Invalidating your home insurance can be surprisingly easy. Forgetting to set your house alarm or close a downstairs window when you go out, may be all it takes for insurers to refuse to pay out if you’re burgled.
When you make changes to your home or lifestyle, such as taking in a lodger to boost your income, or starting up a small business from your kitchen table, this can also have an impact on home insurance.
You obviously want to protect your biggest asset as far as possible, so what other instances or events might invalidate your home insurance policy?
Time away from the property
Most insurers stipulate a maximum number of days you can be away from your property during the policy term. This is commonly 30 days, but can vary between insurers. Some insurance companies impose further restrictions on the number of days you can be away during the winter months, unless you maintain a specific temperature in your home in order to prevent burst water pipes.
Failing to report any changes
Forgetting to notify your insurers of any changes, either to the property itself or to your own circumstances, could invalidate the policy. Alterations such as new windows or doors, changing the type of locks on the property, or changes to any of the personal information you originally provided, should all be reported to your insurance company.
Exaggerating the value of your items
Misrepresenting the value of individual items specified in your home contents insurance policy could leave you uninsured if damage or loss occurred. It’s important not to deliberately exaggerate the value of jewellery, artwork, or rare collectibles, for example, but you also want to ensure you have sufficient cover. Some insurers offer a contents calculator to help you arrive at an accurate valuation for the items specified in this way.
You should check your policy if you’re thinking of carrying out any upgrades or renovations to your home. Failing to inform the insurer could invalidate the policy, leaving you open to expensive repairs if you or your builders cause damage when extending or otherwise structurally altering the building.
Although your insurer probably won’t want to know if you’re doing some DIY at the weekend, should you cause damage to your property as a result – drilling through a water pipe, for example – they may decide not to pay out. Obtaining the services of a professional may be a good idea if you’re a DIY novice or particularly accident-prone – either way, it’s worthwhile checking the policy before you search for that drill.
You may also want to be careful about posting on social media the fact that you’re away from home, particularly if it’s a long trip. Insurance companies are reportedly starting to look at social media accounts to analyse the risk posed by their customers, and could potentially see that you’re away for more than the stipulated number of days. Apart from which, depending on your security settings, you could be advertising to the world that your home is currently empty.