You hope you never need it, but if you do, it pays to be prepared when it comes to home insurance.
It can be a costly mistake to make a claim, only to have your application knocked back because your policy was voided. Here’s our guide to making sure your home insurance policy is in shipshape.
Renew your policy
It seems obvious, but is your policy up to date? It’s the simple things that often end in the biggest tragedies and forgetting to renew your home insurance policy would be up there with the best.
Also, don’t forget to insure a property as soon as you buy it. A work colleague settled on a house on a Friday, and it burnt down on the Monday, but he had insurance, so even a truly awful situation like that ended with a new home.
Failing to maintain your home
Don’t like cleaning gutters? I mean, who does? But if you make a claim and the assessors judge you have not maintained your home to a level where the damage could have been prevented, you could be in trouble.
So, clean out those gutters and downpipes, check for any broken roof tiles and chop away any overhanging trees.
Also on the insurers’ hit list is fixing any rising damp or mould, holes in the walls and damaged steps.
This one’s a no-brainer. Regularly check your smoke alarms to see they are working and replace the batteries.
It’s a good idea to replace the batteries at an annual set time – perhaps the end of the financial year or Christmas – so you don’t lose track of when you did them last.
If you grew up like I did, with the back door opened to anyone who cared to stroll in because it would be rude to use the front door, which of course was also open, it’s time to break that habit.
Check all your locks are working, even on windows, and if you have moved into a new property, it might be worth splurging on getting them replaced. A lot of people go through a house when it’s put on the market – agents, tradies, potential buyers – so apart from the insurance angle, it may be reassuring to replace all the locks for your own peace of mind.
Leaving your home unoccupied
Going on a long holiday? That sounds like fun. Facing an extended period in hospital? Less fun, but you may need to tell your insurer either way.
If you are going to vacate your primary residence for whatever reason for an extended length of time you probably need to tell your insurance provider.
Each policy differs, but in general if your property is unoccupied for more than 60 days you may not be covered for home insurance.
Insurers view an unoccupied home as a dangerous home as there is no-one there to keep an eye on things and the level of risk for vandalism, theft and weather damage increases.
They have a point. Imagine if an internal pipe burst while you were eagerly perusing the cocktail menu at a beachside resort three countries away? How long until it is fixed and how much damage could it cause in the meantime? If you were there, it could be sorted in an hour or so. If you are in another time zone it could be days or weeks.
The good news is you can buy additional cover for any extended period of time away. Contact your insurers to discuss your options or include it in your next policy.
Proof at claim time
Some of your personal possessions are also your favourites, but just because you know your rare one-off Ming porcelain exists, doesn’t mean your insurer is going to take your word for it.
Claims assessors need to see proof, it makes them happy.
Either list any valuable items separately on the policy or be prepared to have evidence you bought it. Receipts, pictures, bank statements, valuation certificates, certificates of authenticity, or even the box it came in, can all back up your claim.
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