House Buildings Insurance

What it covers

You're covered for damage to the building itself, permanent fittings (such as central heating and built-in cupboards), outbuildings, drives, walls and fences. These policies tend to be very similar in the risks that they cover you against. Typically, they'll include: damage by fire, lightning, explosion, earthquake, theft, riot and malicious persons, storm and flood, aircraft and things falling from them, subsidence, landslip and heave, impact by falling trees or vehicles or animals, breakage or collapse of radio and TV aerials, escape of water from tanks and pipes and oil escaping from fixed heating installations, damage to cables or underground service pipes supplying your property. Cover for accidental breakage of glass or damage to lavatories or washbasins may be included or, with some policies, is extra. Individual policies have exclusions (such as damage to gates and fences by frost, storm or flood), so it's important to compare one policy with another.

If you live in a block of flats or a tenement property, you should check your lease to see where your insurance responsibilities lie.

Types of policy

There are two basic sorts of buildings policy: 'standard' ones will cover only specified disasters; 'all risks' policies cover any accident except those which are specifically excluded. With a standard policy, you can usually add on 'accidental damage' insurance which will bring the level of cover broadly up to that provided by an all-risks policy and bring the cost to about the same level too.

There are also two sorts of cover: 'indemnity', and 'new-for-old'. `Indemnity' cover means that the insurer will pay the cost of repairing

the damage or replacing the item only after making a deduction for wear and tear - so, for example, if an old roof had to be replaced, you'd usually have to pay part of the cost yourself. In most cases you would be wise to go for 'new-for-old' cover instead. 'New-for-old' means you get the full cost of repairs or replacement, though there might be an excess ). And insurers won't pay out for damage due to poor maintenance - usually one of the policy conditions is that you'll take reasonable care to keep your property in 'efficient condition and repair'.


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The Proposal Form

Having found the policy you want, the next step is to fill out a proposal form. This is the application form for a particular policy and it will ask you for all sorts of details which the insurer needs in order to decide whether or not to cover you and how much to charge. Care taken at this stage can prevent problems later.

The length of a proposal form and the questions asked varies from one type of insurance to another, and from one company to another. Perhaps the key feature is the declaration that you usually have to sign at the end confirming that the answers are true and that no 'material... see: The Proposal Form


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