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Why do I need home insurance?
Home insurance is something every Australian homeowner should consider buying. It offers crucial financial protection for your home and important possessions against everything from fire and storm damage to burst pipes, falling trees, theft, vandalism and much more.Why is home insurance so important? There are several reasons:
- Cover for your home. Your home is the most expensive thing you’ll ever buy and the most valuable asset you’ll ever own. Home building insurance provides protection for your home against an extensive range of risks, guaranteeing that you will be able to repair or rebuild from scratch if an unexpected disaster strikes.
- Cover for your contents. The contents of your home are much more than just stuff; they’re your most important and treasured possessions, and they often hold just as much sentimental value as they do financial worth. Contents insurance, which is available as standalone cover or part of a combined home and contents policy, ensures that you will be able to repair or replace those possessions when they’re damaged by fire, storm, theft or a range of other insured events.
- Home loan requirement. If you’re taking out a mortgage to buy a home, most home loan lenders will require you to take out home insurance before approving your application.
- Peace of mind. The biggest benefit of home insurance 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.
What’s covered by home insurance?
The cover provided will vary depending on the insurer you choose and the level of cover you select. However, ‘the best home insurance generally provides cover against the following:
- Fire. If your home and/or contents suffer loss or damage due to fire, home insurance can provide financial protection.
- Storm. Home insurance covers loss or damage caused by a storm, including violent winds, hail, snow, rain, thunderstorms, cyclones and tornadoes.
- Lightning. Loss or damage caused by lightning, or by a power surge caused by lightning, is covered.
- Flood. Flood cover protects you against loss or damage caused by the covering of normally dry land by that has escaped for been released from the normal confines of a lake, river, creek, dam or a number of other bodies of water. However, please note that many home insurance 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, home insurance covers you for the resulting loss or damage.
- Theft or burglary. This 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. When riot, civil commotion or industrial or political disturbance causes loss or damage to your home, your policy can provide financial protection.
- Accidental glass breakage. This covers the accidental breakage of window glass, skylights, fixed mirrors and light fittings, sinks, basins, baths, toilets, glass cooktops and more.
- Explosion. Loss or damage caused by an explosion, as well as landslide or subsidence that occurs as an immediate result of an explosion, are covered.
- Impact damage. This benefit covers you against impact from falling trees, power poles, TV antennas, motor vehicles, meteorites and more.
What type of insurance are you looking for?
What should I look for in my home insurance policy?
Let’s face it: comparing home insurance policies can be a confusing and sometimes overwhelming task. A home insurance product disclosure statement (PDS) is a complicated document full of technical jargon and terms and conditions, so making sense of the information it contains can be a difficult task.
To make this task easier, here 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 home insurance 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 when 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 will only provide cover for the replacement value of the stolen or damaged items.
- Accidental loss or damage cover. Accidental loss or damage cover provides Australia-wide protection for your contents against accidental damage. It’s included as standard on some high-level policies and is available as an extra-cost option on others, and is well worth considering if you want comprehensive protection.
- Fast and easy claims service. If you ever need to make a claim on your policy, is there an easy 24/7 claims service? On average, how long does the insurer take to process and pay successful claims? The best home insurance policies are backed by a simple and efficient claims process.
Cover can be tailored to suit any budget
How to find the best home insurance policy
How can you find the best home insurance policy? Keep four simple tips in mind:
- Know your cover needs. Before you start shopping for a policy, think about the risks you need to cover your home against and how much protection you need. Once you know the type of home insurance you need, it’s then time to start looking for the right policy.
- Read the PDS. Don’t wait until it’s time to make a claim to peruse your home insurance PDS; read the PDS closely before buying a policy. This will allow you to determine what the policy covers, how much protection it offers, and when the insurer will not provide any cover.
- Ask for recommendations. Check out online reviews and ask friends and family for their home insurance 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 weak 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 these factors alongside the cost of cover to work out which option provides the best value for money.
How much home insurance cover do I need?
This is the question on everyone’s lips when shopping for home insurance, but unfortunately it’s not a question we can answer for you. There’s no ‘one size fits all’ answer that explains exactly how much cover is enough for your home and contents; instead you will need to carefully consider your insurance needs to work out what represents 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 cover needs 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 of this can be catastrophic. 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 also consider the benefits of a policy – does it provide cover for all the risks you need protection against? Do you need to add extra-cost options to your policy so you can tailor a suitable level of cover? If you’re willing to spend some time crunching the numbers and examining your home insurance needs, you’ll be able to select the right amount of cover for your home and possessions.
What's not covered?
