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What can invalidate house insurance?

It's always good to have spare keys just in case. But your home could be at risk if they end up in the wrong hands.

Having the right house insurance in place can give you peace of mind. It’s good to know that if something bad does happen to your home or your possessions, you’ll be covered for your losses.

But having made the effort to get the right policy in place, don’t undo all your hard work by making a basic mistake that can invalidate your cover.

An unlocked door, failing to set your burglar alarm or not telling your insurer about DIY projects are simple things that can invalidate your home insurance. Sometimes you’ll only find this out when you put in a claim.

A model house representing home insurance with a broker signalling that it is invalid  
 

Does a key safe invalidate house insurance?

It depends on the type of key safe and how it’s used.

A key safe is a strong metal box which you can store your door key in. It’s fixed to a brick or concrete wall outside your home, and you can get into it only if you have the code.

Speak to your house insurer and see if they have a standard that needs to be met. They might even be able to recommend a particular make of key safe that they recognise as being particularly secure.

But regardless of how secure it is, you must make sure it’s operated properly. If it’s left open then an insurer is likely to deem your policy to be invalid.

Similarly, if everyone in your street knows the code to get into your key safe, you risk invalidating your house insurance.

 

Am I covered if I lose my keys?

Most homes usually have several keys covering front doors, back doors, patio door locks and windows as well as garages, sheds and outbuildings.

But with so many house keys to keep track of, it could be easy for one to end up in the wrong hands.

And if someone breaks into your home using a lost key, your  home insurance might not cover you.

According to the Association of British Insurers, in the event that money is stolen there must be signs of forced entry.

For example, if someone finds your keys, traces them back to your home and uses them to gain access. You might be out of luck when it comes to claiming on your house insurance policy.

Or if a neighbour, friend or ex-partner uses a key you’ve given them to access your home and steal things, the same applies.

A number of insurers say they would class such an incident as an act of deception rather than as theft. As such, it might not be covered under a home insurance policy.

If you're unlucky enough to be targeted by someone using a key, your insurer might look at a home insurance claim favourably. This is never guaranteed though and you should never assume they will pay out. 

It depends on whether your insurer believes you've taken the necessary steps to fully secure your home and fulfil your duty of care. 

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Will my insurance pay out if my children leave my door unlocked?

Some parents entrust their children with house keys from a young age. Each family has their own circumstances.

It might be that your work patterns mean your child needs a key to get into the house when you’re not there.

But before you get an extra set of keys cut, it's important to have a chat with your child about the responsibility associated with having a key.

Impress on them the importance of telling you straightaway if they lose it, so you can take precautions such as changing the locks, if necessary.

It’s not just children, though! Everyone who has a key is jointly responsible for making sure your home is locked when they leave.

Many home insurance policies require certain door locks to be fitted, and your insurer could decline a claim if a burglary happens as a result of the locks not being used.

 

What happens if I leave my house unoccupied?

It’s assumed by your insurance provider that there’ll be times when you’re away from home.

But most house insurance policies have a limit on the number of consecutive days you can be away. If you exceed this you run the risk of finding your cover has been invalidated in the unfortunate event you need to make a claim.

The limit is typically 30 days, although some policies are more restrictive in the winter months when there is greater chance of burst pipes causing damage in unheated homes.

If you need to leave the house unoccupied for longer than the limit outlined in your policy documents – if you’re going on a three-month cruise, for example – speak to your home insurer and see if you can get unoccupied property insurance

 

Will DIY work invalidate my house insurance?

If you’re just putting a shelf up, that’s fine, but if you are doing any DIY work that increases the value of your home, your insurer should be told.

This is because your home insurance now covers a property that is worth more. It could cost more to put right any future damage, or it might make your home more attractive to burglars.

It might have no impact on your premiums, but failing to let your insurer know about significant work risks making your home insurance invalid.

So if you’re planning to convert a loft, knock a wall through or replace all your double-glazing, don’t forget to tell your insurance provider.

 

Will getting a lodger affect my house insurance?

Getting a lodger doesn’t necessarily invalidate your house insurance – but failing to tell your insurer about it almost certainly will.

Some insurers will allow you to rent out part of your home to a tenant, but it will probably put up the cost of your annual premiums. You might have to take out landlord insurance too.

Having a lodger helping with the bills can be useful. But it could backfire if something goes wrong and your insurer won’t pay out– even if the problem has nothing to do with the lodger.

 

What happens if I over-value my contents?

It might sound counterintuitive, but over-insuring your contents can invalidate your policy.

f you deliberately over-value how much your things are worth you could invalidate your  home insurance because of misrepresentation. That’s because there’s a risk that the insurer would have to pay out more than the value of the damaged or stolen contents.

Specify any individual high-risk items, and then try to calculate a realistic value of the rest of your contents. Our home contents calculator can help you with this.