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Insurance Policies: What to look out for

Taking out home or office insurance is a pretty big step, as you're aiming to protect your property and possessions from various mishaps, including natural disasters, such as fires and floods, or criminal activity, such as burglaries. It's not easy taking out a policy, as there are many clauses - a lot more than people think!

This means it's extremely important to read your policy thoroughly, including the small print, to avoid costly problems afterwards if you discover your claim isn't going to be paid out. Read on to find out more about the most common claims and what you need to look out for on your policy.

Protecting possessions

© thodonal / Adobe Stock


What's the biggest risk?

Statistics show one of the biggest home insurance risks is fire, so whether you're a homeowner, a landlord or a tenant, it's crucial that you have the correct cover. If you take a few sensible preventative measures, it will not only safeguard your property, it could also reduce your insurance premiums.

A fire in your house or flat could be your worst nightmare. The Association of British Insurers states fire is the most expensive of property claims, with an average £270 million pounds worth of claims made in just one quarter in domestic and commercial properties. Domestic properties make up 61% of the total.

Many insurers will ask, as part of their quote process, if you have smoke alarms fitted in your home or workplace. If the answer is yes, this could help reduce the prices that you're offered. Although the price is important, even more compelling is the safety of the occupants of your home.

Working smoke alarms can help to keep your home and family safe. Government statistics show only 12% of homes in Britain don't have a smoke alarm, yet they account for more than one-third of fires. There should be at least one alarm on each floor of your property.

When filling out an insurance proposal form, it's important that you answer the questions honestly. You are likely to be asked if there is a smoker in the house. Don't lie and say no because you think you'll get a cheaper price, as this could invalidate your claim!

Cigarettes are the biggest cause of fires in the home, so this is often reflected in the price quoted for insurance. Never conceal it from your insurer, as you may be committing fraud. If you say nobody smokes and then a fire at home is found to have been caused by a carelessly discarded cigarette, your claim is likely to be invalid.


Other causes of fires

The second biggest cause of fires in the home is gas cookers, according to the fire brigade. Always check they are switched off properly when not in use. Another major cause is electrical sockets and equipment, in particular the overheating of equipment such as laptops.

Never leave young children alone in a room where there's a fire risk and always lock away matches. If it's found that you have been negligent in leaving young children to play with matches, this may invalidate an insurance claim.

Unattended candles also cause a substantial number of fires and should be used only on heat-resistant surfaces that can't melt or set alight. Leave them lit only when you're in the same room and put them out before bedtime.

Open fires also cause a number of blazes in the home. Keep the chimney properly swept and don't leave a fire unguarded with children or pets in the room.


Buildings vs contents insurance

If you choose to have separate buildings and contents insurance, you must contact both insurers after a fire as soon as possible. It is important to have both kinds of insurance, as a fire will most likely damage the structure of your home and your possessions.

If your home is uninhabitable after a fire, you will need to ask your insurer to arrange alternative temporary accommodation until it is repaired.

If you live in rented accommodation, your landlord is responsible for the buildings insurance. The tenant is usually responsible for the contents insurance, so don't mistakenly think that the landlord will cover your possessions too.


Check the small print

Check your policy to see if there's a maximum limit when claiming for a single item. Many insurers will set a limit if you're claiming for one item. If you wish to insure a high-value possession, it may not automatically be covered by a contents insurance policy and you may have to insure it separately.

If you're planning a holiday, or a business trip away from home, always check with your insurer that your policy covers you for the duration of your trip, no matter how long it is, if there's going to be nobody at home.

If you begin to work from home, don't assume your existing policy will cover you for your business-related equipment. You should tell your insurer of your change in circumstances to make sure valuable business equipment is covered for damage or theft.


What happens next?

Once you've made a claim for a fire, your insurer will arrange for a loss adjuster to come to your property to assess the damage. They may also request that a forensic expert be called in to establish the cause.

If it's a straightforward claim that finds the fire is accidental, then your insurer should be able to arrange repairs quickly and cover the costs, but if it's believed to have been caused by negligence, or started deliberately, it could be more complex and will take longer.

Whether your home requires a total rebuild or cosmetic repairs, your insurer will be able to tell you how much this will cost and how long it will take.

Reduce your risk of a fire in the home by taking advantage of Trelawney Fire and Security's fire detection and alarm systems. Please contact us for further information on our fire protection systems, free advice, an assessment or a quotation.

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