House and Home

Published Tuesday, 21 February 2012
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Are you uncertain how to insure the contents of your home? The Consumer Council shows you how.

One in three households in Northern Ireland do not have Home Contents insurance, yet, if the worst happens and your home is burgled, or damaged by flooding for example, the consequences can be devastating financially.

Whilst it might be tempting to save money by not taking out Home Contents insurance, if something happens in the future it could be very expensive to replace your possessions. If the worst does happen, insurance can help you get back on your feet quickly without incurring further debt.

Work out the value of your possessions

When buying Home Contents insurance you should begin by working out the value of all your possessions. Make a list of the items in each room in the house including furniture, appliances, gadgets and soft furnishings and write down how much each item cost. Using the internet and catalogues can help you estimate the value of items if you are unsure. If you have valuable items like jewellery, watches or antiques your local jeweler or an antique dealer should be able to help you get an expert valuation. It is a good idea to take photographs of expensive items for both identification and valuation purposes should something happen to them. Remember to include items stored outside like bicycles and lawnmowers. Add up the value of all the items in your house and the total figure indicates how much insurance cover you require to replace all your possessions.

Where to buy Home Contents insurance

Now you know the value of the items in your home you can compare prices for home contents insurance from insurance brokers, price comparison websites and insurance companies directly to find the right policy for you at a competitive price.

What to look out for when choosing your Home Contents policy

The range of cover that Home Contents insurance offers varies widely from one policy to another. There are, however, certain features that you should look out for:

- Some policies include cover for accidental damage which would provide cover, for example, a spill that ruins the carpet - but not wear and tear which happens over time.

- Some policies provide cover items for items that you take out of your house, for example, a laptop, MP3 player or a camera.

- Check the limits of the policy. Some policies will place a maximum amount paid out on any one claim or item. Anything beyond the maximum policy amount or individual item amount will not be covered.

Excess Charge

Most policies have a standard excess charge which means that you have to pay part of the claim, for example, an excess of £50 or £100. The issue of excess can be confusing: many people believe that if they make a claim they have to pay the excess upfront to the insurance company. Generally, you usually receive the total amount of the claim minus the excess.

Here are the Consumer Council's top tips for buying home contents insurance.

1. Make sure you read through and understand the terms and conditions of the policy before you sign. If there's something that you are not sure of ask your broker or the insurance company.

2. Check all the exclusions and conditions for making a claim. The most common reasons for insurers rejecting a claim is that it didn't cover what people thought it did. Remember, cheapest isn't always best!

Follow these tips to keep the cost of your premium down:
- Don't over value the contents of your home
- A higher excess can bring down the cost of insurance
- If you can, pay for your insurance policy in one go rather than installments
- Install extra security measures like a burglar alarm.

3. Don't feel pressured into taking extended warranty cover when you buy an expensive item like a TV or a washing machine. Check first to see what your home contents insurance covers you for and whether you really need the extra warranty.

4. Don't be caught out by the unexpected! Always keep-up-to date with your insurance payments to make sure that you are covered at all times.

5. When your policy is due for renewal, shop around by comparing prices from brokers, price comparison websites and insurance companies directly. This should ensure you get the best policy at the most competitive price for you.

© UTV News
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Consumer Council
Consumer Council

The Consumer Council is an independent consumer organisation, working to bring about change to benefit Northern Ireland's consumers.

They aim to make consumer voices heard and make them count.

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