Written by Liz Hunter, Director at Money Expert
Having an insurance policy helps to protect your (and your family’s) financial wellbeing if something unexpected happens to your property or your belongings.
But if you haven’t scrutinised the small print, you might be unaware of the surprising terms and conditions that could leave you unable to claim a penny. These unexpected rules could render your policy invalid, and in some cases, you could even face a hefty fine.
Liz Hunter, Director at Money Expert, shares the lesser-known ways that you could invalidate your home insurance – and how to avoid them.
- Working from home
Data from the ONS revealed that 16% of the workforce worked solely from home between September 2022 and January 2023, while 28% split their time between home and the office. But did you know that some home insurance policies exclude all items used for business or professional purposes? This means you might not be able to claim if your work device was to get damaged.
If you work from home regularly, it’s essential to let your home insurance provider know. Yes, you may find that your premiums increase slightly – but not informing them could invalidate your policy altogether. If you work remotely and carry your personal laptop around, it could also be worth securing a contents insurance policy in case of damage outside the home.
2. Leaving your home unoccupied
Letting your property sit empty for a prolonged period of time could also invalidate your home insurance policy. Most policies will cover an unoccupied home for either 30 or 60 days, but any longer, and your insurance provider may refuse to pay out for any claims you need to make.
If you do need to leave your home empty for longer than your policy allows, talk to your insurer. They’ll likely offer you unoccupied home insurance, which may cost more, but will ensure you’ll be covered for an extended period of time when you are not at home.
3. Carrying out major home renovations
Building an extension or adding a loft conversion are great ways to add extra space and value to your home without the hassle of moving. However, major works of this kind are likely to impact your home insurance, and failing to let your provider know about them in advance could invalidate your policy altogether.
Ideally, you should let your insurer know about your plans within the planning stages of the renovations. This way, they’ll be able to advise you on any changes to your home insurance premium and ensure you have the right level of cover in place should you cause any damage whilst undertaking the renovation work itself.
4. Installing a dog or cat flap
Your pet will love the freedom to come and go as they please, but your home insurer might not be so keen. Although small in size, a cat or dog flap technically provides easier access into your home, meaning some insurers may deem them as unsecure.
This doesn’t mean you can’t or shouldn’t ever install one, but it does mean it’s worth checking in with your insurer first. If you have already installed one and haven’t let your insurer know you should them a call and inform them – otherwise, you risk voiding your policy if someone were to gain entry via the cat or dog flap
5. Using a low-quality key-safe
Whether you have pet sitters coming in while you’re away or a cleaner who visits while you’re at work, a key safe can be a convenient way to give trusted people access to your home. But if you install a poorly designed key safe and a burglar uses the key to enter your home, your house insurance claim will be void.
That’s not to say that all key safes are a bad idea – you just need to be picky about the one you choose. Try to find one that is police-approved and features the ‘Secured by Design’ label, as these can better withstand physical attack. Additionally, install the key safe away from your front door and remember to let your insurer know that you’re using one.
6. Getting a lodger
With rising interest rates and an ongoing cost of living crisis, getting a lodger can be a savvy way to earn some extra cash. But if you do this without double-checking the terms of your home insurance, you could find that you render your policy invalid should you need to make a claim.
Before you secure your lodger, give your insurer a call. Home insurance providers typically consider a lodger as an extra risk, so you’re likely to see an increase in your premium. In other cases, you may need to switch providers entirely, as not all insurers are willing to provide additional cover for a lodger.
7. Leaving doors unlocked or windows open
If you live in the countryside or in a neighbourhood that you trust, you might feel safe enough to leave windows open – or even your front door unlocked – whilst you pop out. The problem? Although unlikely, if you were to be burgled and there was no sign of forced entry, you wouldn’t be able to claim a penny.
So while it’s great that you feel so safe in the area you live in, it’s still worthwhile to make a habit out of shutting your windows and locking your doors when you leave the house. It only takes a minute or two but could save you a lot of hassle down the line.
8. Not maintaining your property
Imagine you let the gutters get clogged, which leads to damp inside your home – or maybe you were aware of a pest infestation, but didn’t act until they caused severe damage. In both these cases, your insurer could actually reject your claim on the grounds of poor upkeep.
Put simply, if something goes wrong in your home, your insurer will need evidence to ensure that any damage you claim for isn’t just a result of poor maintenance. The only solution here is to keep up with the general wear and tear of your home. As well as keeping your place in good nick, it could potentially save you thousands down the line.