Most Irish houses are a hive of activity at this time of year. From tidying and getting spare rooms ready for guests to putting up the Christmas decorations, this is a time when many of us are giving our homes some TLC.
But, judging by recent experience, there may be one important element we are neglecting — house insurance.
Home insurance brokers www.insuremyhouse.ie reported a huge surge in the numbers trying to get home insurance quotes in the lead up to hurricane Ophelia in October.
Anxious home owners sought to insure their property as their cover had lapsed in recent weeks or in some cases months.
“Hurricane Ophelia was flagged several days in advance by Met Éireann and that’s when the calls began flooding in,” said Deirdre McCarthy of insuremyhouse.
“We experienced a quote volume above normal levels of 65%. The level of calls corroborated something we already knew — that there are very likely thousands of homeowners throughout the country who let their home insurance cover lapse at renewal date.
“If their property were to be damaged or burgled during this period, they would simply not be covered, and would have to foot the entirety of the repair or replacement bill themselves.”
Your home should never be left uninsured if it can be avoided but there are a number of reasons why it is particularly dangerous to let is slide at this time of the year.
As Ophelia showed, weather is a major cause of problems and winter a peak time for storms or deep freezes and subsequent damage.
The aforementioned decorations can also be a cause for concern, with overloaded sockets, covered vents and unattended candles all having the potential to cause problems.
“A home is, for most people, the most expensive thing they’ll ever own, as well as the greatest debt they’ll ever incur,” said Ms McCarthy.
“Not having your home cover up to date really does put you in a precarious position. And the home insurance market is competitive so there’s great value to be had if you do your homework.”
There are a few things to bear in mind when sorting out your home insurance. The cover is divided into two parts — buildings insurance and contents insurance.
The important thing about the building insurance is that you should insure your home for the amount it would cost to rebuild it.
This can be a very different amount to the market value of your home, which is the amount you would get if you sold it. The Society of Chartered Surveyors has a useful House Rebuilding Calculator on its website medi-kids.info, to help you calculate the correct figure.
They also have detailed information on factors to consider when arriving at the rebuilding cost.
You should also insure your contents for the amount it would cost you to replace them if they were stolen or damaged.
Most policies have have an ‘average clause’. If you undervalue your belongings, any payout could be reduced so it is worth taking the time to calculate these costs.
You can download a contents checklist from www.ccpc.ie to help you estimate the value of the contents of your home.
You may also need to list certain valuable items, such as jewellery or antiques separately on your contents policy, as there is usually a limit on the value you can claim for any individual item.
There are a number of ways you may be able to get a discount on your cover, such as having an alarm installed, security locks, the age of the inhabitants and any other policies you may have with the insurer.
If you do get a discount for something like having an alarm, you need to make sure you use it. Failure to do so may give your insurer the right to invalidate or reduce your claim.
If you have previously let your insurance lapse, it may be worth looking at taking out cover for two years rather than one. This option is available in the Irish market and will give you peace of mind for longer.
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