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Home insurance terms you need to know

Accidental damage

This is physical damage caused suddenly by an outside force which is not expected and not deliberate. This means an unintentional one-off incident that damages your property or its contents. General wear and tear or damage that occurs gradually is not accidental damage. For example, if you accidentally drop your laptop, this is accidental damage. But, if your laptop stops working because of a mechanical fault or due to its age, this is not accidental damage.


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Building sum insured

This is the maximum amount of money that can be paid out for repairing or rebuilding your home if it's damaged by incidents such as flood, fire, storm, impact or theft.


Content sum insured

This is the maximum amount of money that can be paid out to replace or repair the contents of your home. It includes household contents. It doesn't include fixed or fitted items of furniture such as fitted kitchen cupboards or fitted wardrobes in the bedroom - these would be covered by your buildings insurance.


High risk items/valuables

These are the items that are considered more liekly to be targeted by thieves, such as jewellery.



The first amount of each claim that you have to pay. For example, if you have storm damage to your roof that will cost £1,000 to repair, but your policy has an excess of £100, you'll be asked to pay the excess of £100 but be able to claim for £900 (the cost minus the excess).


Occupiers and public liability

If you (or a family member) injure someone or cause damage to their property as a result of your negligence, you can be held personally liable for any damage you've caused. Personal liability insurance protects you against such claims.


Policy limits

The most that would be paaid for any single event or item. Your policy schedule and policy booklet will provide you with any policy limits that you have, such as high risk items / valuables limits.


Property owner's liability

This covers costs and damages awarded to someone if they suffer injury or damage to property because of an incident arising from your ownership, but not occupation, of your home.


Proof of ownership

If you're going to make a home contents claim, you may need to prove that something was yours in the first place. Some of the documents you might expect to establish ownership actually only prove the item existed, not who it belongs to.

These documents may be acceptable as proof of ownership:

Receipt - if you paid by Direct Debit or credit card, the till receipt would come with a copy of the card transaction, which states who bought the item.

Invoice - an invoice for goods delivered or work done should be addressed directly to you, and immediately establishes cost and ownership.

Pre-loss valuation - a valuation carried out on, for example, a piece of jewellery. If you have a valuation done, it's wise to get your name and address included on it.

Credit agreement - this should list the item you got credit for and your details.

Photos - best when the item can be identified with you - for example, a picture with the TV in your front room, or of a piece of jewellery being worn.


Rebuilding cost

The total cost of rebuilding your home if it was completely destroyed. It includes the cost of all professional fees, materials and labour, including the cost of demolishing and clearing the old building.

The rebuilding cost is usually less than the market price of a house, because the market price includes the value of the land.



Subsidence is the downward movement of the ground beneath a building that is not due to the weight of the building. Particular problems arise when the movement varies from one part of the building to another, often causing cracks to appear in walls and the building's structure to become unstable. This is normally caused by certain soils types, trees/shrubs taking moisture from the soil causing it to shrink, or leaking drains.


Wear and tear

Wear and tear is a phrase all insurance companies use. It describes the effects of gradual deterioration on the building or the contents of your home. For example, it would include the damaging effects of sunlight on an item of furniture such as a sofa. You can't claim on your insurance for damage caused by wear and tear.

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