When choosing a home insurance policy, it’s also essential to check the PDS for a list of general exclusions. These are situations and events when an insurer will refuse to pay your claim, so you should always read this list closely before choosing cover. Some common home insurance general exclusions are:
- No cover if you leave your home unoccupied for an extended period of time, for example 60 consecutive days
- No cover if you fail to properly secure your home
- No cover if you fail to keep your home in good condition
- No cover for pre-existing damage to your home or contents
- No cover for loss or damage caused by flooding (while some policies include automatic flood cover, many insurers only offer flood cover as an extra-cost option)
- No cover while you’re renovating or extending your home
- No cover if your home is being used for an unlawful purpose
- No cover for damage deliberately caused by you, a family member or someone acting with your consent
- No cover for wear and tear, rust and gradual deterioration
- No cover for termite damage
- No cover for loss or damage that arises due to the presence of asbestos
Our guide to common home insurance exclusions outlines a range of situations when your insurer will not offer any cover, while you should also read the PDS closely to ensure that you don’t get any nasty surprises.
How much does home insurance cost and is it worth it?
Price is obviously a crucial factor when comparing and choosing home insurance policies. However, the cost of home insurance depends on a wide range of factors. When calculating your home insurance premiums, the insurer will take the following 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 when your premiums are much higher than someone who selects a sum insured of $400,000.
- The options you select. If you choose to tailor cover to suit your needs by adding extra-cost options to your policy, your premiums will increase relative to the cost of standard cover. For example, you may wish to purchase optional flood cover or cover for electric motor burnout – while these may offer essential protection for your home, they’ll also drive premiums up.
- The excess you choose. Many insurers offer a flexible excess on their home insurance 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, this increased risk of damage to your home will push your premiums up. Insurers will also assess the crime rate in your area when calculating premiums – if you live somewhere with a high rate of theft and break-ins, expect this to be reflected in higher premiums.
- Security features. Following on from the above point, insurance underwriters also consider how well your home is protected against theft and burglary. Installing a back-to-base security alarm is one way you can reduce your premiums.
- Your claims history. If you’ve previously made multiple claims on your home insurance policy, you can expect higher premiums.
- When you pay your premiums. Paying your premium as an annual lump sum is typically cheaper than if you pay in monthly instalments.
- Any discounts that apply. You may be able to lower your premium by taking advantage of a discount offered by your insurer. For example, you may be able to save money if you buy online, combine home and contents cover into one policy, or if you hold another type of cover (eg car insurance) with the same insurer.
Is it 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 a total loss. Home insurance is basically all about peace of mind. While there’s always a chance that you will spend years paying premiums for a policy on which you may never have to claim, knowing that you can call upon it if you need to, and that it will offer crucial financial protection when you need it most, makes home insurance worth every cent.
How to reduce your home and contents insurance premiums
If you’re looking for the cheapest home 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 home insurance. Like so many other things in life, when buying home insurance you really do get what you pay for – and 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 it offers true value for money. There are also several other things you can do to lower the cost of your policy, such as:
- 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? Alternatively, you may decide that it’s in your best interests to downgrade from an insurer’s ‘platinum’ policy to basic protection.
- Don’t add options you don’t need. Adding optional covers to your policy allows you to tailor home insurance protection to your requirements. Unfortunately, it also increases the premium, so make sure any options you add are absolutely essential.
- Don’t make any claims. Okay, sometimes making a claim is unavoidable, but if your insurer offers a no-claim bonus then the cost of cover will be greatly reduced if you don’t submit any claims.
- Take advantage of discounts. Australian home insurers offer a variety of discounts to customers, including discounts for loyalty, seniors, those who have multiple policies, and those who purchase 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 – for example, maybe you’ve just invested in a top-of-the-line home entertainment system and need to upgrade your contents cover – and insurers are always updating their policies and premiums, so don’t be afraid to compare your options and see if you can find a better deal.
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4 common home insurance traps to avoid
Keep an eye out for these common home insurance traps when choosing cover:
- Trap 1: Underinsurance. This is a huge risk and a problem that affects many Australian homeowners. Don’t be tempted to skimp on cover just so you can slightly lower your premiums; make sure any policy you select provides adequate cover for you to completely rebuild your home and replace all your belongings.
- Trap 2: Paying for cover you don’t need. Before adding any extra-cost options to your policy, make sure you actually need them. For example, do you really need to add cover for electric motor burnout or is it something you could survive without?
- Trap 3: Renewing without reviewing. Don’t simply pay your annual home insurance renewal when it arrives each year. Insurers are always competing for more business and offering attractive savings to new customers, so it’s worth shopping around to see if you can find the same or better cover but at a more affordable price.
- Trap 4: Cover limits. Make sure to check the maximum limit to which an insurer is willing to cover any single item. For example, while your engagement ring may be worth $10,000, your insurer may only provide up to $3,000 cover for jewellery.
What home insurance do I need if I rent my property?
If you’re a renter, you won’t need any of the protection offered by home building 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 to compare a range of policies to find one that suits your needs.
