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Your house is more than a few walls and a roof. It’s got memories and knick-knacks and that one window which makes a spooky ghost noise when it’s windy. If everything goes well, your house will see you through all the good times to come with meals and showers and your nice cozy bed.
But life isn't always kind. What would you do if someone broke in and stole your iPad? Or a surprise hailstorm smashed up your roof and half the kitchen too? What would you do if a fire tore through your home and destroyed everything?
Insulating yourself against the worst isn’t hard. Home insurance can do the job for you. Compare home insurance companies and read up on how to safely protect that place you call home.
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If you answered yes to either of these questions, home and contents insurance should definitely be on your radar.
So, why do I need it?
Not getting insurance for your home is like riding a motorbike without a helmet - it's really, really dumb. You've been slaving away for years, putting away every penny toward your home, so why wouldn't you take the extra step and make sure it's covered against the worst? It's just logical, really.
If your home was to catch fire, how screwed would you be? If a thief stole your expensive jewellery, how angry would you be? If disaster struck, would you actually be able to afford the expenses that come with it?
No? We couldn't either.
That's why home insurance is such an important thing to have. It protects you against everything from fire and storm damage to burst pipes, falling trees, theft and vandalism. Here's a quick breakdown of why you need it:
It protects your house. Your home is usually the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy and the most valuable asset you’ll ever own. Home building insurance provides protection against an extensive range of risks, guaranteeing that you will be able to repair or rebuild from scratch if an unexpected disaster strikes.
It protects your possessions. Whether it's family heirlooms, your expensive dining room set, or even your Xbox, many of us couldn't live without our possessions. The contents of your home aren't just stuff; they’re often your most important and treasured possessions and can hold just as much sentimental value as they do financial worth. Contents insurance ensures that you will be able to repair or replace your possessions if they’re damaged by fire, storm, theft or a range of other insured events.
Quite simply, it gives you the ultimate peace of mind. The biggest benefit of getting cover is the peace of mind and confidence it provides. With the right policy in place, you can rest assured that you will have the financial support you need should loss, damage or some other unexpected misfortune affect your home or contents.
New to home insurance? Here's what you need to know.
Not sure what you're getting yourself into? That's totally fine! Sometimes it seems that insurance companies try to overcomplicate and confuse their users on purpose. But we know our sh*t. Our guides can help you actually understand home and contents insurance, how it works, and why you shouldn't go without it.
If you want to cover your house and your possessions in it, you're looking at a combined home and contents insurance policy. It covers the cost of repairing your home if it's damaged from natural events. It also covers your possessions - such as furniture, electronics, carpets, curtains, and clothing - from loss, damage, and theft. You can also take out over for items that you take outside of the house (like electronics or jewellery) at an extra cost.
Contents insurance is stand-alone cover for your possessions in the home. This includes jewellery, electronics, carpets, curtains, furniture, appliances, and furnishings. This is a great option for renters or those homeowners who live in an apartment.
This is stand-alone cover for only your home. It also covers other fixtures on your property, such as garages, fences, and sheds. It protects you against a bunch of natural events, such as fire, storm damage, and floods.
Landlord insurance protects your home against theft, malicious damage, loss of rent, as well as natural events like storms, flood, and fire. It's a smart idea if you're renting your home out to strangers.
Lightning. Loss or damage caused by lightning, or by a power surge caused by lightning.
Flood. Protects you against loss or damage caused by water that has escaped the normal confines of a lake, river, creek or dam, or a number of other bodies of water. Many policies only offer flood cover as an option, not as an automatic inclusion.
Earthquake and tsunami. This benefit ensures that you are covered against loss or damage caused by an earthquake or tsunami.
Water and oil leaks. When water or oil escapes from gutters, pipes, baths, toilets, appliances or a range of other household items, you're covered for the resulting loss or damage.
Theft or burglary. Covers you against loss or damage caused by theft, attempted theft or burglary.
Malicious acts and vandalism. If your home or contents are damaged due to vandalism or a malicious act, your policy can offer financial protection.
