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Latest News What is contents insurance | All you need to know

What is contents insurance | All you need to know

Contents insurance explained | All you need to know

Contents insurance is there to help you protect your belongings, so it’s important to have a policy you can rely on. But cover can vary considerably and can leave you disappointed if it doesn’t meet your needs and expectations.

To help you make an informed decision about what’s right for you and your belongings, here are the answers to questions we’re often asked about contents insurance.

What is contents insurance and what does it cover?

Contents insurance is a type of home insurance that covers your belongings. This includes all the items you would normally take with you when you move home.

Contents insurance doesn’t insure the structure or any permanent fixtures or fittings in your home, these are covered by buildings insurance instead. Depending on what you need, you can buy a standalone contents policy, or combine it with buildings cover within a single home insurance bundle.

Can I get add-on cover to insure other items?

Generally speaking, yes you can. Most insurers will offer a range of optional features that you can add on for an additional premium. This can include options such as:

Legal expenses

This will typically give you access to professional legal advice, covering a range of issues. For instance, it can cover employment disputes, personal injury claims, or claims against contractors.

Accidental damage

Covers the cost of items that have been unintentionally damaged. For example, if you knock your laptop off the table and it breaks or if your window’s been smashed by accident.

Home emergency

Home emergency covers events such as burst pipes, pest infestation, and a breakdown of essential services, like your heating system. Insurers will usually have their own list of emergency contractors which they assign, so if you need to claim make sure to contact your insurer before instructing a tradesman.

Personal possessions

Covers items that you take outside of your home. Generally, this covers personal possessions that you carry with you, for instance, an engagement or wedding ring, mobile phone, or glasses.


Insures your bicycle while you’re out and about. If you have a high-spec bike, it’s worth double checking that the sum insured is enough to cover the cost of a replacement.

How does contents insurance work?

Contents insurance pays to repair or replace your belongings if they’re damaged or destroyed because of an event that’s covered by your policy. Typically, this will include fire, flood, theft, and vandalism.

Typically, there are three different forms of contents insurance policy:

Bedroom-rated contents insurance

Your cover is based on the number of bedrooms in your home. This will usually be more than enough for the average home. The downside is that depending on the value of your belongings, you could end up over insured which could mean paying a higher than necessary premium.


You’ll need to work out the value of your home contents yourself. You can do this room by room, noting down everything you own or use a contents insurance calculator.

Working out your sum-insured can be daunting the first time you do it, but it should be easier at renewal when you already know the value of what you own. Just remember to update the figure if you buy any new items that you want insured.

Unlimited sum-insured

Instead of working to a fixed sum-insured, this amount is unlimited. The benefit is that you won’t have to worry about being underinsured but it can lead to more expensive premiums.

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How much contents insurance do I need?

This really depends on what you own and the value of those items. The key is not to underestimate what you own, which is why going through your house room by room is usually the best way to work out what you need. This will also give you the most accurate figure and can help ensure you don’t pay over the odds for your policy.


The danger of underinsuring your home

Underinsurance doesn’t just mean you get slightly less payout than you need if you make a claim, it can lead to a far greater discrepancy. Your insurer could also invoke the average clause, which allows them to reduce your payout by the percentage you’re underinsured by. You can find out more about what this could mean for you in our guide to underinsurance.


Insuring high value items

Most policies will have a fixed (percentage) or limit for the total valuables kept within the home, with a single article limit per item. Often this will be whichever is the greater of: 5% of the contents sum insured, £2,500, or £5,000.


What is new for old contents cover?

If an item cannot be repaired, your insurer will cover the cost of a brand-new replacement, regardless of how old the original item was.

The other type of policy you can choose is indemnity cover which takes into account the wear and tear of an item, although most insurers don’t commonly offer this type of policy.

As you’d expect, new for old policies tend to have a higher premium. However, if you need to claim, it can often mean better value for money as your payout should fully cover the cost of replacement items.


Do I need contents insurance?

You’re not legally required to have contents insurance. Nevertheless, it’s in your interest to have contents cover so that you don’t end up out of pocket.


Do I need contents cover if I rent my home?

Again, it’s really up to you – you’re under no legal obligation to take out contents cover whether you own your home or rent.

While your landlord is responsible for arranging buildings insurance, they may also have contents cover for any items they provide (for example if your rental is furnished). Your landlord’s contents insurance does not cover your belongings though, so if there were a break-in you would not be able to make a claim for any of your own possessions on their policy. If you wanted to cover your own belongings, consider tenants contents insurance.


How much does contents insurance cost?

Your insurer will consider a number of points to work out a fair premium, including:

  • the value of your belongings;
  • the type of policy you choose (sum insured, blanket, or unlimited);
  • whether you have had any claims in the past;
  • your postcode;
  • whether or not you decide to add on additional features

What is not covered by contents insurance?

All contents policies come with terms, conditions, and exclusions. These can vary by insurer, but typically policies won’t cover:

  • damage caused by pets;
  • wear and tear or breakdown of electricals because of age;
  • properties that are empty for long periods of time, for which you will need unoccupied property insurance.

Content insurance FAQs


Does contents insurance cover accidental damage?

Some policies will cover limited accidental damage to items like your TV and audio equipment, but full accidental damage cover will usually be an optional extra at an additional cost.

Does contents insurance cover fire?

Yes. Contents cover will typically cover the cost of repairing or replacing your belongings if they’re damaged by fire, flood, theft, or vandalism.

Can I purchase contents insurance if I’m a student?

Yes. If you’re a student you can buy student contents insurance.

Does contents insurance cover items that are stored in my garden, shed, or garage?

Generally yes, but up to a fixed amount. You will usually need to meet certain conditions too, for example, sheds must be secured, and valuable items should not be left out.

Does home contents insurance cover my bike?

Your bicycle will normally be covered while it’s stored at home or in a locked shed or garage. If you want to insure it while you’re out and about, you’ll need personal possessions cover or specify the bike separately on your policy.

Does home contents insurance cover damage by pets?

Typically, no. Most standard contents insurance policies will not cover damage by pets.

Does contents insurance cover jewellery?

If your jewellery is at home, then your policy will cover you up to a set limit and according to your single article limit. To make sure the items you wear are covered when you’re out and about, you’ll need to arrange personal possessions cover and specify the items you want insured.

Does my home contents insurance include my mobile phone and other gadgets?

Standard policies will cover these items in the home, up to the single article limit. If you have personal possessions cover then they would be covered while outside of your home too.

Will my home contents insurance cover items bought at Christmas and other special occasions, such as birthdays?

Most insurers apply an increased limit during these occasions. However, you must still be mindful of your single article limit – if you receive items of a higher value you should inform your insurer as soon as you can.

Can I get home contents insurance for less than a year?

Most policies last for 12 months but some providers are beginning to offer policies on a pay-as-you-go basis.

What should I do when my home contents insurance policy is due for renewal?

Try not to auto-renew. Instead, double check your sums insured and make sure they are still adequate. If you’ve since bought (or inherited) anything that needs to be covered, let your insurer know and they’ll be able to amend your policy to reflect your needs.

How do I make a claim on my home contents insurance?

In most cases your insurer or broker will have a claims line which you should call in the first instance.

For further information on content insurance for your belongings, contact Alan Boswell Group on 01603 218000.