Home insurance

You are not legally obliged to take out home and contents insurance, but if you have a mortgage, your lender can insist that you have buildings insurance. This will ensure you are covered for rebuild costs if your home is destroyed, for example in a fire.

Even if you don’t have a mortgage and you own your home outright, home insurance will protect you financially in the event of burglary, fire or other damage.

Home insurance is usually sold as a single policy that can include:

  • Buildings insurance which covers you for damage to buildings
  • Contents insurance which covers you for loss or damage to the contents of your home
  • All-risks cover which covers you for loss or damage to valuables (even when outside your home)
  • Liability insurance which covers you for injury to other people in or around your home.
Top tip
If you extend or improve your home, you may need to increase the buildings cover on your policy.

Choosing a policy

There are many home insurance policies to choose from. There are also considerable differences between these policies in terms of cost and the level of cover they offer.

There are a number of ways you can search for a policy:

  • Contact insurance companies directly and get a quote. Contacting individual companies directly may take time but you will be able to get quotes from all of the insurance providers in the market.
  • Use comparison sites to compare quotes from a number of different insurance companies. Using comparison sites is considerably quicker, but not all insurers may be included in the comparison, and it could be more expensive than a direct quote.
  • Use an insurance broker to get the best quote for you. Using a broker may not get you a lower quote and they may not work with all insurers. However you can discuss your needs in detail and get a more tailored service.

Costs and discounts

The ‘premium’ is the amount you pay for your insurance cover. Your home insurance premium depends on three main factors:

  • The amount you insure your home for and whether you also insure your contents. The greater the insured value of your buildings and contents, the higher your premium will be.
  • The location of your home. Insurers may charge more for homes in areas where there is a high rate of burglary or areas prone to flooding. City home owners usually pay more than rural home owners because there are more burglary claims in urban areas. However, if you have security features, you may get a discount.
  • The type of cover you choose and any discounts you might be entitled to. Insurers offer various discounts, which can reduce your premium.

When you buy insurance, it is important to remember that the policy with the lowest premium is not always the best. It is essential to read the policy details to see what’s covered before you sign up.

Consider whether you can get better value by combining buildings and contents cover into one policy. You may also get a discount from an existing insurance provider, for example your car insurer, if you also take out home insurance with them. You don’t have to take both buildings and contents insurance out with the same provider and it is worthwhile to shop around.

If you have other insurance products such as gadget insurance, you may find that the items are also covered by your home insurance policy. Make sure you are not doubling up on insurance cover with different policies.

What discounts can I get?

Depending on the provider, you may get a discount if:

  • You have made no previous claims or have made no claims in the past three years.
  • There is somebody over 50 living in the house.
  • The residents of the house are non-smokers.
  • A resident is usually in the house during the day.
  • The house has an alarm (you may get an extra discount if it is monitored).
  • You have a smoke detector installed.
  • You have security locks fitted on doors and windows.
  • You have another insurance policy with the same company.
  • Your house is in a neighbourhood watch area.
  • The person applying is over 40, or in some cases over 50.
  • The house is more than 10 years old.

You can use our home insurance checklist to help you make note of costs, benefits and discounts when getting quotes.

Restrictions and exclusions

These are events or situations that are not covered by your insurance policy. While standard exclusions are contained in every policy, specific exclusions and restrictions will vary across insurers – so check before you sign up.

Excess

The excess is the amount that you will have to pay towards any claim before your insurer pays the balance.  Your insurer will reduce any claim settlement by the amount of the excess stated on your policy. You cannot claim for an amount less than the excess.

The amount of the excess can depend on the insurer, but normally it is between €100 and €500 for standard claims on a home insurance policy. The excess for subsidence claims is usually higher. You can often get a discount on your premium if you agree to a higher excess.

Indexation

Many insurance companies automatically increase the amount of your buildings and contents cover when they renew your policy each year. This is called indexation. It helps you to avoid being under-insured as it increases the cover you have in line with inflation. However, you should also regularly check the amount of cover you have to make sure you are not insured for too much or too little.

Making a claim

If you find yourself in a position where you need to make a claim on your insurance, you can find a step by step guide here to help you.

Buildings insurance covers anything you cannot take away with you if you move house. It usually includes:

  • The structure of your home such as the roof, walls, windows, ceilings and doors
  • Permanent fittings such as tiled or hardwood floors, bathroom fittings and fitted kitchens
  • Garages or outbuildings such as a garden shed or a farm building
  • Garden walls, gates and fences

If your home is destroyed or you can’t live in it, your buildings insurance will usually pay for the cost of having to move out or rent another home.

USUALLY COVERED UNDER A BUILDINGS POLICY NOT USUALLY COVERED UNDER A BUILDINGS POLICY
Damage caused by:

  • Fire, explosion, lightning, or earthquake
  • Flooding, storm and subsidence (the ground moving underneath the building), with some restrictions
  • Riot, vandalism, or other violent acts
  • Burglary or attempted burglary that results in damage to your home or its fixtures and fittings
  • Water or oil escaping from a fixed appliance in your home such as burst pipes or a burst water tank
  • Vehicles or animals damaging buildings, walls, gates or fences
  • Falling trees and branches
Damage caused by:

  • Storms affecting gates and fences
  • Flooding or subsidence if your home is in an area where this is likely to happen
  • Acts of terrorism
  • Wear and tear in the structure or the inside of your home, for example roof damage or water damage caused by a leaking shower
  • Someone working in your home – you can only claim for this damage if the person who has caused it has their own public liability insurance
  • You are not covered for any claim that is less than the excess on your policy
Top tip
You should insure your home for the amount it would cost to rebuild it. This is different to the market value of your home, which is the amount you would get if you sold it. You can get details of current rebuilding costs from the Society of Chartered Surveyors.

