Know your home insurance policy: Why read the small print?
How many of us are guilty of having taken out an insurance policy at some point without reading all of the small print? It may seem like a chore, but by getting to know the details of your home insurance you could avoid invalidating a claim.
For example, did you know that if a burglar manages to get into your home without using force, your insurer may not pay out on your claim? A burglar might take advantage of the fact you've left a door or window open in sunny weather, or hide a spare key outside in the garden – and then you discover you're not covered by your insurance as a result. Equally, you might unwittingly let in a bogus caller who's posing as a genuine workman but steals items from your home. And even if your policy will cover you for this kind of theft by deception, you could be caught out by another rule – since some insurance policies state that crimes must be reported to the police within 24-48 hours, but it could be longer than this before you realise anything is missing.
Here are a few things to consider:
- Don't rent out a room in your house without informing your insurance company. If you're considering taking in a lodger, call your insurer first to check this won't invalidate your policy.
- Make sure you always report any thefts to the police straight away, and take a note of the crime number for your insurance company.
- If you're out of the house or in another room, don't leave windows open or unlocked when locks are fitted.
- Never hide a spare key outside in your garden. A burglar may discover it and gain unforced access to your home, invalidating your home insurance.
- If you have a dog flap, make sure it isn't big enough for anyone to climb through.
- Make sure locks are as described on your policy, and are working properly. If you change them, let your insurer know.
- If you have a burglar alarm, use it. Your insurance company may refuse to pay out on burglary claims if they discover your alarm was switched off when it ought to have been on.
- Inform your insurance provider if you're having builders in, otherwise they could refuse to pay for a claim if the builders cause accidental damage. You may have to pay a bit extra for cover while they're working at your home.
- Secure any tools that could be used to break into your house. and never leave them out in the garden.
- If you work from home, tell you insurer. You may need to pay a bit more for insurance since providers may assume that you have more visits from people – and this presents a higher risk of theft or other claims.
- If you're going away for more than 30 consecutive days, ask a friend to stay overnight once during any 30-day stretch. Your cover could be invalid if your house is left unoccupied for longer.