75% of UK homeowners may have unknowingly invalidated their home insurance policy

New research from Confused.com reveals that the vast majority of UK homeowners may have unwittingly rendered their home insurance policy invalid without realising, including around 20% accidentally leaving their doors unlocked, risking a burglary they’d not be able to claim on.

Related topics:  Finance,  Property,  Insurance
Property | Reporter
10th May 2023
"Always avoid leaving doors unlocked, and if windows must be left open, then invest in window restrictors"

New research of 2,000 UK adult homeowners by Confused.com looked in detail at seemingly normal things people do that may result in no payout from their insurance providers.

According to the research, 75% of UK homeowners have taken steps that could risk invalidating their insurance policy. Though the actions homeowners admitted taking may seem harmless, they can potentially make homes more vulnerable, causing their insurer to reject any claims.

When it comes to how people are potentially invalidating their insurance, sleeping with doors or windows open during the summer comes out on top. According to the research, 48% of respondents admit to doing this.

The Midlands cities of Birmingham and Leicester see the most homeowners leave doors and windows open during the summer, at 63% each. With so many homeowners across the country at risk of invalidating their policies, it’s vital to review your home insurance provider’s terms and conditions. This will help you understand what you need to do to ensure your policy is valid.

Meanwhile, 37% of UK homeowners have given a key to someone that doesn’t live at the property. While this may seem like a harmless thing to do, especially if you’re close to your neighbours, having keys out of your possession puts you at a higher risk of theft. This could be considered as not keeping the home secure when looking at the terms and conditions of a policy. 53% of Worcester residents said they trust non-residents with a house key, with that figure dropping to just 28% for homeowners in Plymouth.

While sleeping with the windows or doors open is the most frequent way home insurance could be invalidated, younger people more often take a different risk. 31% of homeowners aged 18-24 have posted holiday photos while not at home, more than any other action for this age. Posting about a trip you’re currently on can inform others that your house may be unoccupied, making it a more obvious target for robberies.

Matthew Harwood, home insurance expert at Confused.com shares his tips on making sure your home is safe:

“When you do spend time at home during the warmer months it’s understandable to want to sleep with windows or doors open to keep cool. However, you should always avoid leaving doors unlocked, and if windows must be left open, then invest in window restrictors. This is a safety device that stops your window from opening past a certain point.”

“We know it’s always nice to share the fun you’re having while away, but what a lot of people may not realise is that this could be seen as increasing the risk of a burglary. Waiting to post any holiday photos until after you get home stops people from knowing your home is unoccupied.

Also, always make sure you don’t post photos that identify your home and its location, as this could leave you particularly vulnerable.”

UK homeowners are least likely to do things that invalidate potential claims if their house is valued at less than £100,000. 42% of those who fall into this value bracket typically sleep with doors and windows closed during the summer and don’t give out spare keys or leave doors unlocked.

But those with homes valued under £100,000 are also the least likely to know how many days they can leave their home unoccupied, according to their policy terms. 74% of these homeowners admitted to not knowing their insurer’s ‘days unoccupied limit,’ the most of any homeowners analysed.

Leaving homes unoccupied for a prolonged period of time increases the chance of theft, and ignoring this term means that their insurer might refuse to pay out for any claims. In this situation, it’s always best to speak to your insurer to understand what you should do if you’re planning that extra-long holiday.

Across all demographics, the majority of UK homeowners have risked invalidating their home insurance at some point. While the most common risks aren’t intentional, homeowners should make sure they’re checking the details of their policy. This is to make sure they’re not putting themselves at risk of a rejected claim. This could result in homeowners having to pay for repairs or replacements for any items damaged or stolen.

Matthew Harwood offers his top tips on the ways homeowners can get the best from their insurance policies:

“Buying a home insurance policy is important for homeowners and renters. While some may not see it as a necessity, having a policy covers you financially if you need to make a claim, be it through crime, damage or natural disasters.

“But it’s important that you understand the specific terms and conditions set by your provider. Many have clauses that mean you could invalidate your policy - for example, if you’re not keeping your home secure. Spending time understanding what your policy covers should help stop you from putting yourself at risk.

“There are different types of home insurance for different needs, so research what kind of cover is best for you:

Contents insurance: If you want cover for your possessions, then you will need to take out contents insurance. If your home is left unsecured, and any possessions are stolen, destroyed or damaged, then you can make a claim with your insurer to receive their value back. If you own a lot of high-value items such as TVs or jewellery, you could consider taking out contents insurance.

Buildings insurance: Where contents insurance covers the items in your home, buildings insurance covers the property itself. Any damage done to your windows, walls, floors and roof - as well as additional fixtures and fittings - are covered by your insurer.

Buildings and contents insurance: If you’re looking to cover both your home and valuables, consider taking out a comprehensive buildings and contents insurance plan. This will mean you can make a claim whether your property or its contents are damaged or destroyed.”

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