Insurance & you

Thursday, 12 January 2012

Don't try this at home

From stained rugs to electrical fires, domestic disasters are on the up. While you may be covered on your home insurance, a few simple steps will make your home safer and sounder all round. Susannah Hickling finds out more.
Red wine spilt on carpet

Accidents will happen, or so the saying goes and figures certainly back this up. According to the Association of British Insurers (ABI) in December 2009, £8.5 million was paid out in household insurance claims every day to UK householders for damage to property and loss of possessions in 2009*.

Accidental cover is usually optional on home insurance, so make sure you know exactly what you are – and are not – covered for. That said, a few preventive measures could save you time, money and a big headache down the line.

Neglecting the electrics

“A lot of people have been living in the same property for 30 or 40 years and have never had anything done to the electrics,” says Nigel Houghton, electrical service manager for Pimlico Plumbers.

Periodic inspection and testing carried out every 10 years by a qualified electrician will reduce the fire risks associated with old wiring.

Sheila Merrill, home safety manager at the Royal Society for the Prevention of Accidents (RoSPA), recommends a residual current device (RCD) – this will cause your electrics to trip out if it detects an appliance fault.

This is now a standard feature of modern electrical installations, but you can buy an RCD unit that plugs into a socket for around £10.

Kitchen nightmares

Fire Service statistics place 41 per cent of domestic fires in the kitchen, with chip pans alone causing around 8,000 fires a year**.

A smoke alarm is a must – sited in a hallway or landing, not the kitchen – and preferably buy one with a 10-year battery. Better still, have a mains-operated one fitted if possible.

Inviting the burglars in

According to the ABI, there were 374,000 home insurance claims for theft in 2010, so fit British Standard door and window locks and use them. Insurers often ask for a five-lever mortice deadlock on outside doors.

Favourite pickings for burglars are portable items such as cameras, mobiles, iPods and iPads. ‘Postcode’ these with a UV marker and a hologram security label to make them traceable.

Food and drink foul-ups

Red wine on the carpet; the coffee spill that wrecks your laptop; a freezer full of food ruined when you leave the door open – all are common catastrophes.

“Ensure that you include accidental damage cover on your contents insurance policy to cover against spillages,” says Lloyd Overton of RIAS, “as many insurers do not include them”. While most cover against frozen food disasters, you can buy a freezer alarm for under £20, which will sound if things start hotting up.

Pipe pitfalls

Claims for water damage caused by burst pipes last December were 35 per cent up on the whole amount paid out in 2009***. A classic blunder is lack of insulation, so make sure you lag your pipes and insulate the hot water tank.

Luckily, RIAS offers extended accidental cover for snow and ice damage on buildings. When you go away in winter, set the heating to come on low for a short period every day.

Skimping on insurance

Scaling back your home insurance cover is a temptation, but it really is a false economy. Ensure you’ve totted up the value of all your possessions – call in an expert to help if you need to – as under-insuring your contents is a frequent mistake.

How RIAS can help

RIAS has a home insurance policy to suit you – whatever your particular needs. Our comprehensive accidental damage cover gives you complete peace of mind, covering you for everything from a broken vase to a leaking washing machine.

For added security, our extended accidental damage covers you for all sorts of home disasters, including snow and ice damage and whilst being away from the home for up to 60 days.

*Figures according to the Association of British Insurers, Dec 2010
**Fire and Rescue Service Operational Statistics, March 2011
***Figures from the Association of British Insurers, March 2011

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