Insure you are on firm foundations

It might not have been in the same league as some of San Francisco’s finest but the earthquake that shook the UK last week was the biggest felt on these shores for 20 years.

Measuring 5.2 on the Richter scale the quake was the biggest recorded in the UK since a mighty 5.4 tremor rocked North Wales in 1984. Despite waking residents as far away as London this latest earthquake, whose epicentre was in Lincolnshire, failed to wreak too much havoc on buildings although the bill is estimated to be around £30 million with more than 1,100 claims in the first 12 hours after the quake.

But while most people’s homes proved robust enough to endure the quake, whether their insurance policies would stand up for long was another question.

Insuring for the unexpected

Though not many will be rushing to dig out their insurance policies, homeowners can rest assured that pretty much all standard policies will insure them against earthquake damage as long as the damage is structural.

It’s a different story, though, if the earthquake caused damage to items inside the home, Picasso’s shaken from the wall etc. These would need to be covered by an adequate separate contents policy. Any car owners whose vehicles have fallen victim to falling tiles or chimney pots will only be covered by their car insurance and then only if that cover is fully comprehensive.

Everything but the kitchen sink

Home insurance policies, and there are hundreds of them, are as individual as the homes we live in, so it’s always worth taking some time to match up your requirements with the ideal policy.

One or two areas you’ll want to consider are pretty obvious, such as whether your policy covers outbuildings contents. Though a lot of insurers will cover items outside the main building up to the total sum insured, others set a cap on how much they’ll pay out, so if your prized possessions reside in the summer house it’s definitely worth checking the small print.

What’s more some insurers will differentiate between theft from outbuildings and general loss, i.e items getting broken or being destroyed by fire, so if you can’t keep everything under lock and key it’s worth checking you’ll still be covered.

Check the details

Some items that may need insurance are less likely to spring to mind. Any enthusiastic botanists would be advised to make the most of the relatively small number of insurers that pay out for plants in the garden. Even those that do tend only to pay out to a fairly limited sum, usually around £1,000. If you’re garden is truly exotic you may need to take out a special home and garden package.

There’s also a huge difference between insurers in terms of what they’ll pay out for loss of visitors effects. A considerable number pay out to the limit of your contents insurance, while others set limits, often quite generous and up to £5000. A surprising number, though, won’t pay anything at all so if you’re often hosting some heavily laden visitors it’d be a wise move to check which insurers will pay out.

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