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Top 10 questions people have about contents insurance.

Insurance isn’t the best-understood thing in the world, and we know how confusing it can be. We’ve looked at the questions people have most often and come up with clear and simple answers to them.

1. How much should I value my contents at?

Okay, so we’re starting with the big one – how much are all your possessions worth? Putting a number on all your belongings is no mean feat, but a good way to start is to make an inventory of all your stuff and put down how much you paid for it. If you can’t remember, then have a look online to see what similar items are selling for. You can get a pretty good idea of how much everything’s worth using this contents calculator, and it should save you some time as well.

2. How do I value items which aren’t new, like an antique or heirloom?

Antiques and heirlooms can be very difficult, especially since they often have so much sentimental value. You can either get a professional valuation, and then use that figure (make sure you keep the documentation), or find out how much it would cost to buy an equivalent value item elsewhere.

3. Do I need legal expenses or home emergency cover?

One person’s ideal cover is another person’s nightmare – what sort of cover you go for is completely up to you. Legal expenses and home emergency can push up your premium, so it’s worth having a think about it before adding them to your policy.

Legal expenses cover will foot the bill should you go to court over something, such as if your landlord tries to evict you illegally. Legal expenses cover you for any situation where you need a lawyer, not just things related to your home.

Home emergency can really help you out if your boiler breaks, or if you find out you’ve got a vermin infestation. If you’re renting, then we recommend you check with your landlord in case they already have this included in their insurance.

4. What is an excess?

An excess is always included in your policy, and it’s basically a sum that you will have to pay before the insurance pays out. For example, if you have an excess of £250 and it will cost £1,000 to replace a stolen item, your insurer will give you £750 and you would pay your excess to cover the rest.

There are two sorts of excesses: voluntary and compulsory. You can increase or decrease your voluntary excess, the lower your excess, the higher your premium. You will only have the option to do this for certain parts of your policy, such as how much you would pay following a theft. Compulsory excesses tend to come into play for problems like escape of water, which are very common, and it means that the excess cost is non-negotiable.

5. Should I be getting contents or buildings and contents?

As a general rule, if you own your house then you want buildings and contents – this will cover the building, i.e. everything from the walls to the pipes, and your contents covers everything inside it. If you rent then you want just contents.

6. What does ‘new for old’ mean?

Most home insurers will cover you new for old, this means that no matter how old your things are, the insurance will pay you the amount it would take to buy it again new. If your TV is three years old, its price today will be considerably less than what you paid when you purchased it. If it gets stolen or damaged, a regular insurance may not cover the entire cost of the replacement. “New for old” guarantees you can always replace your equipment with a new equivalent set.

This is subject to change depending on the insurer and the item. Some items will depreciate rapidly over time, so you will sometimes get a lower return on items over a certain age. This is particularly true of bikes and phones. Rear the terms of your policy ask your insurer whether “new for old” applies to the items you’re most interested in protecting.

7. How do I know if I have the right locks?

Questions about locks can transform a simple insurance journey into a real puzzle. If your insurer is asking about locks, you’ll probably be given 3 or so options. These will be:

  • Mortice lock, with the option of regular or British Standard BS3621 approved. A common example of this is a deadlock.

  • Rim lock, a common example of this is a Yale lock, it is normally on a latch, i.e. it will lock automatically when the door closes.

  • Multipoint lock, which is most common for plastic doors leading outside

  • Any other sort of lock is most likely to be classed as ‘other’.

8. What should I do about high value or high risk items?

If you have anything worth a lot of money, or something that is particularly attractive to thieves, then you may be asked to declare it when you buy your policy. Often if something’s worth more than around £2,000 then you’ll be asked to mention it – if you want it to be covered then you have to do this.

Adding a high value item to your policy will almost definitely increase the price of your premium, however declaring a high-risk item may not change the cost at all. Again, you have to specifically mention your high-risk items for them to be covered, and they can be anything from a TV to a musical instrument.

9. Is it worth covering my phone, laptop or bike, or should I get standalone insurance?

There’s a certain convenience to having everything covered on the same policy, so if you want to get everything covered in one go then this could be the option for you.

One of the most important things to be aware of is that should you make a claim for a cracked phone screen when it’s covered with your contents insurance, then your no-claims bonus will be affected, and you’ll still have a high excess to pay. Having said that, standalone insurance can also be quite expensive, so it’s worth doing your research. You can look further into your options for phone and gadget insurance and bike insurance on these links.

10. How can I make my premium cheaper?

The million dollar question – how can I pay less for my insurance? There’s no one-size-fits-all answer, but there are little things you can do to make things work out cheaper in the long run.

Things like choosing a higher excess can sometimes make it cost less, as can not including additional cover such as accidental damage, out of home, or legal expenses cover. If you ensure that you have good locks as well as any extras like a smoke alarm, burglar alarm, and key-operated windows, then that can also help you out.

In the long-term, having a no-claims bonus will be useful, so be prudent about making claims – for example, if you’re making a claim for something quite low-cost and easily replaceable/fixable yourself, then it might be better to sort it out yourself and protect your no-claims.

Hopefully, this has covered any questions you might have had, and if not then please feel free to get in touch.

Disclaimer This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship. We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our category.

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