Let’s face it, we all hate renewing our home insurance and when the renewal notice lands on the doormat, it’s just not a very exciting thing to have to do! So how many people actually take the time to search for the best deal, and look at all the small print that relates to the dos and dont’s of insuring one of the most valuable assets you own and all your prized possessions? It’s all too easy to forget about the renewal notice and before you know it, the insurance company has debited your bank account or credit card for the next year.

It is certainly worth spending a bit of time on a rainy Sunday evening, surfing the internet and getting some online, no obligation quotes and talk to your friends and family and find out who they use for insurance. What’s the worst that could happen – you find out that the insurance company you are already with wants to keep your custom and is actually going to charge you a fair sum for your insurance. However, you could just find the insurance deal of the year!

To help you search for the best contents and buildings insurance, here are some things insurance companies need to know that may affect your insurance policies and the validity of cover:-

1. Any change in occupancy of the property, ie. becomes unoccupied, let to a third party, used for paying guests etc.
2. Any deterioration in the condition of the property, such as evidence of subsidence or landslip.
3. If anyone living in the property is/has been convicted of or charged with a criminal offence (except for driving offences).
4. If anyone living in the property is/has been made bankrupt.
5. Any significant increase in the sums insured, perhaps you’ve bought a ‘work of art’ or some expensive antique furniture!
6. Any change in the security arrangements for the property, ie. the burglar alarm no longer works or the police withdraw support for intruder alarms.
7. If you’re planning any major structural changes to your property, ie, loft/basement conversion, extension or conservatory.

In the current economic climate, it’s certainly worth carrying out some research to keep your costs down. Many insurance companies apply discounts for:-

1. Online applications as opposed to over the phone.
2. Multiple types of policies, ie. buildings, contents and car.
3. New customers or offer ‘extras’ free of charge, such as RAC or AA cover for a year.

We’ve recently had a number of insurance renewals through including cover for two dogs (one very elderly), two cars and a set of contact lenses, and it would have been very easy to automatically renew with the same companies, but I’m so glad we didn’t! We’ve managed to insure two cars for the price of one (and received a cheap quote for car breakdown cover) and saved £150 on dog insurance – we’re yet to research contact lense policies!

If you are thinking about moving or letting your home, there are a number of specialist insurances, eg for thatched; underpinned; buy to let; Listed or unoccupied properties. These types of properties do require more specific policies, so take a look at our specialist property insurance, insurance for historic properties and letting insurance sections.

Above all, read the small print on your insurance policy to make sure you are fully covered, disclose any changes to your property and finally, don’t forget to add in the items that are kept outside – bicycles, greenhouse, marble statue in the garden, contents of your shed or garage, dog kennel, oil in your tank etc!

About the author

Kate is one of the top property experts in the UK and is often quoted in the press including the Telegraph, Independent, Times, Daily Mail and Express as well as featured on BBC1, Channel 4, Radio 4 and local BBC Radio stations. She is author of six books, including four for Which? including Buy, Sell, Move House, Renting and Letting, Develop your Property and the Property Investment Handbook. http://www.designsonproperty.co.uk/