How to avoid invalidating your home insurance

Sometimes it can be difficult to navigate through the world of insurance, and it’s really important when you come to make a claim that you’ve dotted and the Is and crossed all the Ts. So we’ve put together this handy guide to help bring some of the small print to life and give you guidance on some common issues that can make an insurance claim invalid.

Keep tabs on your security

1. Always lock your windows
The house always feels much fresher for having a brisk summer breeze blow the cobwebs away. Just make sure that you remember to close them when you go out. If a window is left open and a burglar uses it to gain access to your house, you won’t be covered for anything they steal or any damage they do.

2. Keep an eye on your keys
It’s handy to have a spare set of keys for emergencies, but if a burglar gets hold of your keys, either by stealing them or picking them up from a ‘safe place’ like under your doormat, your insurer might not cover you. If you need to keep keys near your house, you could invest in an outdoor ‘key safe’ which can be attached to the wall and opened with a pin code in emergencies.

3. Know your locks
When you apply for your policy, your insurer will ask you to describe your locks – it’s really important you describe them accurately. You can find some useful information on identifying your lock here. You might want to think about changing them when you move in, too: you never know how many duplicate keys the last owners made.

4. Keep your valuables out of sight
A bike that’s visible through a window might not be covered, whereas a bike locked in a shed will be. Simply by moving your valuables out of temptation’s way, you’re less likely to attract thieves and more likely to keep your cover.

5. Set your burglar alarm
Get into the habit of doing it every time you leave your house. If you said you had one when you applied for your policy but you don’t use it, your claim could be rejected.

6. Take good care of your home
It’s important to keep your home in tip top condition. Some things to keep in mind are –

- Grouting – Water damage due to insufficient grouting or sealant that isn’t kept watertight can affect your claim

7. Other Occupants
Having other people living with you also affect your premium. Lodgers, for example, can invalidate certain policies, particularly if the insurer is not informed that a room in your house is being rented out. Your insurance could also be affected if your home is being used as a base for your business or to store any business equipment. Conditions can vary depending on the nature of the business being carried out so always read your policy booklet closely.

For more tips, read our guide to home security.

Limit the risk of damage

1. Step away from the drill
Or at the very least, double check your cover before you get started on any DIY. Lots of insurers won’t reimburse you for things like drilling through a water main or cutting through an electrical wire – it depends how much accidental damage cover you have.

2. Tell your insurer if you have the builders in
If you don’t, and they accidentally drill through a pipe or knock down a load-bearing wall, you might not be covered.

3. Show your smoke and fire alarms lots of TLC
Check they work on a regular basis and only ever take the batteries out if you’re changing them.

Always tell your insurer the truth

1. Let them know if your home is going to be empty
They might be able to find specialist cover to protect your home while you’re away. If you leave your home unoccupied for long periods without letting them know, they might decline your claim.

2. Don’t exaggerate
If your laptop or TV’s been stolen and you fib about what it’s worth, you run the risk of invalidating your entire claim. It’s just not worth it.

Keep some things to yourself

1. Watch out on social media
Check your policy before you post any holiday pics or tell people you’re going to be away.

2. Keep calendars away from your windows and letterbox
If you’ve marked the dates you’re going to be away on it, and a burglar catches a glimpse, you may not be covered if they target your house.