Basic buildings and contents

How to get it right on home cover

1. There are two types of cover: buildings and contents. You can buy them separately or as a joint policy from one insurer. The price is usually based on the number of bedrooms in your property.

2. Buildings insurance covers the actual structure of your home and immovable fixtures such as kitchen cabinets. Contents insurance covers the moveable stuff such as furniture.

3. If you have a mortgage, you must have buildings cover because the lender will want to know the property it has lent money on is insured.

4. If you own the property outright, you should still have buildings cover: it’s a false economy to go without. If you’re a tenant or leaseholder, the freeholder should have arranged cover. If you live in a flat, you may contribute to a policy shared with other residents, possibly through your service charge.

5. Buildings insurance pays for the rebuilding or repairing of your property due to events such as fire or storm damage. It’s not a maintenance plan and won’t cover wear and tear. And if your house is of unusual construction - wood, for example, or with a thatched roof, you might need a specialist insurer.

6. Watch out for big excesses - the part of the claim that you have to pay - on buildings policies. It could be as much as the first £1,000 if your house suffers subsidence, for example.

7. Contents insurance is not compulsory but it’s a good idea and, unless you have particularly valuable possessions, not expensive either. Most policies are on a new-for-old basis: anything stolen or damaged is replaced by a new version.

8. Most contents insurance covers valuables such as jewellery and phones when you take them outside the house - up to a certain amount. Check that the payout per single item actually covers the replacement cost of your belongings. If not, you should tell the insurer and pay for more cover.

9. You can get cheaper contents insurance by accepting a higher excess or going without some types of cover such as accidental damage. Simpler ways to save include putting decent locks on the external doors and windows and installing a burglar alarm!

10. Don’t underinsure your contents. If you only get cover for £30,000, but your worldly goods are actually worth £60,000, you’re going to be left short. As a rule of thumb, the average three-bedroom family home is thought to contain items worth around £55,000. 


More stuff:

  • Search for the cheapest policy prices at comparison websites such as GoCompare. Check out Direct Line and Aviva as well. They aren’t included on comparison websites and may have good deals.
  • Find a handy calculator for the value of your contents.
  • Check out the Association of British Insurers' guide to home insurance.  


Last updated: 21 January 2019.