How do I make a home insurance 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 claims 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 then be required to fill out a claim form. This may be done online or by filling out a paper form, or your insurer may ask questions over the phone in order to complete the necessary paperwork. The insurer will also advise you of any information or documentation you may need to submit in support of your claim, such as:
- A copy of the police report following theft, attempted theft or burglary
- Proof of ownership of stolen or damaged items (for example receipts)
- Evidence of any damage (for example 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 Home Insurance Claim Slip-ups You Can Avoid
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.
- Regularly check under sinks, at washing machine connections and anywhere else you have pipes. Avoid flushing foreign objects down toilets and make sure you address any signs of a leak as soon as possible, because even a small leak can cause an exponentially growing amount of damage over time.
- Keep an eye out for mildew and mould and try to scrub it away as soon as possible. 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 don’t know about. Ignoring these issues can count as a failure to adequately maintain the home, which can be used to reject insurance claims.
- 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 insurance costs down.
Water damage is not the same as flooding, and policies will often cover flooding differently.
Between bushfires, gas, electricity, smoking and flammable materials around the home, it’s worth being prepared for this eventuality. Fire causes relatively few injuries and deaths, but a lot of property damage.
- Don’t overload power points and switch off appliances when not in use.
- Have at least one fire extinguisher in the home and know how to use it.
- Install enough smoke alarms in your home and test them regularly. Some insurance companies will offer reduced premiums if you maintain functional smoke alarms. However, if there is a fire and the alarms are non-functional you will likely not be able to claim 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.
An increasingly common cause of damage and source of insurance claims, it makes sense to take steps to ensure your home is protected from storm damage.
- Protect your windows. Broken windows are extremely common, while glass shards lost in carpets indoors can cause serious injuries later on. If you live in an area that’s prone to storms it can be worth investing in shutters to protect the windows.
- Australia has seen a lot of hail storms in recent years. They can cover an enormous area and do staggering amounts of property damage. Most homes easily cope with milder hail storms, but particularly severe ones can shatter roof tiles, break windows and more. If you have reinforced roofing or storm shutters you may be able to get some form of 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 your dog bites 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 cause countless scrapes and bruises, but also more serious injuries. Swimming pool fences and signage, which are legal requirements, trampoline padding, and adult supervision (also a legal requirement) on the playground can make it clear that you’ve taken all the right steps.
What about insurance for storms and flooding?
When it comes to covering damage caused by storms and flooding, many home insurance policies are vague. It’s important to check 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, runoff 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 (product disclosure statement) carefully to determine whether you are covered. If you live in a coastal area you may not be covered for some storm- and flood-related damage. If you are looking to make a claim, you will need to be able to prove that a storm (as defined by your insurer) has occurred, so ensure that you have proof such as photographs, video footage and weather reports.
Answers to your home insurance questions
Choosing a policy
Q. Do I need home insurance if I'm renting?
Q. Do I need home insurance if I'm a landlord?
How are home insurance premiums calculated?
- The sum insured
- Any optional covers 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
- How secure your home is
- Your claims history
- Any discounts you are eligible for
Q. Is home insurance a legal requirement?
Q. How do I calculate how much cover to take out?
- The most accurate way is with an independent valuation, but online calculators are also useful. The value of the building is how much it would cost to rebuild 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 walkthrough of each part of the house. Remember to include attics, garages and sheds. Electronically storing this information and backups in a safe place reduces the odds of it being lost if your home is.
Q. Is there an easy way to get a home insurance estimate?
Q. How much do my premiums increase when I make a claim?
Q. What counts as the building, and what counts as contents?
Q. Are rental items covered by my policy?
Q. Are carpets and blinds part of the building or the contents?
Q. Are items covered in the contents policy covered away from home?
Q. Can I get home insurance for buildings under construction?
Q. Can I get home insurance before settlement?
About home insurance
Q. What is a home insurance excess?
Q. Is mandatory flood cover included in all home insurance policies?
Q. How do home insurers define flooding?
- any lake, or any river, creek, or other natural watercourse, whether or not altered or modified; or
- any reservoir, canal, or dam."
You can find out more about flood cover and the protection it provides in our guide to flood insurance.
Q. Is my home insurance premium tax deductible?
Q. Does home insurance cover pets?
Q. Does home insurance cover termites?
Q. Can I adjust my home insurance policy in the future?
Q. Will my high-value items be covered by contents insurance?
Q. Does home insurance provide cover for accidental damage?
Q. I am building a new house. When can I insure it?
Q. What’s involved with a home insurance renewal?
Q. How do I buy home and contents insurance?
Q. Is home insurance included in my mortgage?
Dealing with insurance companies
Q. What should I do if my premiums suddenly increase?
Q. How do I make a claim?
Q. How and when do I contact the home insurance ombudsman?
Q. Where do I get a home insurance cover note?
Q. What if I leave my home for a period?
Q. How do I show proof of ownership and proof of loss when making a claim?
Q. What happens if the insurance company won’t pay?
Q. How do I cancel my insurance policy?
Q. Can I start cleaning up before the insurance assessor arrives to inspect the damage?
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