What is contents insurance?
Home contents insurance covers the cost of replacing your belongings in your home if they are damaged, destroyed or stolen.
As a general rule, your ‘contents’ are the items that you would take with if you moved home.
These include but are not limited to:
- Furniture: beds, sofas, wardrobes and dining tables and chairs
- Kitchenware: cutlery, cookware, microwaves and kettles
- Entertainment: video games, toys, DVDs and CDs
- Soft furnishings: cushions, curtains and bedding
- Electricals: TVs, laptops and game consoles
- Clothes and jewellery
- Ornaments and antiques
Contents insurance can be bought as a standalone policy or as part of a combined home insurance policy with buildings insurance.
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How does contents insurance work?
If you need to make a home insurance claim, your home insurance provider will settle this on either a ‘new-for-old’ or ‘indemnity’ basis.
New-for-old cover means that your home insurer will pay for a brand-new product, of equivalent value, if your insured item is damaged or stolen.
Indemnity cover takes into account wear and tear on the items that you claim for, which reduces the payout you’ll get.
For example, while it may cost £800 to replace your sofa, you may only get £150 once its age has been factored in.
Since the payouts on new-for-old policies tend to be higher, they can be more expensive than indemnity policies.
What are the different types of contents insurance?
There are three main types of contents insurance policy: bedroom rated, sum insured and unlimited sum insured.
A bedroom rated policy uses the number of bedrooms in your home to calculate the amount of contents cover you get.
A sum insured policy requires you to calculate the amount of contents cover you need.
Unlimited sum insured
An unlimited sum insured policy covers all of your contents without any limit so you don’t have to worry about being under insured.
Golden rules for buying contents insurance
Shopping around will increase your chances of finding a competitive deal for your contents insurance.
Get the right level of cover
Be as accurate as possible when valuing your contents. You don’t want to under or over-insure your belongings.
Read the terms of your policy - carefully
Once you’ve found a policy, read the terms and conditions carefully to reduce the chances of being caught out if you ever have to make a claim.
Does contents insurance cover accidental damage?
Accidental damage occurs when there’s a one-off unintentional incident that harms your contents - spilling purple paint on your cream coloured carpet, for example.
Home insurers provide very limited cover for accidental damage as standard so it’s often bought as an add-on to a policy.
Accidental damage cover does increase the price of your home insurance premium and could cost an extra £20-£1000 depending on your policy and the value of your items.
Find out more in our guide to home insurance: add-ons, fees and charges
What is personal possessions cover?
Personal possessions cover - sometimes referred to as an ‘all-risks extension’ - protects your portable belongings while you’re outside of your home and overseas.
These could include items such as your:
- Mobile phone
There are some restrictions as to what’s covered here, so it’s best to check with your insurer so that you get the protection you need.
Contents insurance calculator
Before you start looking for contents insurance quotes you need to work out the value of your belongings.
Our contents insurance calculator will help you work out the total cost of your possessions.
Simply enter the value of your items in each room.
What are common exclusions for contents insurance?
There are a number of exclusions that are likely to apply to your contents insurance policy. These include but are not limited to:
There is usually a limit on the amount of cover for high-value items such as jewellery or audio visual equipment.
For most contents insurance policies, the limit for each item around £1,500, but this can go up to £15,000 depending on your provider and policy.
If you have expensive possessions, be sure to check your policy to make sure they are covered.
Running a business from your home
Ordinarily, if you run a business from your home, any business-related equipment will not be covered by your contents policy.
It’s important to check this with your insurer however and notify them if you work from home.
Working from home
The amount of cover available for people who work from home varies between providers.
While some contents insurance policies may cover your work phone and laptop automatically, others may not cover them at all.
It’s best to check with your home insurance provider to see if you need more extensive coverage for your work contents.
For more information, check out our working-from-home Q&A.
Subletting your home
If you experience loss or theft when you’ve let or sublet your home, you may not be covered by your contents insurance unless there are signs of forced entry.
Pairs and sets
The cost of replacing an entire set of furniture or units is unlikely to be covered by your contents insurance if only part of the set is damaged.
You’ll usually only receive the cost of replacing the damaged parts.
Will contents insurance cover me if my home is unoccupied?
Most insurers will cover your home on the condition that it will not be left unattended for more than 30 consecutive days.
If your home will be left unoccupied for an extended period of time - if you’re taking a long holiday, for example - be sure to let your home insurance provider know as you may be able to increase your cover temporarily for an extra cost.
Should tenants get contents insurance?
Depending on your living situation it’s possible to get contents insurance for the entire home or for just your room.
If you decide to insure the entire flat or home-share, bear in mind that being the named person on a policy can bring unintended consequences.
If, for example, your housemate makes a claim, it will affect everyone else’s premium when it comes to renewal - even if it was their fault.
Your claims record can follow you for up to five years, so even if you move out and change home insurance provider you may still have to declare the incident, which will drive up your premium.
If you decide to go for room-only insurance, you’ll need to have a lock on your door to be eligible for theft cover.
Where there is no sign of forced entry into your room, your claim may be rejected. Belongings in communal areas are also unlikely to be covered unless there is a sign of forced entry into your home.
Your landlord is responsible for the buildings and fixtures, so if there’s a burst pipe or a problem with your boiler, ask the landlord to fix the problem as soon as possible.
If your flat is furnished by your landlord, it’s their responsibility to insure their own contents as well.