Home insurance: what you can't claim for

There are a lot of misunderstandings about what is covered for by a home insurance policy. Here are some of the main costs you can't claim for.

Home insurance will protect us against theft, storm, flood, fire and even, to varying degrees, against accidental damage. However, it does come with lots of exclusions.

You have to keep up with the upkeep

One of the main exclusions is maintenance. Any maintenance work is not covered by home insurance.

Legal & General recently found that one person in ten admits they don't understand what maintenance really means. Of those people who say they do understand it, apparently one in ten still misunderstand it in some circumstances. This means at least a fifth of us might be surprised to have a home insurance claim rejected.

One in five believes that we can claim on our insurance to check or replace roofing under any circumstances. This is not true. If a roof is suffering gradual wear and tear, perhaps due to frequent heavy rain, you have to pay to maintain the roof yourself.

On the other hand, if the roof is damaged in what's called a 'definable event', such as a fire or storm, you should then be able to make a claim to repair the roof.

What is a 'definable event'?

Ongoing damage must come from a definable event such as a storm or a flood in order to be able to make a successful claim on a home insurance policy.

Yet more than one in ten of us believes we can claim on our insurance to treat damp on an interior wall. However, you can't claim for condensation or rain penetration that builds up to a patch of damp. If, on the other hand, a major storm caused a leak, you could claim for the repairs.

Another example of a maintenance problem you can't claim for is fixing a leaking pipe. You might only be able to claim for that if you can show it was caused by ice, rather than lack of maintenance, but even then not always.

Some people also believe they can claim for a blocked drain, which is also usually a maintenance issue, and therefore not claimable.

Other exclusions

Those are the big exclusions that are most often misunderstood. There are other exclusions to be aware of:

  • You can't claim the full cost of repairs if you've not insured your home for the full amount. Let's say the full rebuild cost of your home is £100,000 and you've insured it for £75,000. If you want to claim for £10,000 of damage, your insurer will pay just £7,500, minus your excess.
  • You can't claim for faulty workmanship and mechanical breakdown.
  • You can't normally claim for damage to hedges, gates and fences, although you might be able to claim for damage to garden walls, provided the main building was damaged at the same time – and the damage comes from a single, identifiable event.
  • You might not be allowed to claim, or to recover the full costs, if you don't notify your insurer immediately when you notice damage from a claimable event.
  • Legal & General points out the need for renters to tell their landlords immediately when they notice a problem. If you leave it to get worse, it might not be covered by your landlord's insurance. If your tenancy contract states you must let the landlord know immediately and you haven't done so, you could theoretically be made to pay some of the costs.
  • You might not be able to claim if you've not informed your insurer about something important, such as the fact a tree is near your house. (Tree roots can damage the building and the tree itself can do so during a storm.)

To protect yourself from large repair bills and higher insurance premiums in future, you need a combination of regular inspection and maintenance repairs as soon as you see your home needs it – paid for by yourself.

You can get some tips on maintenance that will help prevent costly disasters on page 10 of the Association of British Insurers' Guide to Home Buildings and Contents Insurance.

More on home insurance

Compare home insurance policies and get the best deal for you

25 ways to cut your home insurance

The best home insurance companies for customer service

How to claim on your insurance after a flood


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