Full disclosure

You must be honest about anything that will affect your level of risk. Tell the insurer about things like previous claims, if you have been refused insurance and any criminal convictions. You must also tell your insurer if your circumstances change such as taking in a lodger, working from home or if the home will be unoccupied for long periods or you intend going on an extended holiday.

Give thought to policy limits and new for old

Watch out for limits such as the amount of cash covered and single article limits on valuables. If you have a £2000 watch this will need extra cover. Some insurance policies are "new for old", whilst others will only give second hand rates or market value for contents items that may be less than you paid.

Most policies will require a mark down for wear and tear for linen, towels and clothes. You may also find that insurer will only pay for damaged items and you may end up with chairs that do not match for example.

When you are likely to have a claim rejected:

Your claim may be only partially paid if:

It is a good idea to keep receipts and make a note of serial numbers. Making a thorough inventory is a good idea. Also take photographs for each room and for any specified valuable possessions to avoid any problems should you need to make a claim.

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Home Insurance cover and claims advice

Sign of forced entry required for successful claimSign of violent entryStolen contents? Signs of forced entry requiredIf you have an alarm - set it when you go outIf you have an alarm - set it when you go outDamage caused by burst pipes is coveredTake steps to ensure you claim is not rejected.

Read the insurance policy small print

Just because you have buildings and contents insurance, it does not necessarily mean you will receive a pay out when you make a claim. Most home insurance policies have conditions in the small print that enable insurance providers avoid paying claims altogether or keep pay-outs to a minimum. The Financial Ombudsman receives more complaints about insurance than any other financial matter.

So what specifically should you look out for?

Insured events

In general, household cover only pays out for specific events such as a fire, storm, flood, explosion, subsidence, impact or a burglary. You can get cover for accidental damage with both buildings and contents insurance at an extra cost. Any claim caused or attributed to poor maintenance will be rejected, such as any damage caused by a leaking roof.

Taking reasonable steps

Most small print on policies state that you must "take reasonable steps to prevent loss, damage or accident".  A burglary claim must be as a result of "violent or forced entry". If you leave a window open or a door unlocked, you could find you claim is not paid or not paid in full. Similarly, if you receive a discount on your premium because you have window locks and a burglar alarm, if they are not used when the home is unoccupied you will not be fully covered.  Pay special attention to items in your garden shed.