Your home is probably the most expensive asset you’ll ever own so it’s crucial that, if anything was to go wrong, you’d be covered by your home insurance policy.
But there are a number of things (some of them quite common) that could result in your policy being invalid/void and your home insurance provider refusing to pay out, leaving you with nothing.
Here’s a list of 10 things which could invalidate your home cover.
#1 – Leaving your home unoccupied
Whether you’re going backpacking in the Himalayas or working away from home, if there is nobody living in your home consistently for an extended period of time, you could be at risk of invalidating your home insurance policy.
A standard, 2-week holiday is okay, but if you’re expecting to be away for any longer than 30 days then you’ll need to let your insurer know in advance.
This is because, while you’re away, your home is more likely to be burgled – there would also be nobody present to identify any minor issues with your home which, when left unattended, could escalate and cost thousands of pounds to fix.
An unoccupied home insurance (or unoccupied property insurance) policy add-on will be offered to you by most home insurers, so get in touch with your provider to see what they can offer. Alternatively, you can purchase short-term home insurance from another provider if they offer a cheaper deal – just make sure you read the terms and conditions to ensure your cover doesn’t exclude any major incidents.
How long can I leave my house unoccupied?
This will depend on the specifics of your policy, but most providers set a limit of 30 days.
#2 – Sharing holiday selfies
This one may seem a bit controversial, but does posting on social media invalidate your home insurance? Well, the answer isn’t really clear.
While most home insurance policies will not specifically state: “you must not upload a picture of yourself with a cocktail on a sunny beach in Spain”, it will insist that you take ‘reasonable care’ in your efforts to prevent your home from being targeted.
Whether disclosing to the world that your home is currently unoccupied is classed as failing to take reasonable care is at the discretion of your insurer, but we advise that you keep your selfies off of social media until you get home – perhaps send them to the family group chat, instead.
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#3 – Home renovations
If you’ve decided to spice up your house by installing some new fitted wardrobes or putting up some new curtains, your insurer will not need to know.
If you’re going to the expense of building a conservatory or extension, though, then your insurer will need to be informed. This is because you will likely require additional buildings insurance to cover the increased value of your property.
On the topic of renovations, some insurers will void your contents insurance if valuables go missing while builders are in your home. No matter how much you trust the builders working on your home, you should lock away any expensive items you have (within reason, your TV should be safe) because most home insurance policies require evidence of forced entry before paying out for theft.
#4 – Getting a pet – does home insurance cover dog bites?
When you first take out a home insurance policy, you might be given the option to declare whether or not you have any pets. This is because damage caused by dogs, cats and other domestic animals can be expensive and is not usually covered by a standard home insurance policy – even an ‘accidental damage’ add-on would be unlikely to cover you.
If you let your insurer know that you have a pet, however, then you’ll probably be okay – although, you might see a slight increase in cost.
You should also ask your home insurance provider about liability cover in the event that your pet was to injure somebody – some will pay out when there is a claim made against you for a dog bite.
Another issue that your home insurance provider may have with you owning a pet is their access to the property, specifically via a cat or dog flap. Not all insurers would see this change as enough to invalidate your cover, but it’s definitely worth checking.
#5 – Failing to report a minor incident
Even if you don’t need to make a home insurance claim, it is wise to let your insurer know when an incident occurs within your home or garden.
Minor damage to your property might not seem significant at the time, but weeks, months or even years down the line, it could be the basis of a much more serious claim.
#6 – Misjudging the value of your home contents insurance
Calculating the value of the contents within your home can seem like a daunting task, but it’s a really important one.
Over-estimating the value of your contents could land you in trouble with your insurer, who may refuse to pay out if they feel that you have purposely inflated your home insurance claim to get a larger payout. On the other hand, underestimating how much your contents is worth could leave you feeling short-changed if you need to make a claim.
As a rough guide, the average value of household contents in the UK is £35,000, but this figure can vary.
#7 – Getting a lodger
Whether you’re temporarily renting out a room on Airbnb or looking for a more permanent tenant, your home insurance provider might refuse to pay out unless you explain the situation to them in full.
After all, trusting somebody else to look after your home and contents as well as you is not always easy and if your property is damaged while somebody else is living there (even if they weren’t involved), it could result in your insurance provider declining your claim.
Some providers offer cover for partially rented properties, so be sure to discuss this with your insurer before letting out a room.
#8 – Working from home
Whether you’re taking advantage of flexible working hours or lowering the overheads that come with working from a dedicated workplace, you may decide to work from the comfort of your own living room, kitchen or bed – but one question you need to ask yourself is: “am I insured to work from home?”
If you regularly work from home then your insurer will want to know about it, but if your main place of work is elsewhere and you only work from home from time-to-time then you should be covered – however, we’d suggest disclosing this as well, just to be safe.
If you have visitors to your home for business purposes, you may also want to enquire about liability insurance.
#9 – Keeping doors and windows unlocked
This almost goes without saying, but keeping your doors and windows unlocked is one major reason that home insurance providers refuse to pay out.
Typically speaking, you’ll struggle to make a claim on your home and contents insurance policy if you’ve been a victim of theft when a burglar has simply let themselves in at the front door. Most policies will insist that you take ‘reasonable care’ in looking after your property and leaving your doors and windows open is failing to do this.
If there is no evidence of forced entry then your insurer could be within their rights to refuse your claim, so keep doors and windows locked and be careful where you leave your spare keys.
#10 – Waiting to call 999
If you’re unfortunate enough to be targeted by burglars, you’ll want to contact the police as soon as physically possible.
Not only will they be able to assist you during a traumatic time, but it will help when you go to claim on your insurance – failing to contact authorities could give your provider reason to mark your claim as ‘suspicious’ and, while it is rare that this would completely invalidate your cover, it might take them longer to pay out.
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