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18 May 2020

What does the coronavirus lockdown mean for home insurance?

We ask home insurers about refunds and policy catches under lockdown

For a month now, millions of Britons have been staying at home in an effort to stop the spread of COVID-19, leading many to ask what this means for their home insurance.

Admiral is refunding its car insurance customers £25 each because of changes in driver behaviour under lockdown.

But what about home insurance? Some people have asked Which? whether their premiums should be lower, because of the reduced risk of theft.

We spoke to the UK's biggest insurers to find answers to the key questions about home insurance under lockdown.

  • You can find out more about what COVID-19 means for your rights, travel, health and lifestyle by reading the latest coronavirus news and advice from Which?.

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Can I get a home insurance refund?

Car insurers are encouraging customers to get in touch and change their mileage if they're not driving at the moment, as a way to reduce their premiums. Admiral has even promised a £25 refund for every driver with a policy.

But based on what we've heard from insurers, you're unlikely to be offered an Admiral-style refund for your home insurance. Not even from Admiral.

Some home insurers we talked to have seen fewer theft claims, as break-ins are less frequent when people are at home, but other kinds of claims have increased.

Admiral and NFU Mutual both say they've seen more claims for accidental damage. Hastings also said there was a possibility of an increase in property-damage claims.

Some insurers said that although they are yet to see an increase in any particular kind of claim, they're anticipating a potential increase in claims for fire and escape of water.

The FCA launched two consultations on 1 May, proposing that insurers offer general insurance customers payment holidays, reduced cover and refunds in light of the way coronavirus has changed the market. These measures came into force on 18 May.

Do I need to tell my insurer I'm working from home?

If you're working from home on clerical, computer-based work, there's no need to tell your insurer. Any equipment you're using that belongs to your employer should be covered under its business insurance.

If you've bought new furniture or equipment for working from home, you don't have to tell your insurer. However, you may have to increase your contents cover limit if you think your possessions will now exceed it. You might be able to do this online, or by contacting your insurer.

The exception to this is if you're running your own business from home and you're now storing more stock there, in which case you should inform your insurer.

How long can I leave my home unoccupied?

Most home insurance policies will have a limit on how long you can leave your home unoccupied before cover expires. It's usually 30 or 60 days.

If you're going to be away for a long time, usually you're advised to have someone else check in on your home during that time.

However, lockdown and social distancing measures have changed this. Home insurers are aware that your home might be unoccupied for longer than this during the coronavirus crisis, whether that's because you've moved in with someone else to self-isolate, or you're quarantined or trapped abroad.

Several insurers we spoke to had extended or completely removed their unoccupancy limits when properties are empty because of COVID-19. And you don't always have to contact them to let them know.

The table below has each insurer's usual unoccupancy terms, how long you can leave your home empty for coronavirus-related reasons, and whether you need to tell them. Links take you to our review of each insurer.

If we don't have the info you need from your insurer, it's best to get in touch with the company directly.

InsurerStandard unoccupancy limitCoronavirus extensionNeed to contact?
Admiral30 daysUnlimitedNo
Direct Line60 days12 weeks
Hastings30 days12 weeks
LV60 daysUnlimited
More Than60 daysUnlimitedNo
NFU Mutual60 daysCase by case*Yes
Rias60 daysFlexible**

*Which? understands that NFU Mutual has not formally extended its unoccupancy limit, and it would urge customers to do everything they could to have someone check in on the property while they were away. However, any claims would be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

**No official extension, but Rias will take a 'flexible approach' with customers whose homes are unoccupied because of COVID-19.

Should I tell my insurer if people have moved in with me?

There's no need to tell your insurer if friends or family have moved into your home for lockdown. You only need to do so if they move in permanently.

Are my possessions covered if I'm staying somewhere else?

If you've moved in with family or friends to self-isolate, anything you brought with you will be covered for theft or damage if your policy includes personal possessions cover.

This may have been an optional extra when you bought your policy, or it might have been included with it. Check your policy wording to find out.

More Than said its customers' belongings would be protected even if they don't have personal possessions cover.

This story was originally published on 1 May 2020 and has been updated since then. The last update contained new information on the FCA's guidance and was published on 18 May 2020.