Home Insurance FAQs

Got a question about home insurance? You’re in the right place. Our home insurance FAQ will shed light on some of the sector’s most befuddling bits.

Should you increase your excess to make your policy cheaper? What happens to your policy if you forget to tell your provider about any home improvements you’ve made?

It’s definitely worth getting your head round some of the more fiddly issues. Making mistakes that leave you underinsured could cost you an arm and a leg – and you don’t want to be left holding a massive bill (in the one hand you now have left) if something goes wrong.

So scratch your head no longer because all these issues, plus many more, are answered on our frequently asked questions page.

What is home insurance?

Home insurance is a safety net that can cushion the blow when something goes amiss. What are we talking? Well, there’s fires, floods, burglary, accidental damage, storm damage – and that’s just for starters…

Policies are roughly divided into these three types of cover:

Contents– get covered for damage to your personal belongings, such as TVs and gadgets, as well as fixtures and fittings (things like carpets and curtains).
Buildings– protection for the structure of your home – for example, if your roof blew off in a storm.
Combined buildings and contents–getting your buildings and contents cover from the same provider is sometimes cheaper than separate policies from different providers. But it isn’t always the case – be sure to check both joint and single policies to find out for sure. Our comparethemarket.com search engine can help search across our panel of home providers, to give you all the information at your fingertips.

Is home insurance compulsory?

The short answer is no. Neither buildings nor contents cover is strictly compulsory in the sense that it’s a criminal offence if you don’t have it.

The longer answer is that if you have a mortgage, your lender will most likely insist you have buildings insurance in place. This is to cover the cost of a complete rebuild should something catastrophic happen to your home. So not having buildings protection in place may jeopardise both your home and your mortgage.

Contents insurance is not compulsory either, but is a very good idea. You may not think you own much of value, but imagine if there was a fire and you had to replace every single item in your home.

Do I need accidental damage cover?

Your toddler creates a marker pen masterpiece all over your dining room table. A house guest sloshes their red wine all over your cream wool carpet. You put a nail through your dining room wall, bursting a pipe in the process.

Accidental damage cover may be optional, but it can be a great idea – even if you don’t consider yourself accident-prone. As anyone who has spent time in the company of kids knows, accidents happen when you least expect it.

All providers differ on exactly what accidental damage they cover, so it’s vital you find one that provides what you need. Just make sure to familiarise yourself with the small print on each individual policy.

One standard exclusion tends to be accidents caused by pets. So if you were hoping for cover against furry friends biting through cables say, you may be out of luck.

What's the difference between buildings and contents insurance?

Imagine you could turn your house or flat upside down and shake it about a bit. Contents insurance covers everything that ends up on the floor – we’re talking carpets, furniture, jewellery, clothes and fridge freezers.

Building insurance covers everything that stays put, including fixtures like your bath. Essentially, it protects the fabric of your home against weather damage, fire, water leakage and vandalism.

What should I include in my contents insurance policy?

This is one point that’s important to get right. Underestimate and you may be left with a shortfall on your policy – meaning you get proportionally less in your payout.

So how can you be sure this doesn’t happen to you?

First, go from room to room in your house, putting a reasonable value to everything you see. Don’t go mad – overestimate and you could end up paying over the odds for your contents insurance.

Try videoing your tour of the home. Move your camera round slowly, and focus in on expensive items, such as electronics and jewellery, while you give a running commentary. It won’t win the Palme d’Or, but the evidence could prove invaluable if you make a claim.

Common things that get overlooked are children’s toys, curtains and rugs. You should also go into the garden to assess the contents of your shed. Garden equipment can be expensive to replace, plus you might also have forgotten (but pricey) sports equipment in there.

Does increasing my excess make my policy cheaper?

All home insurance policies come with a compulsory excess – the amount you have to pay towards the cost of any claim.

On top of this, you can opt to pay a voluntary excess, which may bring costs down. The temptation is to set your voluntary excess high, hoping to save a few quid on your premium. This may work in the short term, but make sure you can afford to pay this excess if you have to make a claim – or you’ll find yourself short of money before your insurer will pay out.

