Money Advice Service

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

‘Must have’ features

‘Must have’ features A good policy will give
Valuables in total – items of particular value (such as jewellery, watches gold or silver, works of art, cameras, TVs, computers, etc) will be covered for loss or damage, if you have to make a claim. £12,000 or more
Usually there’s an overall limit on the amount your insurance company will pay for ‘high risk items’. These are usually items such as jewellery, pieces of art, watches and lap tops.
Valuables – single item limit – this is a limit on the value of any one valuable item (such as a piece of jewellery or a painting, for example). £1,500 or more
If you have any high risk items worth more than this, you’ll need to insure it separately or you risk it not being covered.
Money in the home – this will cover any cash that you keep at home against theft or damage. £500 or more
Credit cards are not covered – cover for these is separate.
Freezer contents – if your fridge or freezer fails or breaks down and food is spoiled, this covers you for the costs of replacing the contents. £300 or more
Loss or damage caused by a deliberate act by your electricity provider (or its employees) is not covered.
Contents in the open – provides cover for loss or damage to contents left outside but within the boundaries of your home. We recommend taking out separate insurance for items such as garden furniture and ornaments. £500 or more
Plants or shrubs are not covered.
Theft from outbuildings – covers contents kept in a garage or outbuilding. £2,000 or more
Loss or damage if your home has been unoccupied for a stated period of time will often not be covered.
Personal liability – covers any amounts you might legally have to pay in the event of a claim made against you for accidental injury to someone or loss or damage to their property. £2 million
Tenants’ liability (if you’re a tenant) – if you are a tenant this covers you against any legal responsibility for loss or damage to the landlord’s fixtures and fittings. £10,000 or more

‘Should have’ features

‘Should have’ features A good policy will give
Accidental damage – covers you against the cost of accidents that might damage the contents of your home. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard
Damage by pets is not usually covered.
Loss of water – if you suffer an accidental leak then this will cover the cost of the metered water you have lost as a consequence. £1,000 or more
Cover is not always included as standard and so you might have to pay an extra premium to include it.
Index-linked sum insured (sum insured protection) – the cost of replacing your contents on a ‘new for old’ basis rises each year with inflation. Protecting your sum insured means you won’t be left underinsured. Index linking or a high fixed sum insured of £50,000 or more
But if the amount of cover you choose isn’t enough to replace your contents on a ‘new for old’ basis, your insurance company might not pay the full amount of any claim you make.
Special events increase – during certain special events such as Christmas or a wedding, you are likely to have more contents within your home than usual. Where special events cover is in place, the insurer will automatically increase your contents sum insured. Cover for at least Christmas or other religious events, with typical limits of £3,000 or £10% of contents sum insured.
Personal possessions – provides cover for your personal possessions whilst they are outside of the home. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard
You should check whether the policy applies a limit to the number of days when cover is provided within the policy year.
Legal expenses – if you have personal legal problems arising from things like property or employment disputes, bodily injury claims, etc, this covers your legal expenses. The choice of adding it to your policy or including it as standard
Your insurance company will not pay any legal costs that they have not agreed in advance.
Repairs guaranteed – the insurance company guarantees any repairs to your contents. A guarantee on all work
Repairs carried out by someone you choose to do the work would not be covered.
Emergency repairs helpline – provides you with a 24-hour helpline that you can call in the event of an emergency. 24-hour emergency helpline

‘Could have’ features

‘Could have’ features A good policy will give
Plants in garden – covers you for loss or damage caused by perils listed (such as fire, malicious acts or theft) to plants, trees, shrubs and lawns. Single – £500 or more
Loss or damage to trees, shrubs, plants or lawns dying naturally or because you haven’t looked after them properly won’t be covered.
Loss or theft of keys – if you were to lose your keys or have them stolen then this will cover the cost of replacing the locks. 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.
Business equipment – provides cover for your office equipment used in connection with your job, for example, computers, printers and furniture. If you work from home, it is a good idea to tell your insurer, so that they can make sure you have the appropriate level of cover. £3,000 or more
Business stock or materials would not usually be covered.

Things to watch out for

Things to watch out for A good policy will give
Contents excess – an amount of money you have to pay towards any claim. A standard excess less than £100
Insurance companies often let you choose a higher excess in return for a lower premium. If you choose a higher excess you will have to pay more for every claim.
Accidental damage excess – if you have accidental damage cover this is an extra excess you have to pay towards those sorts of claims. No extra excess

Further information

The tables above set out what to look for, but if you want to know whether you need contents cover or not, or if you want to work out much cover you need, follow one of the links below:

This article is provided by the Money Advice Service.