Contents insurance

Contents insurance

While buildings insurance covers damage or loss to your actual home, content insurance covers the cost of replacing your belongings. This could be anything from your furniture to that DVD collection you haven’t gotten around to selling.

What counts as ‘contents’?

If you’re not sure what’s covered, look at it this way: if you were moving home, what would you take with you?

Generally your contents insurance will cover:

  • Furniture (e.g. sofas, wardrobes etc.)
  • Electronic equipment (e.g. radios, computers)
  • Soft furnishings (e.g. curtains)
  • Kitchen items (including electronic and non-electronic items)
  • Clothes
  • Jewellery
  • Items like CDs and games
  • Ornaments.

Depending on your policy, you might also be covered for items that you take out of the home, like your mobile and your bag. This is known as personal possessions cover. Check with your insurance provider to see if this is included and what the rules are. It might add more to your premium, but it could be very useful if you’re prone to dropping your phone!

What am I covered for?

You’ll usually be covered if your contents are:

  • Damaged or destroyed
  • Stolen

Bear in mind that stolen items will usually require a police report, and you may have to demonstrate that the damage or theft wasn’t your fault. 

If any of your contents need replacing, your insurer will usually operate a ‘new for old’ policy, which means they’ll pay the cost of replacement for anything that’s stolen or damaged. Check the small print through, because some insurers might only give you what the item was worth at the time is was stolen or damaged, which could be considerably less than you originally paid for it.

If you have a shed full of DIY equipment or valuable gardening tools, check to see if those are covered too. Your insurer might want to see proof that your shed is well secured first.

Accidental damage

There’s also something called accidental damage, which is when you unintentionally cause damage to your own contents. This could be anything from ripping the arm of your new sofa (oops) to trailing paint over your carpet. This isn’t usually a part of your cover, so you’ll have to pay extra if you want to be protected from mishaps/

What am I not covered for?

You’re unlikely to be automatically covered for damage caused by children or pets – that counts as accidental damage.

If you have visitors, it’s unlikely they’ll be covered either. So if they bring a laptop which is stolen during a break-in, they won’t be able to claim on your contents insurance.

How will the insurer calculate the value of my contents?

Good question. While it’s easy to work out how much your actual home is worth, contents are another question altogether. After all, most of us purchase and dispose of things regularly, and it would be impossible to calculate how much every single item is worth.

To get around that, most insurers will calculate the value of your contents in one of three ways:

  • By number of bedrooms. Your insurer will decide how much cover you get based on how many bedrooms your home has.
  • With sum insurance they’ll ask you to calculate how much cover you need yourself.
  • Unlimited sum insurance means there’s no limit to how much you’re covered for, so you don’t have to worry about the size of your claim.

However your cover is calculated you’ll often be asked to specifically name high-value items, e.g. precious antiques.

Help! I’m a tenant. Do I need contents insurance?

Unlike buildings insurance, your landlord is unlikely to have given you contents insurance that covers your personal possessions. However, it’s their responsibility to cover the furniture if the property comes furnished.

If you want to cover your own possessions and you’re renting the entire property, you can get contents insurance in much the same way as anyone else. If you live in a shared house (i.e. you’re renting a room) you can get cover just for your own room, although you’ll usually have to prove that you have a decent lock on the door, and that it was forced open in the event of theft.

If you and the other tenants decide to insure the whole home together, remember that one claim affects all of you. Even if one person claims for something stolen from them, if you’re on the same policy, your premium will go up too – so think carefully about a shared policy.

A note on home working

If you work from home on equipment provided by your company (like a laptop), it’s probably not covered by your own contents insurance. As long as your employer still owns the equipment, damage and loss to it should be covered by them. Hopefully you won’t spill that cup of tea on your keyboard, but it’s best to check how you’re covered just in case!

Chat to your insurance broker about the kind of cover you need and they’ll help you choose the best deal. Easy!

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