Home insurance

Home insurance is an insurance policy that, depending on your level of cover, can protect you against risks to your home and its contents, such as fire, water damage and theft. 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.

Home insurance

Even if you don’t have a mortgage as 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

Buildings insurance

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: 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 act
  • 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

Not usually covered under a buildings policy: 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 Tips

  • 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 your home if it 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. But you should still think about taking out your own contents insurance policy if you live in an apartment.

Contents Insurance

This covers the moveable objects in your home, including some flooring. It can be a separate policy from buildings insurance, or it can be combined with buildings insurance 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
  • 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

Not usually covered under a contents policy
  • 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, also known as specified cover.

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 Tips

  • 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.

Renewals

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. Your insurance company must send you a renewal notice at least 20 days before your renewal date and include the following:

  • the premiums paid for the policy in the previous five years, and
  • a list of any claims, including third party claims, paid by the insurer to the consumer or to a third party/parties, in the previous five years

It is the responsibility of the insurance company to ask all relevant questions in the application process so they get all the information required. These questions must be in plain language and easy to understand. You are required to answer all questions fully and honestly.

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 in the first tab of this page 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.

Last updated on 8 April 2022