08 October 2015

Top tips to keep your home insurance valid

From taking a long holiday to forgetting to set the burglar alarm, there are more ways of invalidating your home insurance than you might think. Don’t get caught out – follow our top tips to keep you, your home and your possessions covered for all of life’s eventualities.

home insurance graphic

Hidden keys and dormant burglar alarms

Making access too easy for burglars can leave your home and possessions at a higher risk of theft and damage, and is one of the most common ways that people unwittingly invalidate their contents insurance or buildings insurance policies.

“Lots of people use hideaway keys which are left on or near the property,” says Martyn Dyson, Head of General Insurance at Nationwide. “If a burglar can get access to your house that isn’t forced, like through an unlocked window or by using a hidden key, technically you wouldn’t be entitled to a pay-out by your insurer in the event of any theft or damage.”

Windows left open in unoccupied rooms, even if you are elsewhere in the house, could leave you in a tricky situation if there was to be a break-in while the window was unlocked.

Forgetting to set the burglar alarm, when your house insurance quote was based on having one, is another way to make your home insurance invalid. The same goes for failing to regularly check and replace the batteries in your home’s burglar – and smoke – alarms.

Similarly, any valuable items or tools – such as ladders or hammers – that could be used to help gain access into the property should be secured or locked away whenever possible.

Holiday mistakes

We all like to share our holiday experiences with family and friends, but publishing too much information on social media about the details of intended stays away from home could leave you red-faced if your home is burgled while you are away. Keep your feet on the ground when it comes to making the cyber world aware of your movements – and detailing when your house might be left vulnerable to theft.

Taking extended breaks and leaving your home unoccupied for more than 60 days can also invalidate your home insurance policy, but this may differ depending on your policy.

Acting quickly

While experiencing a break-in can be upsetting, it’s important to report any thefts to the police within 24 hours in order to obtain an incident-specific crime number. This is essential to allow your insurer to help you with your claim, so make sure you act fast in the event of any thefts, break-ins or damage to your home.

Your insurer can help guide you through the steps you need to take in any such events, so contact them as soon as possible to talk it through with an adviser.

Home insurance policies may also not cover you for any damage caused by mice, insects or other vermin, so it’s best to take action quickly and call in professionals as soon as possible if you notice their presence in your home.

Avoiding DIY disasters

Before you freshen up your home, be aware that home improvements could potentially invalidate your insurance policy. Any structural changes – such as adding a conservatory or a downstairs toilet – will need to be factored in to your home insurance policy, or you may not be entitled to remuneration in the event of fire, flood or other damage.

Having tradespeople in your home – particularly if they are left alone while you are out – could cause problems with your insurer if any accidents were to happen. Always make your insurer aware of any planned work to be carried out on your home.

Here to help

Good home insurance should give you peace of mind, not stress you out. Here are our top 10 home insurance tips to keep you covered.

  • 1. Close and lock windows in unoccupied rooms

  • 2. Regularly test and replace the batteries in your smoke and burglar alarms
  • 3. Don’t use ‘hideaway’ keys 
  • 4. Remember to set your burglar alarm when you leave the house and overnight
  • 5. Notify your insurer when taking extended breaks and leaving your home unoccupied for more than 60 days
  • 6. Make your insurer aware of any structural changes you make to your home
  • 7. Report all thefts to police within 24 hours to obtain a crime number
  • 8. Act quickly if you notice the presence of mice or other vermin in your home
  • 9. Secure all valuables in the garden – especially those that could be used to break into your house
  • 10. Notify your insurer when there are tradespeople on-site

Nationwide Home Insurance policies are underwritten by U K Insurance Limited

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