Riots or civil commotion. Financial protection in the event that a riot, civil commotion, or industrial or political disturbance results in loss or damage to your home.
Accidental glass breakage. This covers accidental breakage of items such as window glass, skylights, fixed mirrors and light fittings, sinks, basins, baths, toilets and glass cooktops.
Explosion. Loss or damage caused by an explosion, as well as a landslide or subsidence that occurs as an immediate result of an explosion.
Impact damage. This benefit covers you against impact from objects such as falling trees, power poles, TV antennas, motor vehicles and meteorites.
How to make sure your policy fits you like a glove
What should I look for in a policy?
Comparing home insurance policies can be confusing and overwhelming. A product disclosure statement (PDS) is a complicated document full of technical jargon and terms and conditions. Making sense of the information it contains can be a difficult task.
To make things a little easier, following are some key features to look for when researching the pros and cons of a home insurance policy:
Cover that meets your needs. This is an obvious place to start, but does the policy include cover for all the common risks you face? For example, if flooding is a risk where you live, does the policy provide adequate flood cover?
The ability to tailor cover. How flexible is the insurer if you want to create a policy to suit your needs? Are there optional extras available so you can tailor cover for your home?
Total replacement cover. There are two main types of protection: total replacement cover and sum insured cover. Sum insured policies are more common and allow you to select the level of cover you need to repair or rebuild your home. However, total replacement policies provide the necessary cover to rebuild your home to the same condition it was in prior to an insured event. While much rarer than sum insured policies, total replacement policies greatly reduce the risk of underinsurance.
New-for-old contents replacement cover. If you add contents insurance to your policy, it’s worth looking for a policy that provides new-for-old replacement. This means that if any of your personal belongings are stolen, or damaged beyond repair, the policy will cover the cost of replacing them with new equivalent items. Policies that don’t offer this feature only provide cover for the replacement value of the stolen or damaged items.
Accidental loss or damage cover. Spilt some red wine on your white carpet? Kids got a little creative with permanent markers on the wall? Accidental damage cover can help cover these mishaps. It’s included as standard with some high-level policies, and is available as an extra-cost option on others. It is well worth considering if you want comprehensive protection.
Know your cover needs. Before you start shopping for a policy, think about the risks you want to cover and the level of protection you need. Once you're clear on the type of cover you're after, you can start looking for the right policy.
Read the PDS. Don’t wait until it’s time to make a claim to peruse your policy's PDS; take the time to read it closely before making a purchase. This will allow you to determine exactly what the policy includes, how much protection it offers, and under what circumstances cover would not be provided.
Ask for recommendations. Check out online reviews and ask friends and family for their recommendations. Hearing from people who have actually had to make a claim on their policy is a great way to sort the strong policies and insurers from the weaker ones.
Compare your options. Last but definitely not least, don’t settle for the first policy you find. Instead you should compare the benefits, features and exclusions of a wide range of policies. Consider the following factors, alongside the cost of cover, to work out which option provides the best value for money.
How much cover do I need?
Unfortunately, there’s no "one size fits all" answer that explains exactly how much cover is enough for your home and contents. You need to carefully consider your insurance needs to work out what will be adequate protection. According to research from the Insurance Council of Australia, 83% of Australian homeowners and renters don’t have enough insurance to cover their home and contents. That’s an alarmingly high figure, so it’s essential that you take the time to think about your requirements before choosing a policy. Ask yourself:
How much would it cost to completely rebuild my home?
What about replacing my contents and all of my worldly possessions?
Unless you have sufficient protection to cover the cost of replacing everything following an unexpected disaster, you will be under-insured, and the financial consequences can be disastrous. Many insurers offer handy online calculators to help you work out how much home and contents insurance cover you need. These useful tools are a great place to start, but an independent valuation will be much more accurate.
You should also remember to consider the benefits of a particular policy: does it provide cover for all the risks you need protection against? Do you need to add extra-cost options so you have a suitable level of cover? If you take time to crunch the numbers and carefully examine your needs, you’ll be able to select the right amount of cover for your home and possessions.
