The last thing you are likely to be thinking about when your brain is full of turkey, shopping lists and sparkly M&S partywear is home insurance. However, insurers are warning customers to give their policy some attention or face a huge bill come January. Burglary claims in December last year cost Halifax £1.6 million, with the average claim totalling £1,500, while Lloyds registered 30,000 frozen-pipes claims last winter.
Here are some insurance tips to consider this festive season.
2 Having said that, be warned about expensive single items, says Ben Wilson, home insurance expert at gocompare.com. “Although some policies will offer a temporary increase to the value of your contents insurance for gifts, remember that your single item limit may still apply. A single item limit is the maximum that your insurer will pay out for an individual item, so if you’re planning on really treating somebody this Christmas to jewellery or electrical equipment, then you might want to review your policy carefully to make sure that it’s covered.”
3 Beware what you throw away — it is probably best not to leave aMacBook or PlayStation box in among the rubbish, for example, especially if bin collections are erratic because of bank holidays. Use light timers so your home does not look unoccupied for long periods and do not leave piles of presents visible to anyone peering in through the windows.
4 If you are likely to have a house full of clumsy toddlers or teenagers, consider whether it is worth adding on accidental damage cover to your home policy. Almost all contents insurance policies have the option to add accidental damage cover but only 15 per cent offer it as standard.
5 Don’t forget the freezer. The food you have stashed in there in the run-up to Christmas can be worth a small fortune so it is worth having cover in place if there is a power cut or your freezer malfunctions. About 88 per cent of home contents policies offer this as standard, says GoCompare, about 65 per cent offer more than £1,000 cover and 24 per cent will pay between £300 and £999 for ruined food.
6 If you are leaving your home for Christmas or the new year, give it a winter health check. Burst and frozen pipe claims cost £28 million a year, with the average claim £1,700, according to Lloyds. Direct Line said the almost 1 million customers affected by winter weather last year paid out an average of £1,635 on repairs.
Katie Lomas, head of Direct Line home insurance, says: “Leave the heating on at approximately 15 degrees on the thermostat. Find out now where your stopcock is and know how to turn off the water supply in event of an emergency.”
7 Check when your boiler was last serviced. If it was more than a year ago then arrange for a GasSafe-registered professional to give your boiler a once over. Dame Yve Buckland, chairwoman of the Consumer Council for Water, says: “When people move into a new home they might not even think to check whether their water pipes are well protected from the cold weather.
“But lagging your pipes before temperatures fall and finding out what to do if one does freeze could end up saving you thousands of pounds and lots of disruption.”
8 If you have a problem with burst pipes, first find your stop tap and turn it off. Make sure any nearby cold taps are turned on to allow the water to escape when it thaws. Don’t turn hot taps on until the central heating is switched off. If you can identify which pipe is frozen, apply a hot water bottle or hot wet towel. Watersafe.org.uk has a list of registered plumbers.