Claims on your contents insurance: what you need to know

5 min read
February 03, 2022

If you’ve had to make a claim on your contents insurance through property damage or you’ve sadly been burgled, then chances are you’ve found it an arduous and perhaps stressful experience.

Sometimes us consumers are lucky in that our claims are processed quickly and seamlessly while for others, the process has been more fraught, often stilted with a lot of chasing on our part. Here we take you through what you will need to make the most seamless claim possible. 

Do you have contents insurance?

If you’re a homeowner you’ll almost certainly have buildings insurance to have been able to secure a mortgage on your property. Contents insurance – which loosely is for cover of the items within or around your property that you could take with you – is voluntary, though strongly recommended. 

If you’re a tenant, your landlord should have buildings insurance to cover any damage to the ‘bricks and mortar’ element of the property. However, contents insurance will be up to you for the items inside your home that belong to you.

Know your excess

An ‘excess’ on your contents insurance policy is the amount you will have to pay financially should you make a claim. Most times this is deducted by the insurer from the full claim amount.

There are two types of excess – one of which you can’t avoid.
Compulsory excess: is applied to every policy and the insurer decides how much this will be for your policy. 

Voluntary excess: is an amount you can choose to pay towards a claim on top of the compulsory excess. As the name suggests this is voluntary so you don’t have to have a voluntary excess, but many find that if they do, their overall premium is likely to be lower.

Know your cover

You will have hopefully assessed all your items accurately and ensured the correct value so that you have an adequate amount of cover if you need to claim. However, one thing to look out for is the ‘single item limit’ on your policy.

A ‘single item’ limit is the amount of cover you have for any individual item. So for example, if this is £1,500 but you have a piece of jewellery, technology or artwork that’s worth more than this, then unless you have individually called this out on your policy or arranged for extra cover (and for its true value) then you may not be able to claim for that item. 

Even if you have contents insurance for all of your possessions for £75,000 as an example and your total claim is lower, if one of those items exceeds your single item limit then your claim for that item is still likely to be rejected.

What happens when you make a claim on your contents insurance

As with everything, the sooner you call your insurer to start the process, the better. If you’re unfortunately looking to make a claim as a result of a burglary or criminal damage you will also need to contact the police as soon as you are aware of it as you will require a crime reference number to start the process.

In this event, it’s likely that the police will send over a forensic representative to examine your home.

The information you will need for your possessions

As with most things, the more information you give, the better. For some of your losses it’s understandable that this might not always be possible, such as jewellery handed down through family over the years or a high value item you bought a while ago. But the more you can give your insurer (and the police if that’s applicable) the higher the chances of securing your claim. 

Not having this information will not mean your claim is rejected outright – there needs to be a valid reason on the insurer’s part for that to happen such as proven negligence or misrepresented information. And clearly, not all of the following is the first thing we think about recording when it comes to our possessions. But here’s some examples of useful information to support your claim.

Receipts: If you value the item and it will cause you inconvenience or distress to lose it, try and keep the receipt if you’ve bought it yourself. 

Serial numbers: If your gadgets, electronics or tech are stolen or lost, then having their serial numbers to hand will help validate that you possessed them in the first place.

Know your makes and models: Ensuring you know the makes and models of your electronics or other goods will make it easier for the insurer (or their consultants) to make a comparison. If the product is still available, it’s worth having a link to it in any records you are keeping. If it’s no longer available then the closest alternative would be the one to go for – but obviously this is easier to judge if you know what you’re comparing upfront – including other points such as memory sizes on laptops. 

Bear in mind that if your item falls above your ‘single item’ limit then you may not be able to claim for it. Items will be priced based on research so make sure you look for where it’s most cheaply available (at a legitimate retailer of course) if you purchased it originally for a price that falls below your limit for a single item claimed. That way it’s easier to argue if you are told that it’s too expensive based on your insurer finding it elsewhere.

Photographs: It’s not the first thing we think to snap on our phones or cameras, but it’s worth taking photos of anything of particular value, for example that priceless jewellery, for safekeeping. Having these to hand if you need to make a claim will help speed up the process and cut in depth questioning.

Authenticity certificates: if you have a piece of high-value jewellery or art (for example) where authenticity certificates can support the claim then these will be useful to have to hand.

Be as descriptive as possible: You may be asked to describe your items, particularly jewellery, including areas such as what it was made of, size, colour or anything particularly intricate about the design. While you are not expected to know what a ‘filigree’ pattern is for example, or know the exact centimetre measurement of a watch face, being as detailed as possible when you’re asked will only help in making your claim.

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