7 ways your home insurance could be deemed invalid

When you’ve gone to the effort and cost of getting insured, finding out you’re not covered is very frustrating. Avoid these scenarios to make sure it doesn’t happen.

When it comes to insuring possessions in your home, you need to check your policy includes all the right cover for your needs.

But more than that, you’ll need to go through the Ts and Cs with a fine-tooth comb.

Why? Policies can be riddled with exclusions. In fact, it can sometimes feel as though home insurers are trying to catch you out.

Here’s the lowdown on some common scenarios where you could fall foul of your insurance provider – and tips on how to avoid falling into those traps.

1. The wrong locks

If you think you’ve got a mortice lock – and tick this box when applying for insurance – but don’t actually have this type of lock, your policy may be voided, and you could have any claim you make turned down.

2. Ignoring your window locks

If you tell your insurer that you have window locks, but don’t use them, your insurer may declare your cover invalid.

3. Leaving the burglar alarm dormant

Similarly, if you’ve told your insurer that your flat or house is fitted with an alarm – but it wasn’t in use when a theft took place – you could have a claim declined.

4. Not securing your home carefully

If your home gets burgled, but there is no sign that force or violence has been used to gain access, your insurer may not pay out – even if it’s obvious that you have been robbed. Look out for the term “violent or forced entry” in the small print of your policy.

5. Leaving your home empty for long spells

With many insurers, if you go on an extended holiday and leave your home “unoccupied” for more than 60 consecutive days, your insurer will deem your policy invalid and any claim may be rejected. This means you not be covered for theft, malicious damage or flooding, while you are away.

Some insurers have a shorter limit of just 30 days.

6. Posting travel photos on social media

Love to post and share photos of your holidays on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram? If your home is targeted by burglars while you’re away, it could leave your insurance invalid.

Thieves will watch these sites closely in the hope of picking up information about a householder’s movements, and by sharing pictures, you are essentially advertising the fact your flat or house is empty.

If an insurer believes you were reckless in the information you give out, it could show you the red light on a claim.

7. Failing to list high-value items separately

If you have personal belongings or valuables in your home – such as watches and jewellery – which are worth more than an insurer’s “single-item limit” you’ll need to get them listed separately. Fail to do this and any claim could be unsuccessful.

For the record, most insurers impose single-item limits of £2,500 or £3,000 – although some could be as low as £1,500.

Tips to help you stay on the right side of your insurer

Firms will assess home claims on a case-by-case basis to ensure due care has been taken with keys and security, and that you have not been increasing your risk. Here are a few simple steps you can take to avoid falling foul of your insurance provider.

  • if you have window locks, make sure you use them
  • if you have a burglar alarm, ensure it is switched on when your property is unattended, and also at night
  • make sure your home is secured properly when you leave it – and even when you’re at home. This means checking all doors and windows are closed and locked

You’ll also need to ensure your house keys don’t fall into the wrong hands. (Thieves know to look under the doormat or in plant pots – they also know how to fish through the letterbox for keys stored just inside your front door.)

  • if you are going away for a prolonged period, speak to your insurer to see how long you are covered for – and whether it may be willing to cover you for all the time you are away, depending on the circumstances. You may also be able to get cover from a specialist insurer which will cover the property for longer
  • Alternatively, get a family member or friend – or house-sitter – to live in the property while you are away. But note that this will usually need to be for a substantial length of time to meet the insurer’s definition of “occupied.”
  • always take a sensible approach to sharing details of your holidays online. Check settings are locked down to family and friends only. Don’t make it clear that your home will be empty for any period of time – even if it’s just for the night
  • make sure all high-value items are listed separately on your home insurance policy.

Finally… read your policy carefully

While home insurance policy documents may be rather tedious, at least read the summary before you hand over money. This will give you the best chance of buying a policy that will pay out when you need it.

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