What changes do I need to let my provider know about and is my policy affected if I don't tell them?

You need to tell your provider about some changes to your home. Failing to notify them likely affects whether they pay out, so honesty is definitely your best policy here.

Bear in mind, if you’ve improved security (e.g. by installing a burglar alarm or fitting better locks) then letting your provider know could bring your premiums down.

If you are planning any of the following, have a chat with your provider:

- Taking in a lodger or rent out a room to students
- Making significant home improvements that affect the structure of your home, such as an extension or loft conversion
- Changing to a different type of door or window lock
- Having builders on site
- Leaving your home unoccupied for more than 30 days at a time

How can I get a quote for a property I rent?

Although it’s not compulsory, anyone who rents a property should think about getting some kind of contents cover in place, so look for a quote for tenants insurance. Don’t worry about buildings insurance though – that’s your landlord’s responsibility.

Some landlords may have their own contents insurance on the property you rent, but that’s only to cover any of their own property, such as fridges, carpets or curtains. It won’t cover anything that’s yours, such as your bike, electrical goods or clothing.

How can I get a quote for a property I own but rent out to others?

You’ll need to get some specialist cover specifically designed for landlords as your normal policy won’t be valid anymore.

Landlord’s insurance can cover a property that you own (or have a mortgage on) but that you currently let out to tenants. Not only will it cover you against damage at the property, you also have the option to get cover for missed rent payments.

Does a student contents insurance policy cover all my belongings?

It is certainly possible to cover your possessions while you’re away from home studying. The best way to go about it depends on any existing policies and your personal circumstances.

To find out the best way to go about it, and the things to think about, read our guide here.

Can I get home insurance with a criminal conviction?

Yes you can though you may find that some insurance providers won’t quote or it might cost more. Failing to disclose a conviction could invalidate your policy though so read our full guide here.

Do I have to get buildings insurance from my mortgage provider?

In a word – no. You might find that some mortgage providers include buildings insurance as part of the actual mortgage package but if they don’t, you’re under no obligation to buy cover from them. For more details see the full article here.

How much am I covered for with my home insurance?

Any limits to the financial value of your cover will be listed in your policy documentation. It is always worth checking that these levels are adequate when taking out both building and contents insurance.

For more information see our guide here.

Are bikes and musical instruments covered for students?

You can certainly get cover for your bike and any musical instrument but they won’t necessarily be covered as standard. You’ll need to check the small print and you may need to add them as ‘specified items’ on your policy.

For more information, read the full guide here.

Does my landlord need buildings insurance?

The answer to this question isn’t necessarily straightforward. Your landlord may have buildings insurance, but unless it’s a condition of an outstanding mortgage you can’t assume it’s in place as it’s not a legal requirement.

To find out more about things you should consider, read the full guide here.

When should I make a home insurance claim?

You can make a claim at any time, providing the situation and the item you want to claim for are covered in your policy. For larger claims, that’s exactly why you pay your premiums. For smaller items you may need to weigh up the pros and cons before submitting the claim.

For more details see our full article here.

Are your gadgets covered?

It is certainly possible to insure all your gadgets but don’t simply assume that your policy does so. Check your existing policy documentation to find out if you’re covered and read our full article to find out the best way to get them included.

How should I insure a property that I let to a family member?

It makes sense, irrespective of who your tenant is, to get proper landlord insurance cover. While in many ways, landlord insurance is pretty much the same as regular home insurance, there are things you should be aware of.

For more details see the full article here.

Does my home insurance cover students during term holidays?

We’d love to be definitive, but unfortunately it depends on your policy documentation. It’s worth checking the small print and if it’s still not clear, contact your insurance provider and ask.

For more details on student home insurance, see the full article here.

I live in a high-risk flood area; will this impact my home insurance?

Your insurance premium is calculated on historical claims and risk, so if your home is in a high risk flood area, you’re likely to have to pay a bit more for your policy.

For more information on flood risk and insurance, read our full article.