What isn't covered?
As well as checking what a policy covers, it’s also essential to check the PDS for a list of general exclusions. These are situations in which an insurer will refuse to pay your claim. Common circumstances under which you will not be covered include the following:
Price is obviously a crucial factor when comparing and choosing policies. However, the cost of home insurance depends on a wide range of factors. When calculating your premiums, the insurer will take the following factors into account:
The sum insured. It doesn’t take a genius to work out that the higher the level of cover you select, the more your premium will be. For example, if you want to cover your home to the tune of $1 million, don’t be surprised if your premiums are much higher than they are for someone who selects a sum insured of $400,000.
The options you select. If you choose to tailor your policy to suit your needs by adding extra-cost options, your premiums will increase. For example, you may wish add optional flood cover, or cover for electric motor burnout. While these do offer essential protection for your home, they also drive up premiums.
The excess you choose. Many insurers offer a flexible excess on their policies, allowing you to choose a higher excess in return for lower premiums.
Your home. Insurers will consider the age and construction of your home when calculating your premiums. This will help them determine how likely it is to withstand damage and how much it will cost to repair or rebuild.
Where your home is located. If you live in an area prone to bushfires or severe storms, the increased risk of damage will push up your premiums. Insurers will also assess the crime rate in your area; if you live somewhere with a high rate of theft and break-ins, expect this to be reflected in higher premiums.
If you’re looking for the cheapest insurance cover for your home, the single most important thing you can do is compare a wide range of policies and shop around for the best deal. This will help you find the most affordable cover for your needs and choose a policy that matches your budget. However, remember that the cheapest home insurance isn’t necessarily the best policy.
Like so many other things in life, when buying home insurance you really do get what you pay for; if you choose a cheap policy with an insufficient level of cover, the results could be disastrous. Remember to look past the price of a policy to the features and benefits it offers to determine whether you are getting true value for money. There are also several other things you can do to lower the cost of your policy, such as the following:
Choose a higher excess. Most insurers allow you to vary the excess payable when you make a claim; if you choose a higher excess, you’ll be rewarded with lower premiums.
Choose a lower level of cover. Carefully calculate the sum you need to insure your home and contents for. Are you paying extra for a high level of cover that you don’t actually need? You may decide that it’s in your best interests to downgrade from a "platinum" policy to basic protection.
Don’t add options you don’t need. Adding optional extras to your policy allows you to tailor home insurance protection to your requirements. Unfortunately, it also increases the premium, so make sure anything you add is absolutely essential.
Don’t make any claims. Sometimes making a claim is unavoidable, but if your insurer offers a no-claim bonus, the cost of cover will be greatly reduced if you don’t submit any claims.
Take advantage of discounts. Home insurers offer a variety of discounts to customers. These include discounts for loyalty, for seniors, for having multiple policies with the insurer, and for purchasing online.
Review cover regularly. Just because a particular insurance policy was right for you a few years ago doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the best fit now. Cover needs change all the time; maybe you’ve just invested in a top-of-the-line home entertainment system and want to upgrade your contents cover. In addition, insurers are constantly updating their policies and premiums. Don’t be afraid to compare your options and see if you can find a better deal.
What else do I need to know?
When should I get home insurance?
So you've just bought your new home. Before you pop the champagne, make sure you're insured in case that cork decides to go straight through your wall.
It's a good idea to have building insurance in place when you exchange contracts. People used to get cover notes for the period between exchange and settlement, however, these are no longer offered. What you can do, however, is take out insurance and request a start date up to 40 days in the future.
If you require insurance in place in order to get a home loan, all you need to do is send a copy of your insurance contract to your lender in order for them to release the funds.
It's also a good idea to get your contents insurance organised before you move, as this will include damage or loss of your possessions while in transit.
Is home insurance worth it?
For most people, the answer to this question is a resounding "yes". Take a moment to think about how you would cope financially if your home and everything you own was completely destroyed. Sure, it’s a worst-case scenario and one that you’ll hopefully never have to deal with, but would you have the financial means to start again from scratch following an unexpected disaster? If you answered "no", then home insurance is something you must consider.
