone number. 

6. Too many spares 

Don’t hide the spare key under the plant pot by the front door, whatever you do. 

For starters, it is such a common choice you might as well put a neon sign above it. 

Second, hiding a spare anywhere accessible could be an insurance issue. If your home is ransacked because someone let themselves in with a key, your provider is likely to question the claim. 

Incidentally, the same thing goes for hiding the car key in the wheel arch… because nobody ever thought of that one. 

If something changes in life, like moving house, starting a new job, or declaring your car is off the road, tell your insurer. 

7. Mums not the word 

Be wary even if a problem is too small to prompt a claim - on any kind of cover. 

You still need to let your insurer know because failing to declare minor damage could impact future claims, even if the two things aren’t related. 

8. Changing job and moving house 

Then there’s the life admin. 

Where you live, for example, means local crime figures go into the mix for example, and your job can mean using your car in a specific way, such as distances, frequency and activities. 

So, if something changes in life - moving house, starting a new job, or declaring your car is off the road – and even if it doesn’t seem immediately relevant, like taking on a lodger or having a family member come to stay for more than a break, tell your insurer. 

That way you can be sure you’ve kept to your side of the deal and can sleep soundly once again 

9. Getting a lodger 

Finding an affordable way to own your own home can be tricky so many people decide to take on a lodger for extra cash. 

But failing to tell your home insurance provider could mean you’re not covered should you need it. Pick up the phone and let them know. 

3 things to do right now...

Check the oil, water and air pressure in the car and the smoke detectors, burglar alarms and lockable doors and windows at home. 

Tell your insurer everything if your circumstances or the condition of your insured assets have changed. 

Take a moment before you come over all Changing Rooms. Could your DIY daring do cause trouble? 

Please share this with someone who'd benefit from it.

Don’t forget that while you may think that this article is brilliant, it is intended for information purposes only and should not be mistaken for financial advice or recommendations.

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