Avoid These Insurance Traps!
What are the traps insurers use to trip you up - and how can you spot a great home insurance policy?
The days are getting darker, the nights are getting colder and the burglars are getting better at sneaking in through your window.
According to HSBC, burglaries committed by forced entry increase by 21% in winter, resulting in one forced entry to a UK property every 60 seconds. And you won't exactly be singing "Tis the season to be jolly" if your home insurer refuses to pay up, citing something in the small print you failed to spot when you took out the policy.
To ensure this doesn't happen to you, watch out for these sneaky clauses and traps when buying home insurance:
Guard your garden
Approximately one in 10 insurance policies exclude the contents of your garden, such as garden furniture, children's bikes and trampolines, for loss or damage through theft, storm and flooding. Check whether there is a `contents in the open' exclusion in your policy and what level of cover you have for such contents.
Sneaky tricks some insurers will use to trip you up include only covering items which are `normally' left out in the open within the boundaries of your garden, such as garden furniture, statues and -- my personal favourite -- gnomes, while excluding items such as barbecues, stereos and other items you would take outside for a specific purpose, such as a party.
Green-fingered homeowners should also take note: the majority of insurers do not cover the cost of replacing damaged or lost plants in your garden and offer little cover for theft of possessions stored in an outbuilding, garden shed or garage.
What's more, you are likely to find that anything outside the boundaries of your property is not included - so promise me you will be careful where you position those gnomes.
Protect your possessions
The most popular items targeted by thieves over the past five years were mobile phones (44%), wallets (25%) cameras (8%) and MP3 players (6%), according to a survey by Halifax. You are unlikely to be covered for theft, loss or damage to these items outside the home and so will need to add `personal possessions cover' to your existing policy to gain extra protection.
It's also worth bearing in mind that many insurers will not pay up if a valuable item worth over £1,000 is not specifically listed on your home insurance policy.
Ensure you're insured
Nearly six million Brits are under-insured, according to Abbey. Why? Because many homeowners mistakenly assume that, when deciding the level of cover they need, they should only assess the value of the items they would want or need to replace.
Few people realise that you're actually supposed to insure your home for the total value of all the belongings inside it. If, after you have made a claim, the insurer decides to survey your home and finds that you have under-insured your belongings, it may refuse to pay out the full cost of replacing your damaged or stolen possessions.
And the winner is...
Here at The Fool, we like to look on the bright side - even as regards insurance companies. So now you know the traps to avoid, here's a brief breakdown of some plus-points to look out for when choosing a policy:
- Wedding cover. If you are planning to get married this year, look for a policy that offers a temporary increase in the contents sum insured after a wedding, so all those expensive gifts will be fully insured.
- Student cover. If your son or daughter is at university, instead of buying them separate insurance, you could opt for a policy that will insure their belongings as well as your own. Insurers like Lloyds TSB, esure, More Th>n and Norwich Union offer students cover for up to £5,000 worth of possessions or 15% of the sum insured on their parents' policy, at no extra charge.
- Free legal expenses cover. This insurance covers the cost of employing solicitors and barristers to resolve legal disputes.
- Seasonal increase. Some insurers will automatically apply a 10% seasonal increase over Christmas to reflect the extra cover needed when there are presents under the tree.
- Fridge and freezer contents. Some insurers will cover the cost of replacing the contents of your fridge and freezer if, for example, there is a power cut or the appliance breaks down.
So there you have it: the tricks, the traps and, best of all, some treats insurers will use to lure you into their clutches.
Now, if you'll excuse me, I need to go and strategically re-position my gnomes.