What Is Covered?

Some Buildings insurance policies differ in the cover they provide and in their terms and conditions.

Buildings insurance policies differ in the cover they provide and in their terms and conditions. The information here is of a general nature – for detailed information you must read your policy.

Property Covered

In addition to the structure, a buildings policy covers permanent fixtures and fittings such as baths and toilets, fitted kitchens and bedroom cupboards. Interior decorations are also covered. Policies usually extend to include outbuildings such as garages, greenhouses and garden sheds. Boundary walls, fences, gates, paths, drives and swimming pools may not be covered – you need to check the policy if you need cover for these areas.

Against What Risks?

Most policies cover damage to your home by:

FireAircraft or things falling from them
LightningSubsidence, heave and landslip
ExplosionFalling trees or branches
EarthquakeImpact by vehicles or animals
TheftBreakage or collapse of aerials
Riot and malicious personsEscape of water from tanks or pipes
Storm & FloodEscape of oil from fixed heating installations

Extensions of Cover

Most buildings’ policies have valuable extensions of cover.

  • Alternative Accommodation – If your home is so badly damaged that you cannot live in it until repairs are done, your policy will help to meet the reasonable cost of alternative accommodation up to a stated limit.
  • Liability – If, as owner of your home you are responsible for any injury to someone or for damage to their property your policy will pay the damages and cost for which you are legally liable. There is usually an upper limit of £1 million or more. However, your main legal liability arises from you being occupier of your home and a contents policy covers this.
  • Underground Pipes and Cables – supplying gas, electricity, oil or water, as well as sewage pipes, are insured against accidental damage. They are not insured against wear and tear.
  • Glass – In doors, windows and skylights is covered against breakage together with baths, washbasins and WC’s.

There are limits and exceptions to every policy so make sure you have read it. It is a legal contract and if there is anything you do not understand ask for an explanation.

One word you will come across is ‘excess’. An excess is an amount of money you have to pay towards the cost of each claim.  Excesses vary in amount. They may apply only to certain types of claim or they may apply to all claims. Your policy will tell you.

One type of excess that appears in almost all policies applies to damage caused by subsidence, heave or landslip. This is usually a specific amount (for example £1,OOO). Common exclusions are war risks, damage caused by storm or flood to gates or fences, frost, sonic bangs and radioactive contamination from nuclear fuel or nuclear waste.

Be careful – Not all insurance policies are the same.

Theft of heating oil

The cost of heating oil has increased significantly recently, resulting in the theft of heating oil from both domestic and commercial properties raising.

The first indication that a theft has taken place is often when the heating stops working. Usually, it’s assumed the boiler is at fault, but regrettably the problem is often that there’s no oil left. Thefts vary from small amounts being stolen to the whole tank being drained. The methods used by the thieves can be very crude, including drilling or punching holes in the side of the tank and then filling jerry cans.

What you can do to prevent losses:

  • Monitor the level of oil in your tank regularly.
  • Conceal the location of the tank by using hedging, fencing or walling.
  • Securely lock doors at all times if the tank is situated within a building.
  • Consider installing security lighting to cover the tank, if it is overlooked by nearby buildings.
  • Ask nearby residents to be vigilant and report any suspicious activity to the police.
  • Padlock the valve. This may not always be the correct course of action, as thieves may smash the valve completely, but it can deter a less determined thief.
  • Ensure any gates are locked at night, to make it more difficult for a thief to escape with oil.
  • Install an alarm device which creates an alert if the oil level suddenly drops or if the lock is attacked.
  • Consider closed circuit television.

Stop Thief!

Some basic security suggestions to protect your home

It is generally accepted that up to two-thirds of all burglaries take place through windows. It therefore makes sense to fit key-operated locks or secure windows with screws. Do not rely on a few coats of paint and/or standard fasteners.

Louvre windows are particularly vulnerable because the glass slats can be removed or broken relatively quietly. Replace them with standard windows.

French doors/windows with leaded lights are also vulnerable for similar reasons to louvre windows. Fit key-operated bolts at the top and bottom of each leaf, securing the doors to the frame. Outward opening doors should also be fitted with dog bolts to protect vulnerable hinges.

What else can we do to deter and frustrate burglars?

