Five silly mistakes that could leave you uninsuredSlip-ups that might stop your policy paying out

12 May 2010

Insurance policy agreement

Consider the quality of the car insurance cover your policy offers, as well as how much it costs

Have you ever been just seconds away from putting petrol in your diesel car? If so, you’re not the only one.

According to the British Insurance Brokers’ Association (Biba), there are around 150,000 cases of ‘mis-fuelling’ per year in this country – and the damage this causes to car engines can cost around £5,000 to repair.

However, Biba says 30% of insurance companies wouldn’t cover a driver who made this honest mistake, as we explain in Petrol mix-ups can prove costly.

Here are five other common slip-ups which could cause your insurer to deny you a pay-out in the event you needed one.

1. Keeping a spare key under the doormat

It may seem difficult to believe, but some people keep keys to their homes in dangerously obvious hiding places.

Thieves are well aware of where to look for keys before taking the trouble to break into properties, so if you’ve stowed a set under your doormat, beneath a plant-pot or behind a tree, you should consider how this could affect any home insurance claim you tried to make.

If you leave your home insecure by providing a potential intruder with easy access to keys, your insurer may consider you negligent and class any burglary that occurs as ‘unforced’.

This might leave you with no hope of an insurance payout, should your possessions be stolen or damaged.

2. Forgetting to replace the batteries in your smoke alarm

Smoke alarms are cheap, simple to fit and could save your life in the event of a fire. What’s more, having them in place should also help cut the cost of your home insurance policy.

However, if you benefit from slightly cheaper premiums as a result of fitting smoke alarms, it could be a requirement of your policy that they are maintained in ‘good working order’.

In this instance, if you don’t replace the batteries in your smoke alarms and regularly check that they work properly, your insurer could refuse to pay out for fire damage to your home and possessions.

3. Leaving your car unattended, with the keys still in the ignition

Perhaps this sounds like a ridiculous thing to do. But have you ever switched on your car’s engine, left the heating on to defrost its windows and then dashed back indoors for a forgotten file or your packed lunch?

People are most likely to make this mistake on icy winter mornings – but it’s a seriously risky way to stay warm while your car de-frosts!

It might take just seconds for a thief to get into your car and drive off – and if your vehicle is stolen while left unattended, it is highly unlikely your insurance policy would pay out for your loss.

4. Failing to mention key facts

Failing to disclose key facts to your insurance company leaves you open to disappointment and financial difficulty if you ever need to claim.

Anything from forgetting to mention pre-existing medical conditions to fibbing about criminal convictions could invalidate your insurance cover – even if you have fully paid your premium.

What’s more, accidentally omitting information your insurer might need is not an excuse for ‘non-disclosure’. Under the law, the onus is on consumers to supply companies with accurate details of anything that might affect the price of their insurance policy.

For this reason, it’s crucial to ensure you’re in possession of the full facts about your car and home before purchasing insurance. For example:

  • Check exactly what type of locks are on your property’s doors. Insurance policies often specify which locks properties should have in place, so giving your insurer the wrong information could cause problems later.
  • If your car is second hand, double check that no modifications have been made to it. Failing to disclose modifications to your vehicle could invalidate your insurance policy.
  • Find out what materials your property is made from before buying buildings insurance. If it turns out the stone or brick used is rare or costly to replace and you haven’t disclosed this in advance of claiming, it’s unlikely you’ll be covered.

5. Advertising your absence

Finally, anyone keen on social networking via sites such as Facebook and Twitter should think carefully before announcing their upcoming holiday online.

By putting information about your absence from home, as well as personal details, into the public domain, it might be argued you are making life easier for opportunist thieves.

There have been reports that some insurance companies take a dim view of claimants who have openly advertised their absence from home. This has sparked debate over whether ‘irresponsible’ social networking by consumers could affect home insurance payouts and premiums.

Looking for good value for money insurance from a company whose service is rated by Which? readers? Check out the Which? recommended providers of home insurance and car insurance.

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