Hassle-free claims

With any luck you’ll never have to make a claim on your contents insurance but if you do, there’ll be enough to think about without worrying about whether or not your claim will go through okay. That’s why it makes sense to get everything in order now, so if you are the victim of a burglary, flood, fire or any other of life’s mishaps, you are better placed to deal with it.

Attention to detail

You may think you know what’s covered but it’s surprising how many people get caught out because they didn’t realise that, for example, the contents of their shed weren’t insured. Start by going through your policy wording to find out exactly what’s covered.

Next, create a room-by-room inventory of all your items – that’s everything from valuables, ornaments and jewellery to furniture, appliances, gadgets and clothes – not forgetting the loft, garage and any outbuildings. When working out the value of your items, remember that the purchase price could differ from the replacement cost, so an up-to-date catalogue will give you current prices on items on your inventory.

After you’ve totted it all up, you may find that you own a lot more stuff than you thought, in which case you’ll have to up the sum insured. Whatever you do, don’t fall into the trap of being under-insured, or else any claim you make in the future won’t be paid in full. Also be aware of your single-item limit (the maximum your insurer will pay out for one item). Is it high enough?

Protect your possessions

There’s also steps you can take to protect your possessions, especially expensive items. Keep details of the make, model and serial number of electronic equipment and write your postcode and house number on these items using a security marker. This will make it difficult for a thief to sell on and easier for the police to trace.

Don’t get caught out

By not revealing the true picture to your insurer today you could invalidate any claims in the future. So, however trivial it may seem, disclose anything that could affect your policy. For instance, if you work from home, tell your insurer – it won’t necessarily push up your premium. In some cases it could lower it, as the fact that you’re at home during the day could make your property less vulnerable to burglary. With weather patterns becoming more unpredictable now more than ever, it’s important that your insurer knows if you live in a flood zone or an area prone to flooding.

Make sure you’ve taken all security precautions required by your policy. In general, all windows must have locks, with removable keys that should be placed out of sight. External doors must be fitted with a mortice deadlock or rim lock. To protect your household from the risk of fire, fit smoke alarms and make sure they’re in full working order. Again this might be a requirement of your insurance house insurance policy.

Poor upkeep could also seriously affect your claim if the insurer decides that maintenance would have prevented the problem from occurring. That’s why you need to keep your home in tiptop shape, giving it a full MOT after the winter months especially, checking for blocked gutters and loose tiles on the roof.

Likewise, keep an eye on ‘mother nature’! Don’t let ivy grow up your walls as it could invade the brickwork and damage it and cut back or remove trees whose roots could be spreading underneath your foundations. Are there any trees that look like they’re damaged or dying? If a tree looks like it could fall in the next windstorm, see to it sooner rather than later – it’s up to you to maintain everything on your land and that includes trees.

Going away on holiday? Ask a neighbour to keep an eye on things while you’re away so if a problem does arise, your insurers know as soon as it happens. And if you’re going away for a longer holiday, perhaps to avoid the British winter, check the maximum number of days your policy permits you to leave your property unoccupied.

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