  • Fit a time switch to some of your lights, which turns them on and off automatically at times set by you.
  • Mark you valuables with a security marker pen. Use your postcode and house number as your identification. A photograph is also a good idea , especially if the object is placed next to a measure.
  • Apply anti-climb paint to fall pipes and low roofs giving access to windows.
  • Key-operated bolts can be fitted to other external doors, not required to be opened from the outside, in place of some of the more expensive security locks available.
  • Always remove keys from locks.
  • Always keep your keys with you, that hiding place in the garden is liable to be found by the wrong person.
  • Always lock doors and windows when going out, even though you may intend being away only a few minutes.Always lock doors and windows before settling down for the evening.
  • Always ask officials for identification, if in doubt, keep them out and ask them to come back when you have a friend or relation with you.
  • Open the door only when you are satisfied that a visitor is genuine.
  • Coal chute still in use, fit a strong chain which must be pulled taut and secured to a substantial fixture with a padlock.
  • Going away? cancel the milk and papers in person or by letter, ask a good neighbour to keep an eye on your property, removing mail and placing it out of sight, walking round the garden and, if you have a drive, leaving their car on it occasionally.

Cold Weather Code

Warning! Winter weather can cause burst pipes, with millions of pounds worth of damage to homes and businesses.

Follow our Cold Weather Code and have a lovely winter

Most of these bursts could easily be avoided with a few simple precautions. However, many people don’t think that the cold weather will affect them, or they don’t know what they should do to protect their homes.

Before The Cold Weather Arrives
  • Find your main stopcock and make sure you can turn it on and off. It will usually be somewhere on the ground floor of your home.
  • Repair any dripping taps.
  • Fully lag all pipes and tanks in the loft space, or anywhere else that may be liable to freeze.
  • Use pre-formed pipe insulation on all pipe runs. Check with your DIY store to see how thick this should be.
  • Wrap bends or hard-to-get-at pipes with securely fixed strips of insulation material.

Insulate the top and sides of tanks with one of the following:

  • a pre-formed plastic tank jacket filled with glass fibre matting
  • rigid polystyrene sheeting at least 25mm (1″ thick)
  • insulation matting 150mm (6″ thick)

NOTE: Do not insulate underneath any tank. If you place insulation material below any water tank, warm air will be unable to rise from the rooms below and keep it warm, and the tank is more likely to freeze. The only exception to this rule is header tanks (generally central heating header tanks) which are raised above the level of the joists in the roof space. These tanks should be completely enclosed in an insulating jacket. Every year check that your loft insulation is thick enough and still in good condition. Make sure it has not been damaged or disturbed since you last looked at it.

Make sure it is placed over any pipes which run between the joists. This will enclose them in the ‘insulation envelope’ of the house. If loft insulation material is placed under the pipes, no warm air will reach them from the rest of the house and they are more likely to freeze.

If Your Home Is Empty Overnight During Winter

Leave your heating on while you are away from home. In severe weather, or if severe weather is forecast, you should leave your heating on day and night at your usual temperature setting, especially if you are going to be away from home for any length of time. This will help prevent frozen pipes.

Open your loft trap door. This allows warm air from other parts of the house to circulate in the loft and will help to prevent the pipes freezing.

Ask a friend or relative to visit your home every day while you are away. This will mean that, if you do suffer a burst pipe, it will be detected as soon as possible, and the damage caused will be minimised.

If Pipes Or Tanks Are Frozen

Turn off the water at the main stopcock. If there is a stopcock fitted on the system side of the header tank (that is, to stop water leaving the tank) this should also be turned off. Do this even if you only suspect your pipes are frozen, since they could also have burst, and, by turning off the water, you will reduce the amount of water that can escape, thus minimising damage to your home.

Before you start to thaw the system, do what you can to protect or remove anything that might be damaged by thawing water running from the burst.

To Thaw The Pipe:
  • Use a hairdryer or hot water bottle – DO NOT USE A BLOW LAMP OR HEAT GUN.
  • Open the tap closest to the frozen part of the pipe.
  • Begin thawing the pipe from the tap side of the frozen area, by heating it gently, and work back towards the header tank.
  • If The Pipe Has Burst:
  • Turn off the water at the main supply stopcock.
  • Switch off the central heating and any other water heating installations, to avoid further damage, or even an explosion.
  • Open all your taps to drain the system.
  • If water is coming through the ceiling collect it in buckets. If the ceiling starts to bulge, pierce the plaster with a broom handle to let the water through.
  • Check if your wiring or any electrical appliances have been affected, DO NOT TOUCH THEM until a professional electrician has checked them. If in doubt, turn off your electricity at the mains.
  • Call in a professional plumber to make repairs. If your insurance company has an emergency help line, they should be able to help find a good local firm.
  • Contact your insurance company for further information on how to make a claim. If your home is so badly affected by water from the burst that you are unable to live there while repairs are carried out, your insurance policy will cover the cost of alternative accommodation until you are able to move back in.
Drying Out
  • Leave windows, doors and built-in cupboards open during the day if possible.
  • Keep affected rooms heated, but do not over-heat them, as this could result in further damage.
  • Store damaged items in a dry place, your insurer may want to inspect them.
Remember the Cold Weather Code