WHAT CONTENTS INSURANCE WILL NOT COVER YOU FOR
What is not covered under a standard Contents Insurance Policy
A standard contents insurance package may include limited accidental damage for some of your belongings, but unless you pay extra you will not be covered for all accidental damage, nor will your belongings be covered outside your home. No contents policy will cover you for:
• Your buildings – unless you buy a combined contents and buildings policy
• Theft or damage to your car, whether or not it is covered by car insurance
• Normal wear and tear
• Electrical or mechanical breakdown
• Gradual damage caused by processes like rot, woodworm, mildew and rust
• Most day-to-day pet-related damage (e.g. your cat clawing away at the upholstery)
• Catastrophes such as sonic bangs, radioactive contamination and war
• Theft and damage if your home is left unoccupied for a certain period of time (usually 30 days but sometimes longer)
• Matching items (so if one chair from a three-piece suite is damaged beyond repair, you cannot claim to replace the whole suite)
• Theft of your belongings, if you let or sub-let your property.
Theft of pets is not covered, but you can ask for this to be included. However, if your pet is particularly valuable (financially rather than emotionally), you can either ask for your contents insurance to provide cover, or you can take out specialist pet insurance
Limits on cover for high-risk items
Most policies put limits on what will be paid out for ‘high-risk’ or valuable items – those which are most likely to get stolen and cost a lot to replace, such as televisions, hi-fi and camera equipment, jewellery, works of art, clocks, watches and stamp and coin collections.
There may be a ‘single article’ limit, for example £1500, and also an overall limit for the total of your high-risk possessions, say £3000.
Alternatively, the limits may be worked out as a percentage of the total value of the belongings that you are insuring. These limits represent the most that will be paid out for these sorts of items in the event of a claim, even if the cost of replacing them is higher than the limits given in the policy.
If your valuables are worth more than the insurer’s limits, you will either have to make up the difference between what the item costs to replace and what the insurer will pay out, or pay more for a higher limit.
Optional extras – All risks contents insurance
No policy will include cover for all your belongings all the time – unless you pay for it. ‘All-risks’ cover is an industry term for an extension to your policy designed to cover other eventualities, but usually only refers to accidental damage extensions: for example, accidental damage to your belongings while they are in the home, or loss, theft or damage to your possessions when you take them out and about – or both.
The two types of cover can be sold separately, although ‘all-risks’ usually means cover for your possessions outside the home as well as inside it – you should check what is included with your insurer.
A standard policy may pay a claim for accidental damage to certain specific items in the home environment, but will not pay out if you spill wine on the carpet or break an expensive ornament.
If you want your policy to pay out in all sorts of situations, you should buy additional ‘accidental damage cover’.
This costs more because there is a greater chance of you making a claim. However, if most of your possessions would cost less to clean, repair and replace than the amount you have to pay towards any claim, or have purely sentimental rather than monetary value, then accidental damage cover is not worth buying.
Home and away cover – aslo known as personal possessions cover away from the home
Because most standard policies cover your belongings only while they are in the home, if you want cover against loss, theft or damage when you take them outside the building – including taking them abroad – you will need to buy an all-risks extension to your policy, which may be referred to as ‘contents cover away from the home’ or ‘personal possessions cover’. This is useful if you have an expensive handbag, briefcase or other luggage, or if you regularly take the following sort of items out of the house:
• Cameras and camcorders
• Expensive sports equipment
• A mobile phone (but you will not be covered for breakdown or unauthorised use)
• A bicycle (although a standard policy might cover theft of your bicycle from your home, it might not be covered elsewhere)
• A personal organiser or lap-top computer
• An expensive fountain pen
• A musical instrument (if it is very valuable you may need specialist insurance)
• Glasses or contact lenses (tell your insurer that you specifically want cover your contact lenses to avoid their exclusion)
• Special equipment that you take out of the house (e.g. if you take your sewing machine or DIY tools to an evening class)
You have to pay extra for this type of cover – and there is likely to be an overall limit on what will paid out for an all-risks claim, As well as a single item limit for each individual item covered – but it can save you money on your travel insurance, since your belongings will typically be covered for 60 days anywhere in the world (although different insurers have different limits).
An all-risks extension to your contents policy can also be cheaper than buying separate insurance for a mobile phone or contact lenses, for example.
All-risks cover will also give better cover than your car insurance for theft of items from your car – provided theft was as a result of forced entry, you had kept the objects stolen out of sight and the car was locked.