It is important to make sure that you do not insure your home for too much or too little. If your home is insured for too little, your policy might not pay out enough to cover the cost of repairing or rebuilding it if is damaged or destroyed. If it is insured for too much, your premium will be higher than necessary and you will not get any extra benefit if you have to claim, as you are only covered for the actual cost of rebuilding or replacing contents.

If you live in an apartment and pay management fees, buildings insurance is usually covered within the fees. However, you should still think about taking out contents insurance.

This covers the moveable objects in your home, including some flooring. It can be a separate policy from buildings insurance or combined with it in a single home insurance policy. If you do not own your home, for example if you are renting, you should still think about insuring the contents of your home.

USUALLY COVERED UNDER A CONTENTS POLICY NOT USUALLY COVERED UNDER A CONTENTS POLICY
  • Loss of or damage to items on a ‘new-for-old’ basis (up to certain limits)
  • Accidental damage to household equipment, for example, a TV or stereo – you may have to pay a higher premium for this benefit
  • Loss of or damage to items you temporarily remove from the house, for example, when you move house. Usually, this does not include glass and fragile objects.
  • Food that has spoiled in a fridge or freezer because of a power failure or the fridge or freezer breaking down
  • Cash stolen from your home, up to a certain limit. The policy may also cover money spent on debit or credit cards stolen from your home
  • Liability insurance
  • Any loss or damage that happens when you have left your home empty for a set time, usually more than 30 days
  • Money or valuables stolen from your home if your home was not properly secured
  • Deeds, bonds, bills of exchange, promissory notes (contract of money), cheques, stamps, documents of any kind, manuscripts, medals and coins
  • Motor vehicles and accessories
  • Damage caused by wear and tear
  • Personal belongings that are usually carried outside the home, unless you have specified them
  • You are not covered for any claim that is less than the excess on your policy

You should insure your contents for the amount it would cost you to replace them if they were stolen or damaged. It is worth taking the time to calculate these costs so that you insure your contents for the correct amount. This is important because your policy may have an ‘average clause’. For example, if you only have insurance cover of 75% of the value of your contents, in the event that you have to make a claim your insurer would only pay out 75% of the amount of your claim. Download our home insurance contents checklist to help you estimate the value of the contents of your home.

Check whether the contents of your garage or shed are covered under your policy and include them in your calculations if they are.  Make sure to also include the cost of replacing carpets and curtains.

There is usually a limit on the value you can claim for any individual item. So you may need to list certain valuable items, such as jewellery or antiques, separately on your contents policy.

All-risks cover

This is an optional extra under most home insurance policies and protects you against loss, theft or accidental damage to personal valuables such as jewellery both inside and outside the home. It will also usually cover items taken abroad for up to 60 days. You may have to pay extra for all-risks cover, depending on your insurer. If you make a claim, your insurer may choose to either:

  • Give you the cash value of the item or
  • Pay to repair or replace it.

There are two types of all-risks cover:

  • You can choose an overall value for ‘unspecified items’ without having to list each one. For example, you could ask for €5,000 unspecified items cover. Most policies have an upper limit on the value you can insure each unspecified item for – this is the maximum amount you can claim for any one unspecified item. For example, a single item limit of €1,000 will only pay that amount for any article stolen or damaged, regardless of its value.
  • If you have items worth more than your insurer’s single item limit, you should think about listing the items you want covered and their value.

Liability insurance

Most home insurance policies include liability cover up to certain limits. This means that your policy would cover costs, expenses or fees that you could be legally liable to pay in particular instances. For example:

  • Someone visiting your home, or an employee (such as a tradesman or childminder) has an accident, gets ill, is injured or dies, and it was proven that you were at fault. Some policies also include damages that you are liable for but that happen outside your home. For example, if you accidentally injure someone with a golf ball or your dog causes injury to a person or damage to their property.
  • Accidental damage to someone else’s belongings because of something you do or fail to do.
Top tip
You should always check that someone working on your home has their own public liability insurance.  If they damage your home, it might not be covered by your own insurance.

Always check your own policy before you make any personal pay-outs for repairs, replacements or compensation. You may be entitled to make a claim, instead of having to pay yourself.

When was the last time you reviewed your home insurance? Typically, you renew your home insurance every year so you should shop around before you renew to make sure you are getting the best deal.

When might I need to review my home insurance cover?

  • You have new valuables such as an engagement ring, paintings or expensive electronic equipment that need to be insured separately.
  • You got a home extension or conversion since you last renewed your home insurance.
  • The cost of rebuilding your home has increased or decreased.
  • You underestimated or overestimated the value of your contents or the cost to rebuild your home.
  • You moved home or are due to move soon.
  • You bought a second home.
  • You let your original policy lapse.

How much does it cost and how can I save money?

Read our section on home insurance costs and discounts to make sure you get the best value.When you are looking for quotes, use our handy home insurance shopping around checklist.

Things to do when switching to a new provider

  • Notify your current insurance company in writing that you wish to cancel your policy.
  • If you are currently paying by direct debit, make sure you contact your bank and cancel your direct debit.
  • Complete any paperwork requested by your new insurance company.

If you change your mind after switching, you have a 14 day cooling-off period from the start of the contract, during which time you can cancel the contract and get a full refund.

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