A guide to accidental damage and home insurance

April 19, 2022

If you try to claim on your home insurance for accidental damage you may be unpleasantly surprised to discover that ‘accidental damage’ is not covered by your home policy.

Accidental damage insurance is very often not included, as standard, on most home insurance policies or, if it is, there are strict limitations on the types of accidental damage covered.

To have this specific type of cover in full you will typically need to pay an extra fee to have this cover as an extra ‘add-on’ to your standard home policy.

Here we fully explore what accidental damage home insurance covers or doesn’t cover, how much it typically costs, what to look out for when buying it and how to go about making a claim.

KEY TAKEAWAYS

Accidental damage insurance:

  • is not included, as standard, on most home insurance policies
  • only covers unforeseen accidents, not general wear and tear, breakdowns and faults
  • does not cover malicious or intentional damage
  • can easily be added on to home contents, home buildings, or combined contents and buildings insurance as an add-on
  • can be difficult to claim for if a policy’s terms are not strictly adhered to

Water falling into bucket

What is accidental damage?

Accidental damage means an unforeseen, unintentional and sudden event from an outside force - such as accidentally drilling through a water pipe or spilling a tin of paint on your carpet - has accidentally and unintentionally caused irreparable damage to your property or its contents.

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What is malicious damage meaning vs accidental damage?

The difference between accidental damage and malicious damage is that when something has been ‘maliciously damaged’, the perpetrator was being vindictive, spiteful and full of malice and intentionally caused property damage.

Malicious damage is NOT covered by accidental damage insurance.

Malicious damage can include actions such as someone deliberately punching a hole in a door, smashing up furniture, painting graffiti on the walls or smashing windows.

Malicious damage by tenants insurance is popular with landlords.

What does accidental damage cover?

What’s covered depends on the type of policy: cover under a contents policy is different from what’s covered by a buildings policy.

Note: You should always check your house insurance policy’s terms and conditions to check whether you have accidental damage cover as only 21% of contents policies on Defaqto (out of 357 contents policies) have this cover included and 76% of insurers offered this cover as an optional add-on.

Accidental damage contents insurance: what’s covered

A contents policy with accidental damage typically covers:

  • Household items, valuables and personal belongings
    • in your home
    • outside of your home within your property’s boundaries
    • while moving house using a professional removal service
    • outside of the home (if you also have personal possessions cover)

Accidental damage buildings insurance: what’s covered

A buildings insurance policy with accidental damage usually covers:

  • unintentional, unforeseen damage caused to or by a building such as
    • damage caused by children
    • blocked pipes or septic tanks
    • broken cables, pipes or wires
    • damage caused by a fall through the attic floor
    • broken keys or locks
    • broken glass in doors or windows
    • solar panels
    • bathroom fittings such as washbasins, baths, toilets, showers or baths

Note: If a single unexpected and sudden outside event causes damage to your property’s contents such as melting, scorching or heat distortion, you may be covered.

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What does accidental damage NOT cover?

You should always check the terms and conditions (small print) of a policy to check exactly what’s excluded from cover.

For example, pet damage is very often not covered or personal possessions that are in storage, and there can also be caps on the amount you can claim.

Generally, the following are not covered:

  • general wear and tear
  • water ingress (except if caused by floods or storms)
  • pests (mice, insects, etc)
  • electrical failure/breakdown
  • fungus
  • faulty building work or use of substandard building materials
  • pet damage (such as chewed or scratched furniture)
  • damage caused by lodgers or fee-paying guests
  • gadgets outside of the home
  • damage caused while a property was left empty for 30 days or more
    matching sets: only the damaged item will be covered so a replacement item may not match (i.e. a three-piece suite) - some policies may have ‘matching set cover’ so make sure you check if you want ‘matching set cover’ included

You might like: Informing home insurance provider about pets

How much does accidental damage home insurance cost?

According to MoneySuperMarket data, the average annual amount you can expect to pay is around:

  • £168 for combined building and contents insurance with accidental cover
  • £149 for buildings only insurance with accidental cover
  • £142 for contents only insurance with accidental cover
  • £127 for accidental damage insurance only and no contents or buildings insurance

Of course, these figures are not conclusive as insurance costs will widely vary, depending on if you’ve claimed before, your excess amount, how you choose to pay (annually or monthly) and the value of cover you want or need.

To get the cheapest and best deals, you should always shop around and compare quotes - and don’t forget to check for exclusions or cover limitations in a policy’s terms.

