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The unexpected reasons your home insurer may not pay out

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Written by: Alex Balcombe
26/09/2017
Imagine returning home to find it flooded after a storm, or burned to the ground after an electrical fire in the kitchen - it's your worst nightmare, or is it?

Imagine then when you call your insurance company to claim on your policy either for a re-build or to replace all of your ruined possessions that your policy is void, and the insurer won’t be paying out. Unfortunately, this can be the harsh reality for many policy holders in the UK.

Let’s face it, insurance policy documents can be complicated, and failure to comply with any of the conditions set can result in serious issues. That’s why we’ve set out some of the reasons why insurance claims are rejected…

Not providing the right information

Typically, non-disclosure of the material facts occurs at the time the insurance policy is taken out or renewed. You must always be honest with the insurance provider when asked questions that may affect the premium. If it becomes evident that you misled the provider, it may not pay out when you need it to. For example, if you fail to tell it about previous claims with other providers.

Sometimes non-disclosure may not be intentional. If you unknowingly live in a flood plain and your house suffers flood damage, your insurer may not pay out if you had not informed it of the flood risk.

If you do not know the answer to a question then you must say so and then work with the insurer to find the correct information.

Changing circumstances

Life moves quickly and changes in your circumstance are inevitable. It may be that you decide to run a new business from home, or that there is now an additional occupier such as your spouse, a lodger or an elderly relative.

If there are any changes such as these, then you should contact your insurers. Non-disclosure may mean that your policy becomes void and will not pay out when you most need it.

Security

It goes without saying that we all want to be secure in our own home. We fit locks and alarms to ensure that our loved ones and our possessions are as safe as they can possibly be. It is also in your insurer’s interests that there is a level of security maintained at all times.

Read the policy requirements carefully as there will be a certain standard of locks expected as well as where these locks should be fixed. Your front door will need at the very least a British Standard five-lever mortice lock, and all accessible windows such as those on the ground floor will need to have locks fitted.

Fitting a burglar alarm may not be a requirement of the policy but doing so may reduce your premium. However, just fitting these locks and alarms is not enough to validate a claim. Many claims have been rejected because homeowners forget to set their alarm when they are away or when they are sleeping. Leaving windows open in the summer, or just forgetting to lock them may invalidate your claim as will changing locks or installing different windows.

Holidays

Leaving your home secure when you travel is essential. Locking doors and windows, and setting alarms goes without saying. But if you leave your home unoccupied for over 30 days, your policy may not be valid. Always check your insurance policy before you travel and look to buy additional cover while you are away.

Also, be wary of social media posts when you are away. ‘Advertising’ that your house is unoccupied by ‘checking in’ at a swish restaurant on the other side of the world may invalidate any claim if you are the victim of burglary.

Fire

Smoke and heat detectors should be fitted to your home so that in the unlikely event of a fire you and your family can be warned quickly enabling you to evacuate. The sooner the emergency services are on the scene then the damage to your home will be mitigated. If you fail to install or maintain these detectors then the policy may not pay out.

Recently there has been a surge in fires caused by faulty appliances such as tumble driers. Some insurers are refusing to cover fire damage caused by risky appliances. Always notify the insurers of the type of appliances in the home and remember to update them when you install new items.

DIY

DIY can enhance and add value to your home. But when things go wrong, the costs can be huge. If you have not paid for full accidental cover then water damage caused by hitting a nail through a water pipe or tipping gloss paint over a new carpet may not be covered. Always check your policy and consider purchasing the additional cover, especially when undertaking significant projects.

When it comes to insuring your home, it always pays to read the small print and to check some of the grey areas highlighted above. Peace of mind that you are protected at all times should be mission critical.

Alex Balcombe is director at insurance claim management and loss assessor service, Harris Balcombe

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