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How home insurance works - buildings and contents cover

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home insurance overview

Having home insurance means that you don’t have to shoulder the significant costs relating to unfortunate events like robbery, (some) natural disasters or serious damage on your own. Home insurance encompasses both building and contents protection to provide you with maximum coverage. In this guide, you’ll find details about common insurance features and what to look for when picking one over the other.

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How home insurance works

Essentially, home insurance covers the cost of fixing property damage or replacing stolen possessions. Depending on the policy you happen to have, some circumstances will lead to lower reimbursements or no payout at all. At Selectra, we urge anyone shopping around for insurance to get familiar with the policy wordings from different insurance providers.

If you are a homeowner, you are required by law to have buildings insurance at the very least. So even if you don’t want to, either the law or your mortgage company will force you to get building protection.

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If you are a tenant or a student, your landlord will be responsible for the lion’s share of calamities that could befall your humble bedsit or cosy flat. However, if a particularly jocular party guest were to make a grand entrance through a ceiling or partition wall, you might be in a grey area when it comes to responsibility and could find yourself footing at least part of the bill.

What about belongings? Whether you're a homeowner or you're renting, we recommend getting contents insurance to protect your possesions against theft or damage.

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance is only relevant for homeowners who need cover for the physical structure of the building they own, namely: the roof, walls, windows, doors, and such. It is supposed to help with claims for repairing or reconstructing a property in the event of damage caused by:

  1. Flooding
  2. Fire
  3. Extreme weather conditions or events
  4. Subsidence: the ground under and around the home moving or shifting in a way that damages the structural integrity of the property

Find out more about buildings insurance

Contents insurance

No matter what, if your flat gets burgled, buildings insurance will not cover any of your prized possessions, and this includes any choice furniture you may have added to improve your interior design game. The only way to make sure your stuff is as safe as houses is to get contents insurance: accept no substitute.

Read more about contents insurance

Extra cover for home insurance

When you get a basic insurance quote, it will be for liability coverage within a narrow set of situations defined by your insurance provider. In order to extend your protection, there are a number of extra options that well worth looking into:

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  • Legal cover gives you access to legal advice and reimbursements for property, domestic or tenancy-related disputes. While legal advice will be accessible through a dedicated phone helpline, getting help with court costs and legal representation will be at the discretion of your insurer, who will more often than not partner with a separate company that assesses the claim based on its chance of success.
  • Accidental cover protects your home and belongings from damage that is caused accidentally. What constitutes unintentional as opposed to malicious or negligent acts is still fairly narrow in scope, but this extra option affords you more leeway than what is on offer by default in the basic policies.
  • Home emergency is an option that will give you access to round the clock phone support. This is handy because the helpline can dispatch accredited plumbers, electricians, and repair specialists to your home very quickly. In many cases, parts and labour will be covered to some degree by your insurance, but the focus of this extra option is getting the right person for the job to your home as quickly as possible.

What isn’t covered

Home insurance providers are well-known for policy wordings that would put Jane Austen to shame in terms of complexity and subtext. While in recent years more and more insurers are making the effort to explain what is or isn’t covered in plain English, large swathes of British households misunderstand what their home insurance actually covers.

Generally speaking, you should be suspicious of any insurance broker making grandiose claims about the following home insurance categories:

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  • High-Risk Items
  • Collections or matching sets
  • Business equipment
  • Digital goods (like game, music or movie downloads)
  • Homes away from home

How do I make a claim?

Almost a quarter of all insurance claims are rejected by British insurers every year. Home insurance claims far outstrip both car and travel insurance when it comes to this worrying trend. That is why knowing what is actually covered by your home insurer is the only surefire way to get paid when it counts.

Knowing about the claims process as well as how evidence will help your case is crucial to getting what’s yours when you are filing a claim.

Find out how to get paid

How to switch home policies

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Here at Selectra, we know that switching policies or services can seem like a massive hassle (hot tip: actually, it isn’t). That’s why over 60% of British households haven’t bothered with getting a better deal for their home insurance.

To be fair, insurance companies have little incentive to help you update your insurance policy to benefit from better protection, often for less money. It pays not to be complacent.

We help people from all walks of life with their energy and broadband questions, so we have a few tips when it comes to changing your insurance supplier. Check out our Switching Home Insurance guide

Tenant or student home insurance

Tenants’ insurance is basically contents insurance that is specifically tailored to the needs of people who are renting. This means that things like furnished flats and tenant liability should be better taken into account when compared with your garden variety contents policy counterparts.

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Students are a special breed when it comes to insurance because there will be a lucky few who might actually be covered by their parents’ home insurance while they are out yucking it up in any number of university towns. For those of us who weren’t born with that silver spoon, our only option is tenants or student insurance.

Find out if your parents truly love you

Compare British home insurers

At Selectra, our goal is to provide the information to help you choose the right insurer whether you live in a flat, semi-detached house or a stately home. Let’s look at the top six home insurance companies and see how they compare.


Aviva deal with 2.8 million insurance policies in the UK. They can trace their roots all the way back to fire insurers that sprung up in the late 17th century, after the Great Fire of London. Their home insurance policy is notable for its simplicity and lack of fixed upper limits.

Find out more

Axa is originally a French insurance juggernaut that operates across 60 countries worldwide. Axa’s presence in the UK insurance market is fundamental as they also act as underwriters for many recognisable insurance brands, from Homeguard to household names like Marks & Spencer.

Find out more

Covea differs from other big UK insurers in that they specifically sell both car and home insurance through insurance brokers exclusively. Covea as a brand is fairly newand came about with the merger between Provident and Norman Insurance, two respected insurance companies from a bygone era.

Find out more

LV (Liverpool Victoria, not to be confused with Louis Vuitton) are a long-standing British insurer who got their start during the industrial revolution. Just like Axa, they work with more recognisable brands like Asda. It’s worth noting that LV joined forces with one of the main insurance players across the channel, Allianz.

Find out more
Legal and General

Legal & General are one of the biggest insurers to maintain British ownership through thick and thin. This is no mean feat considering the highly hybridised nature of the insurance sector. Be aware, however, that reviews are inconclusive and can swing wildly between different kinds of insurance.

Find out more

Ageas hail from Belgium and they are better known for car and travel insurance more than for home insurance. This might be because their customer reviews are split down the middle when it comes to the quality of the service they provide.

Find out more

Data and information correct as of December 2018.

All material on this page and the website is for information purposes only and does not constitute any form of financial advice. is not responsible for any consequences that might arise from your use of the information provided.

How home insurance works - buildings and contents cover
Home Insurance -

How home insurance works - buildings and contents cover

Find out if you need content insurance or just buildings protection. Your insurance cover needs will be different if you're a homeowner or a tenant.

The services and products mentioned on this website may only represent a small selection of the options available to you. Selectra encourages you to carry out your own research and seek advice if necessary before making any decisions. We may receive commission from selected partner providers on sales of some products and/or services mentioned within this website. Our website is free to use, and the commission we receive does not affect our opinion or the information we provide.

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