Buildings insurance topics
- What’s covered?
- Is buildings insurance compulsory?
- Honesty is the best policy
What’s covered on buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance covers the structure, fixtures and fittings of your home, e.g. roof, walls, ceilings, floors, doors and windows, fitted kitchens, built-in cupboards and bathroom suites.
Most buildings insurance policies will also cover certain outdoor structures such as sheds, garages, gazebos and greenhouses. Fences, gates, boundary walls and damage to mains supply pipes may not be covered, so it’s important to read your policy’s small print carefully to see exactly what’s included.
A comprehensive buildings insurance policy should cover the full cost of repair/rebuild in the event of:
- Lightning strike
- Storm damage
- Falling trees
- Explosion (caused by gas leaks etc)
- Damage through contact with a vehicle or vandalism
- Bursting or freezing of the plumbing
Be sure to check that you’re covered for subsidence and flood if your property lies within a risk area. This extra cover may cost more but you’ll breathe a massive sigh of relief should anything ever go wrong. You might also want to check that your buildings insurance policy provides you with alternative accommodation if your home becomes temporarily uninhabitable.
Is there any difference with a new build house?
If your builder is registered with the NHBC, your home should be covered by the 10-year NHBC’s construction warranty and insurance cover, called Buildmark. This will pay to put right any damage or defects that appear during the first two years after you've bought the house. It should also cover any structural damage your home suffers, during years 3 to 10. Without cover, you could end up paying thousands of pounds to foot the bill yourself.
And if you sell the home within 10 years, the balance of the cover can be transferred to the new owner, making your property more appealing to prospective buyers. You should also check that you are covered for legal expenses should you need any legal representation.
However, Buildmark doesn't protect against the elements, wear and tear or accidental damage. This is where buildings insurance comes in handy.
Homeowners with properties built in areas with high clay content are at risk of subsidence, and houses in such areas may be subject to policy excesses up to around £2,500.
To reduce the likelihood of subsidence, take care not to plant trees and large shrubs too close to your property as they suck up the moisture in the ground, causing the clay to shrink. If you already have trees, don’t just run outside with an axe in the hopes of lowering your premiums – you may need council permission before any felling can take place.
About five million people in the UK live in two million properties that are at risk of flooding. You can find out if your house is at risk by entering a postcode in the Environment Agency's online flood risk map.
If you do live in a flood zone, here are some tips on how to weather the storm:
- If you want to stop sewage backing up into your home during a flood, have your drainage pipes fitted with one-way valves.
- Raising the height of plug sockets will lessen the chances of electrical damage.
- Permanently fit doors, airbricks and low windows with flood skirts. In the event of flooding, these slide into place to form a watertight barrier.
- If you do live in a flood-prone area, keep important documents, including contact details for your insurer and a copy of the policy, in a waterproof bag.
- Replace downstairs wooden flooring with concrete and consider tiling rather than carpeting.
- Have your downstairs walls re-plastered with a special water-resistant render.
Is buildings insurance compulsory?
If your property is mortgaged then your lender will require you to have adequate buildings insurance in place to help safeguard their investment in your home. This cover will likely need to run from the date of exchange of contracts right up to the full term of the mortgage.
You may be offered buildings insurance by your mortgage provider but you are not obliged to take it, unless of course you sign up to a mortgage deal which specifically requires you to buy their insurance.
However, if you don’t take out a mortgage provider’s insurance product, they will sometimes charge a fee (usually around £25) to cover the cost of checking that your preferred buildings insurance product is up to scratch.
It’s worth noting that some insurance companies will actually pay this charge for you as an inducement to signing up with their product – something to bear in mind when shopping around for a new home insurance deal.
Honesty is the best policy when buying insurance
One more thing: always be forthcoming with your insurer when taking out buildings cover as this type of insurance relies on ‘utmost good faith’ from the policyholder, i.e. any potential issues that you know of must be disclosed. Failure to do so may invalidate a policy should you come to make a claim.
Find out more about home insurance