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Contents insurance

Do you need to take out home insurance? If so, there are three types of cover to choose from: buildings insurance, contents insurance or a combined buildings and contents policy.

What is contents insurance?

Whether rented or owned, your home is full of belongings that together can amount to thousands of pounds.

Contents only insurance provides protection for your possessions from loss or damage caused by a range of factors, including:

  • Theft, attempted theft and vandalism
  • Fire, smoke or explosions
  • Weather-related incidents including storms, lightning and flooding
  • Natural disasters such as earthquakes
  • Falling trees and moving objects
  • Oil or water leaks from heating and water fixtures

If you fall victim to one of these scenarios, home contents insurance will cover the cost to repair or replace your belongings.

What does contents insurance cover?

Any item that can be taken with you when you move home (see below) is covered under most house contents insurance. This includes household goods, personal items and valuables owned by you or family members living with you, or any item you or a family member is legally responsible for. Here are some examples:

  • Electricals – TVs, video game consoles, laptops and record players
  • Furniture – sofas, beds, dining tables and vanity units
  • Furnishings – curtains, carpets, ornaments and antiques
  • Kitchenware – crockery, cutlery, microwaves and fridges (and often the food inside them)
  • Personal items – clothing and jewellery.

What's not covered under contents insurance?

There are a number of items that aren't covered under a typical policy, with some requiring specialist insurance. For example:

  • Caravans, trailers, watercraft and mechanically propelled vehicles
  • Contents insured under another policy
  • Pets
  • Lottery and raffle tickets
  • Any part of the building's structure (this is covered under buildings insurance)

Do I need contents insurance?

Contents insurance isn't compulsory – you're only required to have buildings cover in place by law if you have a mortgage on your home or rent out a home.

But if you don't take out contents cover, you could lose thousands of pounds if your belongings are stolen, damaged or destroyed. That's why we'd always recommend protecting yourself with a contents policy.

If you're renting, you need to make sure your landlord has suitable buildings cover in place, but it's down to you to arrange insurance for your belongings. If you're a landlord renting out a property part-furnished, the onus is on you to get your contents covered under a specialist landlord policy.

Students living away from home also need to get their belongings insured – unfortunately, many only realise this when it's too late. Before buying a policy, though, check your parents haven't taken out additional cover for items taken away from home. Also look at your halls of residence agreement, as some universities provide cover for students' belongings.

How does contents insurance work?

When getting a quote for contents insurance, you'll need to give a close estimate of the total value of the contents that need insuring. Most people underestimate this amount, leaving them underinsured and at risk of losing money if they need to make a claim.

You don't want to overestimate the total either, as it'll lead you to paying more than you should. We recommend:

  • Tackling your house room-by-room, listing each item (don't forget your loft, basement or any outbuildings)
  • Using receipts and the internet to value each item
  • Totting up the prices to get your total item value.

To make it easier, use a contents calculator like this one on the Association of British Insurers' website.

How much will you receive if you make a claim?

Contents policies are either indemnity policies or what's known as 'new for old'. Indemnity policies take into account wear and tear – so you might get a lower payout for a six-year-old bed damaged by water than a brand new one.

New for old usually pays the full amount it would cost to replace the item regardless of its age. This means the payouts are often higher, which is likely to be reflected in your annual premium.

Whichever policy you pick, you must tell your insurer about new purchases made during the term of cover. This is particularly important for expensive items, as they will increase the total value of your contents and could increase your premium.

Home insurance

We know how important your home and its contents are to you. That's why we offer home insurance that covers you for the unexpected expense that theft, loss and damage can bring. Plus, you can choose from a great range of optional extras.

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Log in to MyAccount to manage your policy online. You can view and download documents at your convenience. If your policy number starts with 'XA' you can also make payments and changes to your policy online.