Money Advice Service

Having trouble figuring out which features to look out for in a buildings insurance policy? Check out this list of ‘must have’, ‘should have’ and ‘could have’ features to help you buy the right buildings insurance policy.

‘Must have’ features

‘Must have’ features A good policy will give
Sum insured – this must be enough money to clear the site and rebuild your home if it was totally destroyed by fire or flood, for example. Fixed limits of £250,000 or higher, or let you choose your own limit
If the sum insured isn’t enough to rebuild your home then your insurance company might not pay the full amount of any claim you make, even if it’s for partial damage.
Index-linked sum insured – the cost of rebuilding houses rises each year with inflation. Protecting, or index-linking your sum insured means you won’t be left underinsured. A sufficiently high enough sum to be insured to cover the cost of rebuilding the property
Alternative accommodation – covers the cost of staying somewhere else (like a hotel or rented house) while your house is being repaired if you can’t live in it following major damage like a fire or flood. £40,000 or 20% of the sum insured
Public liability – covers you for the costs of being sued if anyone dies or is injured, or their property is damaged, because of something which happens at your home. £2,000,000

‘Should have’ features

‘Should have’ features A good policy will give
Glass & sanitaryware breakage – cover for replacing windows, glass in doors, toilets and washbasins, if they are broken accidentally. Cover for glass and sanitaryware at no extra cost
The cost of replacing matching suites isn’t normally covered – if your toilet was broken the insurer would replace it, but not the bath and sink if they weren’t broken too.
Underground services – cover for the underground pipes and cables bringing water, gas and electricity to your home and sewage away from your home. Some very basic cover for accidental damage at no extra cost
However this is usually limited to specific items like a TV and will usually exclude most other contents in your home.

Accidental damage due to wear and tear, other contents in your home and sometimes damage due to DIY or building work are usually covered as an optional add on.
Blockage of sewer pipe – cover for the cost of clearing a blockage in a sewer pipe on your property. £1,000 of cover both for finding and clearing the blockage
Blockage due to the pipe collapsing, or tree roots pushing into the sewer might not be covered.
Burst pipes – cover for the cost of repairing burst pipes (this is not the same as cover for damage by the leaking water). Damage to burst pipes covered as standard
Many policies won’t cover pipes that just leak because they are old and corroded.
Tracing and accessing a leak – help with the cost of finding a leak and fixing it if it happens in your house, or underground. £5,000 of cover as standard for leaks inside and outside the home
Often the cost of finding and getting to the leak is covered, but the cost of repairing the pipe itself will not be covered.
Empty property – how long you can leave your home unoccupied (such as going away on a long holiday or for work) before your insurer restricts or removes cover for your buildings. Periods of 30 days or longer without having to notify the insurer
Your insurer might insist that you turn off the water and drain the central heating system if you are going to be away for some time.
Emergency helpline – an emergency number you can ring in the event of damage that needs to be fixed as quickly as possible. 24-hour helpline with approved repairers
Often you will have to pay the tradesmen who come to carry out emergency repairs, then claim the costs back from your insurer.

‘Could have’ features

‘Could have’ features A good policy will give
Accidental damage cover – covers you against the cost of any accidents that damage your home. Cover as standard or available as an option
Damage caused by your pets or by building work might not be covered.
Loss or theft of keys cover – if you lose your keys or have them stolen your insurer will pay to replace all the locks in your home. Cover as standard
Some insurers will only pay for this if you lose all sets of keys, or if the person who stole them knows where you live.
Legal expenses cover – cover for your personal legal expenses if you have problems such as employment disputes, bodily injury claims, etc. £50,000 of cover as standard
The insurers will not pay any legal costs that they have not agreed in advance and will usually only progress on the basis of how likely they believe your claim will be successful. Your legal expenses claim will be controlled by the insurer’s lawyers.
Legal helpline service – a helpline you can call for advice if you have a personal legal problem. A free helpline as standard
Some insurers only provide a legal helpline if you also buy their legal expenses cover.
Repairs guarantee – any repairs to your buildings will be guaranteed. A 12-month guarantee
Repairs carried out by someone you choose to do the work won’t usually be covered.

Things to watch out for

Things to watch out for A good policy will give
Buildings excess – an amount of money you have to pay towards any claim. Excesses in the range £0 to £100
Insurers often let you choose how much to pay towards claims, in return for a lower premium. If you choose a higher excess you will have to pay more for every claim. Also consider additional excesses on your policy like subsidence which can be around £1000.
Accidental damage excess – if you have accidental damage cover this is an extra excess you have to pay towards these sorts of claims. No extra excess
Escape of water excess – if your house is damaged by leaking water or baths and sinks overflowing, you might have to pay a higher excess towards the claim than the normal excess. No extra excess
Some insurers will not cover damage by overflowing baths or water damage because of poor seals around baths or showers.

Further information

If you want to work out how much cover you need, or want to know whether you need buildings insurance or not, follow one of the links below, or ask a broker.

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.