With the right level of protection in place, you can be sure that you won’t end up out of pocket if your home or contents are damaged or totally lost. Home insurance gives you peace of mind. There’s always a chance you will spend years paying premiums for a policy on which you never have to make a claim. However, knowing that it will offer crucial financial protection when you need it most, makes home insurance worth every cent.
4 common traps to avoid
Keep an eye out for these common traps when choosing cover:
Trap 3: Renewing without reviewing. Don’t simply pay your annual renewal when it arrives each year. Insurers are always competing for more business and offering attractive savings to new customers. It’s worth shopping around to see if you can find the same or better cover at a more affordable price.
If you’re renting, you won’t need any of the protection offered by home insurance; you don’t own the home, so insuring it is something for your landlord to worry about. However, you should consider taking out a contents-only insurance policy. This type of cover can protect the possessions and personal items within your home against loss or damage due to fire, storm, theft vandalism and a huge range of other risks. Just make sure you compare a range of policies to find one that best suits your needs.
How do I make a claim?
You can find information on how to make a home insurance claim in the PDS and policy documents. Most insurers allow you to lodge a claim in three ways:
Over the phone
Via a mobile claims app
Once you’ve contacted an insurer to provide notification of an insured event, you may be required to fill out a claim form, either online or in hard copy. Alternatively, your insurer may only have to ask you questions over the phone in order to complete the necessary paperwork. The insurer will also advise you of any information or documentation you need to submit in support of your claim, such as the following:
A copy of the police report following theft, attempted theft or burglary
Proof of ownership of stolen or damaged items, such as receipts
Evidence of any damage, such as photos
Co-operating with all requests from the insurer throughout the claims process is the best way to ensure that your claim is paid as quickly as possible.
4 claims slip-ups to watch out for
Water damage, fire damage, storm damage and household accidents are four of the biggest and most costly hazards you might face. Depending on how they occurred, you might not be protected even if you have comprehensive cover. Fortunately, there are a lot of ways to minimise these risks.
A lot of things around the house can cause water damage, from plumbing to humidity to blocked gutters. Make sure you take the following steps:
Regularly check under sinks, washing machine connections and anywhere else you have pipes. Avoid flushing foreign objects down the toilet, and address any signs of a leak as soon as possible; even a small leak can cause an increasing amount of damage over time.
Keep an eye out for mildew and mould and try to scrub it away as soon as you can. It’s a common effect of Australia’s warm climate, but can also be a sign of internal water damage as in the case of rising damp. If mould keeps appearing in a well-ventilated room, it could be a leak that you're unaware of. Ignoring such issues can count as a failure to adequately maintain the home, and can be used to reject an insurance claim.
When handling mould and water damage, go all out. Sponge or mop away as much as possible and open windows to speed drying. Remove rugs and let them dry. Doing everything you can to handle these issues reduces claims and keeps down insurance costs.
When you take into account bushfires, gas, electricity, smoking, and flammable materials around the home, it’s worth being prepared for fire damage. Fire causes relatively few injuries and deaths, but it does result in a lot of property damage. Keep the following points in mind:
Don’t overload power points, and switch off appliances when not in use.
Have at least one fire extinguisher in the home and learn how to use it.
Install the required amount of smoke alarms in your home and test them regularly. Some insurance companies offer reduced premiums if you maintain functional smoke alarms. However, if there is a fire and the alarms are not functioning, it's unlikely you'd be able to claim on insurance.
If you have an old gas or oil heater, consider upgrading. The safety benefits are typically recognised by home insurance providers in the form of reduced costs.
Do not cover heaters. Neglecting the warning signs on appliances can leave you unable to claim insurance, or only able to claim greatly reduced amounts if you are found to be at fault.
Protect your windows. Broken windows as the result of a storm is an extremely common occurrence, and shards of glass in a carpet can cause serious injuries. If you live in an area that’s prone to storms it can be worth investing in shutters to protect the windows.
