Many people own ‘valuables’ of some sort or other, even if they might not think they do. But often homeowners only consider more traditional items such as antiques, jewellery and musical instruments as ‘valuables’ for insurance purposes when these can also include commonly owned items such as expensive laptops, bicycles, smart phones and tablets.
Whether of the more traditional variety or not, there’s a chance your more prized possessions need to be treated a little differently when it comes to your home insurance, otherwise you risk losing out.
Can you be sure you’re valuables are fully protected?
It’s easy to assume that standard household cover protects you financially even if the more expensive, costly items you own are stolen, damaged or lost. But this won’t always be the case and, in fact, quite often isn’t.
The general rule is that you need to tell your insurer about anything you consider to be particularly valuable as it could affect how much of a ‘risk’ you are, and therefore the premiums you have to pay.
If you don’t inform your insurer about a valuable item, and then have to make a claim on your home cover for it, you could find that the claim is invalid and you get nothing.
What does ‘valuable’ mean in terms of home insurance?
While standard home insurance covers most of your possessions, many insurers only include those items you own of greater than usual value if you have specified what these are prior to starting a policy.
Whether an item needs specifying or not largely depends on its value in relation to the maximum claim limits stipulated by the insurer and checkable in the policy’s terms and conditions (see below under ‘Claim limits’).
Do you need extra valuables cover?
Even if you only have one or two items of relatively high value, you might need to tell your insurer and possibly increase the level of cover you have, which could put up your premiums by a small sum. Those who own a good number of valuable items will almost certainly need to.
And if you own anything that is truly worth a great deal more than the level of cover provided, or anything that is perhaps very delicate or rare, then the item might need specialist cover in its own right.
Even if you don’t think you own anything that might be considered ‘valuable’, it’s worth checking your insurance to see if common items such as bicycles, smart phones and laptops are singled out. Depending on your insurance, it may be that they’re treated differently as they’re among the most regularly lost, stolen or broken items people own and therefore different cover levels may apply to them. Again, cover levels can usually be increased for such items at a small extra cost, or specialist insurance can be provided.
Things to consider about valuables and your home cover:
You may need to specify items which you think are particularly valuable. It’s probably worth mentioning anything you think is worth over £1,000 to your insurer, just in case. But check cover levels closely (see ‘Claim limits’ later in this guide).
‘Valuable’ items aren’t always considered to be just ‘expensive’ items; they might also include widely owned gadgets such as laptops and smartphones (depending on the policy).
Items commonly treated as ‘valuable’ often includes antiques, precious metals, artwork, jewellery, musical instruments and more expensive gadgets which might include laptops, computers and bicycles, depending on how much they would cost to replace.
If you take valuable items with you outside the home, you might want to consider what’s known as ‘away from home’ cover. This may come as standard with better home insurance deals, otherwise most insurers can add it to your policy for a relatively small sum.
Claim limits: single items and in total
Claim limits differ considerably between policies and insurers, but typical single item maximum claim limits often range from £1,500 to £2,500, and total claim limits from £30,000 to £50,000.
Example of a typical problem that can arise if you don’t specify and mention more valuable items:
- You might own nothing of great value except a Steinway piano, for example. The Steinway might cost £10,000 to replace, but you never specified it to your insurer and your policy only covers single items for up to a maximum of £2,000. If you had to claim for the piano, it may be rejected outright and you wouldn’t get the £2,000 as you both hadn’t specified the item in the first place.
Claim limits might not just affect your very ‘valuable’ items
Additionally, the rules governing claim limits in relation to ‘valuables’ might not only extend to more expensive individual items.
For example, you could have a set of items, each of which might be worth just a couple of hundred pounds, but when taken together come to several thousands, such as with stamp or medal collections. These would also need to be specified as in total they could exceed the value of the single item claim limit (the insurer may decide to view them as a ‘single’ item).
Likewise, you may own a number of very different items, which might come close to the single item or total claim limits when added together, but not exceed them. However, these might still need specifying as the insurer could decide that taken together they increase your risk profile and affect your premiums.
It’s also worth repeating that a number of commonly owned items may be singled out and treated differently to other items due to the fact that they’re so easily broken or often stolen. Typically such items might include bicycles, mobile phones, glasses, laptops and designer handbags. You may find that the claim limits for these types of items is considerably less.
Beware separate claim limits for valuable items
Some insurers have a total claim limit for valuables that’s different to the total claim limit for the rest of your home’s contents.
This might typically be £5,000. So if you have a fair few valuables, or even just one or two, it’s worth checking if this is the case with your insurer. If it is, you might want to see if your insurer will increase the total claim limit for valuables, which shouldn’t cost you a great deal, depending on the increase requested.
Will owning valuables increase my premium?
Owning valuable items won’t necessarily increase your cover, although it’s likely to.
If you just own one or two items which only exceed claim limits by a small amount, the insurer might simply make a note of what they are and not charge you extra. It also helps if your home has a very high level of security, with the best locks fitted and a quality burglar alarm and external motion sensor lights.
However, the chances are you will have to pay more. The extra cost will depend on a number of factors which are mainly affected by the value of the items you own in relation to the claim limits on a policy, but also by where you live, your age, your occupation and lifestyle.
What if my valuable is ‘irreplaceable’?
Some items are simply irreplaceable. It might be a one-off antique family heirloom handed down through generations, a custom made bicycle worth thousands or bespoke piece of jewellery.
If so, while being unable to replace its sentimental value, your insurer should cover you in the following ways:
- Repairs – An insurer might try and have the item repaired as far as is financially practicable (the rules regarding repairs should be in the terms and conditions, or ask your insurer or insurance broker for guidance)
- Close replicas – The item might be a one-off, but your insurer should offer, wherever possible, to replace it with a close replica (or offer you the cash value)
- Sets – The rules regarding ‘sets’ such as furniture suites, for example, can be complicated. However, standard policies usually only replace what might be considered ‘a pair’ within a set, not the full set itself. This is because insurers are generally only liable for the damaged or stolen item, not the full set (extra cover for full ‘sets’ is available however).
- ‘Salvaging’ of pairs – If one item which is part of a pair, such as an earring, is stolen, damaged or lost, the insurer often ‘salvages’ the remaining item before replacing both. In other words, you have to hand it over to them.
Rules and exclusions to be aware of
Most policies will have a number of rules and exclusions when it comes to ‘valuables’, which typically include:
- Valuations – Valuations are important in relation to ‘valuables’. Without them, the insurer may find it impossible to work out the ‘worth’ of an item, or indeed that you owned it in the first place.
- Evidence of ownership – You will probably need some form of evidence to prove that you owned a valuable item. As mentioned above, valuations prove useful as ‘proof’ of ownership, as are pictures, receipts, and bank or credit card statements.
- Easily stolen or damaged items – Items such as bicycles, glassware and expensive mobile phones are commonly excluded, or have lower claim levels than those governing the rest of the policy.
- Non-specified items – It’s worth repeating that if a ‘valuable’ item hasn’t been specified, it might not be covered and a claim that includes it rejected.