Find a great deal on home insurance with accidental damage cover today

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How to claim for accidental damage on home insurance

  1. Check your policy to see if you’re covered
  2. Consider whether making a claim could be financially counterintuitive (e.g. paying your excess, losing your no claims bonus and having more expensive premiums may work out more expensive than paying out of your own pocket)
  3. If you are covered and decide it’s financially viable to make a claim because the cost of replacement or repair is unaffordable, you should immediately contact your insurer to notify them
  4. If necessary, ask your insurer to fund urgent temporary repairs to stop more damage from occurring; don’t arrange any works yourself until you’ve spoken to your insurer
  5. Where possible, dig out invoices or receipts for damaged items and keep notes of conversations you have with your insurer and receipts for any repairs
  6. Don’t throw away any damaged items and take photographs of all damage caused
  7. Complete a claim form - your insurer will tell you how to do this

As this type of claim can be a ‘grey area’, not all claims for accidental damage will be successful and you may either need to appeal against your insurer’s decision or even escalate your claim to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).

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What if my claim is rejected?

  1. If your insurer rejects your claim, find out why (ask your insurer) and tell your insurer why you think their reasons for rejection are not valid.
  2. If your insurer still refuses to process a claim, you should raise a formal complaint with your insurer in writing, supply evidence such as photos and receipts, and let your insurer know what you expect them to cover.
  3. If your insurer fails to respond within eight weeks or if they do respond, but you’re still not satisfied with their response, you can escalate your complaint to the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS).
  4. The FOS will fully consider your claim and the terms of your policy to assess if your insurer is acting fairly.

Types of complaints the FOS usually has to deal with are because

  • the insurer says the damage wasn’t accidental
  • the policy doesn’t specifically cover the incident
  • despite the damage being accidental, there is an exclusion in the policy’s terms that makes the claim invalid (i.e. wear and tear)
  • the insurance policy didn’t include cover for accidental damage
  • the policyholder didn’t pay for an add-on to their policy to include this type of cover
  • the policyholder did pay for extra cover but the accident still wasn’t covered
  • the insurer disputes that there was an accident or says there was no damage

The FOS may uphold your complaint if they think your insurer didn’t sufficiently draw your attention to an exclusion and if you would have been better off if you’d known about this exclusion before the incident happened.

Your questions answered:

Are portable electrical items covered?

No, not usually. Most insurers will stipulate in their policy terms that anything ‘portable’ (i.e. that can be used away from home on battery or solar polar) is not covered and that ‘extra accidental damage cover’ or ‘personal possessions cover’ is necessary for such items.

What electrical items are covered?

Any electrical item that is not portable such as a TV, digital or satellite receiver, gaming device, home computer or audio equipment, as long as the damage was accidental and something didn’t simply stop working due to its age or wear and tear. You’ll note that a laptop isn’t mentioned as it’s a ‘portable item’ so if you specifically want laptop cover, check with your insurer how to get this covered.

Note: If you want cover for when an item breaks down, you will need to take out separate insurance (i.e. niche TV accidental damage insurance will cover your TV breaking down or consider gadget insurance).

Are DIY accidents covered?

Yes, usually; however it depends on the nature of the work. You should avoid doing DIY that requires a qualified professional such as electrical wiring or plumbing works. Insurers will not usually pay out for shoddy workmanship or damage caused by using poor quality building materials.

Is accidental cover worth it?

It can be as of course your property or its contents could potentially sustain thousands of pounds worth of damage. If you have young children and/or are accident-prone, and you have high-value, high-end furniture, ornaments and soft furnishings around your home, then accidental cover will likely be worth it. However, avoid making a claim for less costly damage as by the time you’ve paid your excess and lost your no claims, you could end up worse off.

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Damage occurred when I wasn’t at home - am I covered?

Yes, as long as you did not leave your property unoccupied for a long period of time (usually this period is confirmed in your policy schedule and is around 30 days), then you should be covered as long as you meet the other claim eligibility criteria stipulated in your policy’s terms. If you plan to be away from home for more than 30 days, you should consider taking out temporary home insurance.

Is all pet damage excluded?

Yes, usually. And if pet damage is included, most insurers will not cover pet damage such as chewing, scratching, tearing, vomiting or fouling.

Will I be covered anywhere in the world?

No, not usually. For worldwide cover, you will typically need to take out extra personal belongings (or personal possessions) cover. Alternatively, you could see what cover you can get from a travel insurance policy or consider niche types of cover such as jewellery insurance or gadget insurance.

Find a great deal on home insurance with accidental damage cover today

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