Australia has experienced a lot of hailstorms in recent years. They can cover an enormous area and do staggering amounts of property damage. Most homes easily cope with milder hailstorms, but those that are particularly severe can shatter roof tiles, break windows and cause other types of serious damage. If you have reinforced roofing or storm shutters, you may be able to get some insurance discount.
An important part of protecting yourself from personal injury claims is demonstrating that you’ve taken all the right precautions.
Make sure outdoor stairs are well lit. You may be held responsible if visitors injure themselves where there’s no lighting available.
Do you have a dog? Having your dog complete a certified behaviour training course can reduce your liability in the event that it bites someone. If it injures someone without passing a training course you’re more likely to be held liable, even if it was provoked.
Trampolines, swimming pools and backyard playgrounds can be the cause of countless scrapes and bruises, but also more serious injuries. Installing a swimming pool fence and signage is a legal requirement, as is adult supervision in a play area. Even ensuring your trampoline has good padding, will prove to an insurer that you’ve taken all the right steps to prevent accidents.
Check the definition of storms and flooding
When it comes to covering damage caused by storms and flooding, many home insurance policies are vague. It’s important to ascertain what natural disasters you are covered for. As a general rule, storm cover is included in most home and contents insurance policies.
From an insurer’s perspective, storm damage usually includes damage caused by storms, lightning, hail, rainwater, run-off and land gales. However, each insurer may define storm damage differently, so it’s crucial to check the fine print.
Flood cover is where things get tricky. It’s not always included, so if you live in a flood-prone area it’s important to check your policy’s PDS carefully to determine whether or not you are covered. If you live in a coastal area you may not be covered for some storm and flood-related damage.
If you need to make a claim, you will have to be able to prove that a storm, as defined by your insurer, has occurred. Ensure you have proof such as photographs, video footage and weather reports.
Got any other questions?
Answers to your home insurance questions
Choosing a policy
If you are renting a property, including shared accommodation, you can get renters insurance to protect your belongings instead. The structure itself can only be insured by the owner or landlord.
Home insurance premiums are calculated based on a wide range of factors, including the following:
The sum insured
Any optional cover you add to your policy
The excess you choose
Where your home is located
The age of your home and the materials used in its construction
Your home's security features
Your claims history
Any discounts that apply
No, there is no legal requirement for Australian homeowners to have home insurance. However, the benefits and peace of mind home insurance offers make it something every homeowner should consider purchasing.
The most accurate way is with an independent valuation, but online calculators are also useful. The value of the building refers to how much it would cost to rebuild it today, exactly as it was. Do not include the value of the land.
Keep an updated written inventory of major possessions. To start with, you should do a room-by-room inventory, or a video walk-through of each part of the house. Remember to include attics, garages and sheds. Store this information electronically and keep a backup in a safe place to reduce the odds of it being lost if your home is damaged.
Using online calculators is generally one of the easier ways to estimate your home's value. The more thorough it is, the more accurate it is likely to be. Try to find a calculator that asks you a lot of questions, specifically your postcode, whether your home is built on a slope, when it was built and the overall quality of internal fittings.
When you make a claim, your premiums will tend to increase. The amount they go up by depends on the value of the claim. The more you’re claiming, the more they increase.
Generally, the building part of your home insurance policy refers to the structure itself and any permanent fixtures, such as built-ins and light fixtures. Contents generally refers to anything that is typically inside your home and can be removed.
Generally they are if rented with an official, signed agreement. Borrowed items generally are not. This can vary and should be covered in the PDS.
If it’s a permanent fixture it’s part of the building. If it’s removable it’s part of the contents. Carpets and blinds can be ambiguous, but this should be clarified in the insurance PDS. When in doubt, ask the insurance company to explain the definition.
Not by default. You will need to have portable contents insurance for accidental loss or damage outside your home.
Yes. You can get owner builder insurance to cover the building while it's still under construction, as well as covering yourself from liability issues.
Yes. You are generally able to buy home insurance for a building that you legally own, regardless of whether or not you are currently living in it.
