Contents insurance is a type of home insurance that provides cover for items and belongings in your house, rather than the building itself. This includes things like furniture, kitchen appliances, electronics, clothes, and jewellery.
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What is covered by contents insurance?
It can sometimes be difficult to define exactly what ‘contents’ means, but as a general rule, if you can pick it up and take it with you, it counts as contents. For example, a toaster or your kettle are clearly contents, but your kitchen cabinets are fixed in place, so would usually be counted as part of the building.
While most items will clearly fall into the category of contents, every policy is different and you should always check what’s listed to make sure you have the cover you need.
You should also check exactly what events are covered by your policy, and when your possessions would be insured, such as:
- Theft (including damage caused by attempted theft)
- Flood damage
- Storm damage
- Fire damage
- Burst pipes
Who needs contents insurance?
Generally, if you rent your home from a landlord then contents insurance is best for you. You only need full building insurance if you own your home. Contents insurance isn’t something you need by law, but without it you have no protection for your possessions should something happen.
For example, if a pipe burst and flooded your home, you’d have to find the money to replace damaged possessions yourself.
How much cover do I need?
Home contents cover is worked out as an overall amount – known as the ‘sum insured’. This is the maximum amount of money you would get for all the items in your home.
To work out how much you should be insured for, go through every room in your home and note down each item and how much it would cost to replace it. It can be a time-consuming job but once it’s done you can rest assured that you’ll be covered for the worst-case scenario. You should also make sure you’re noting down values as a cost to replace, not how much you bought something for years ago.
Don’t forget things that are easy to overlook like pictures, rugs, cushions, and items in your garden or any outbuildings. Remember, garden contents are not always covered by a standard policy so always check with your chosen provider before purchasing.
Content insurance extra features
Many home contents insurance providers give you optional extras that you can add to your policy, allowing you to tailor your insurance to what you need.
- Accidental damage – such as if you spilled water over your laptop or broke the TV.
- Frozen food cover – in case you need to replace frozen food after a power cut.
- Personal possessions cover – protects belongings if you take them out and about such as your smartphone, handbag or tablet.
- New for old cover – replaces items with brand new ones. For example, if your sofa was damaged by fire, new for old cover would mean it was replaced by a new one (either the same as the one damaged or one of the same value). The opposite of new for old is ‘indemnity cover’ which only pays out for items taking into account wear and tear. For instance, if your damaged sofa cost £2,000 five years ago, your provider may only give you £300 considering its age.
- Home emergency – covers unexpected household emergencies such as burst pipes, boiler breakdowns, blocked drains or roof damage. Home emergency cover differs by provider so what’s included under one policy might not be covered by another, which is why it’s so important to always check the terms set out in each individual policy. In many cases, providers have their own preferred tradespeople so if you have a household emergency, you’ll be expected to call their helpline first. For example, using a plumber without the helpline’s approval could invalidate your policy which means your provider can refuse to pay out.
- Legal expenses – can cover a wide range of events so always check what your policy includes. For example, it could cover property disputes, or disputes that arise when you buy, sell or move home. Some policies will even cover legal costs if you’re the subject of a property-related tax investigation.
How can I get cheaper home contents cover?
The most important thing is always to get the right cover for your needs, but we also know you want the best value possible. To get the best value, think about:
- Paying for your premium in one go – which will save on interest and admin fees.
- Increasing your voluntary excess – a higher excess usually gives you a lower premium but make sure you can afford it because you’ll need to pay it for a claim to go ahead.
- Combining your buildings and contents cover – if you’re a homeowner buying a combined policy from the same provider could be cheaper than two standalone policies (but always compare to be sure).
- Investing in security – some providers will give you discounts if your home is particularly secure.
Top Home Insurance FAQs:
- Do I need home insurance?
Neither buildings insurance nor contents insurance are actually legally required so, technically, no you don’t need them. However, some mortgage providers will require you to have at least buildings insurance before lending you money to make sure that their loan is protected and, without home insurance, you run the risk of being responsible for the full cost of any repairs your home needs after a serious incident like a fire.
Especially if you own your home, getting home insurance is a sensible decision to make sure you’re not caught out unprotected in the event of a disaster.
- Is theft covered by home insurance?
This will vary from provider to provider but, generally, theft of your belongings will be covered by contents insurance. Following the general rule that contents insurance is to cover your possessions while buildings insurance insures you for damage to the structure of your home, standalone buildings insurance typically won’t include coverage for theft.
- What does accidental damage mean?
Again, the definition of accidental damage varies depending on who you choose to take a home insurance policy with. In most cases, however, accidental damage cover will protect you against damage that’s caused suddenly by non-deliberate actions. This could include knocking over a glass of wine and ruining your carpet, drilling into your wall and hitting a pipe, or even a toddler bumping into your TV and causing it to topple and break.
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