About home insurance
The excess is the portion of a home insurance claim that you are required to pay. An excess usually applies to all claims unless stated otherwise in the PDS. Many insurers allow you to vary your excess to adjust your premium.
No, flood cover is not automatically included; in some cases you must purchase it as optional cover.
The standard definition of flooding is: "The covering of normally dry land by water that has escaped or been released from the normal confines of:
any lake, or any river, creek or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified; or
In most cases, home insurance premiums are not tax deductible. However, you may be able to claim a deduction if your home is used for income-producing activities. Ask your accountant whether you are eligible.
Pets are usually not covered as standard under home insurance policies, but some providers do offer cover for domestic pets as an optional extra. This helps cover your veterinary expenses if your pet suffers an accidental injury.
No, home and contents insurance policies do not cover termite damage. In fact, damage by vermin and insects is an important home insurance exclusion every Australian should be aware of.
Yes, many insurers will allow you to adjust your cover at any time. However, some will only allow you to make changes to the type and level of cover when your policy is up for renewal. Contact your insurer for more information.
Standard home insurance policies may only offer partial cover for such items. For example, you may only receive a maximum benefit of $2,000 to replace an item worth $10,000. Check the cover limits that apply to your policy before deciding whether you need to purchase additional cover for your high-value possessions.
Accidental damage cover is not usually a standard inclusion but can be purchased as an optional extra.
You can purchase home insurance cover as soon as the Certificate of Handover is provided by your builder.
When your policy is up for renewal, your insurer will send you a notice via email or post, detailing the premium amount payable, the due date and your payment options. You can renew cover straight away if you wish, but remember that this is also the perfect time to review your policy and see whether you can find a better deal elsewhere.
After comparing a number of policies to find the one that best suits your needs, you can purchase cover from an insurer online or over the phone.
Home insurance is not included in the cost of a mortgage. However, many lenders require you to take out some form of home insurance cover before they will approve your home loan application.
Dealing with insurance companies
A frequent complaint regarding insurance providers is that they will suddenly raise premiums. If your payments are increased without explanation, contact the provider and make sure it’s not a mistake. They must explain any increases if they are queried. If the price has indeed been raised, you can try to renegotiate a lower premium, or take your business elsewhere.
Contact your insurance company as soon as you can to advise you’re making a claim. You will usually be required to fill out a claim form, and in the event of a large amount of loss, an assessor will generally be sent to make a report. Be honest, and keep all the appropriate documents and evidence to support your claim, such as photographs, video walk-throughs of the home and receipts. Cooperate with your insurer and the assessor to ensure the claim goes as smoothly as possible. Read our step by step guide to home insurance claims to learn more.
You should first try to resolve the issue directly with your provider; but if you are unable to reach a resolution, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman Service (FOS). An ombudsman can pass judgment about whether or not the insurer has breached the terms of its policy. This is only possible if your provider is an FOS member, as are all the insurers listed on this page.[/accordion]
From your insurer. Not all providers offer home insurance cover notes, and will instead give you a certificate of insurance to indicate when your cover starts.
If you leave your home unattended for short periods there’s no problem; but if you leave your home empty for more than 60 days, you should notify your insurer. Check your PDS for the exact details.
For proof of ownership, you’ll need receipts, credit card records or something else that shows that you made the purchase and the value of the item. For proof of loss you can submit items such as police records, photographs or other relevant evidence. The insurance company might send someone to verify the details.
There are a lot of conditions under which an insurance company may refuse to pay out. You will receive an explanation, but if you disagree, you should first contact the company and try again. If you still feel that you are in the right, you can seek the opinion of a professional third-party or take legal action.
When your policy is due for renewal, you have the option to cancel it. If you wish to do so, notify your insurance company. Not all providers will allow you to cancel before the renewal date.
Yes, but you should take photographs or video the damage first. Don’t throw away damaged items until the assessor has seen them, unless it’s a health hazard.
Residents are unprepared in the face of catastrophic weather.
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