Find out what your contents insurance won’t cover entirely
Before taking out cover, however, it’s important to know what might not be protected. If you don’t, then your most valued belongings might only be insured for a fraction of their worth, or not at all.
Fortunately most policies tend to limit and exclude cover for similar types of items, which can make it easier to compare contents insurance, and many policies will also offer ways of adding extra cover to make sure you’re appropriately protected.
What’s limited or not covered by contents insurance:
- The building itself
- Jewellery, art and other valuables
- Items kept outdoors
- Business equipment, trade tools and income-earning items
- Cash and documents
- Portable items and electronics
- Guest belongings
- Wheelchairs, guns remote control airplanes and other miscellaneous items
Compare contents insurance policies
What's not covered: The building itself
Generally there’s no little overlap between what’s covered by building insurance and contents insurance, so it’s a good idea to know what’s covered by each. Your home contents typically do not include:
- Permanent fixtures: Any permanent fixtures that have been installed, such as light fixtures of a chandelier. However, if you’ve bought fixtures, and are keeping them in your home prior to installation then they will typically be covered under contents insurance until they are installed.
- Installed appliances: Dishwashers, washing machines and other appliances which need to be semi-permanently connected to the home’s plumbing or electrical system may or may not qualify as contents. It can be a good idea to consult your product disclosure statement about these specifically.
- Most landscaping and plants: If covered at all, these are usually covered by home building insurance, rather than contents cover, except where they might otherwise fall into another category, such as if they’re trade goods.
Collections of most kinds can typically be insured all as one, so you don’t need to document each item in that collection individually. You are generally able to get optional extra cover for collections, to cover them up to higher limits.
Because valuations may differ widely, and there’s no accounting for sentimental value, you will generally need to specifically declare collections and insure them at an agreed value.
Jewellery, watches, art and other valuables
Much like collections, you will often need to specifically declare jewellery, art and other valuables like charms, gemstones, bullion and gold or silver items. If you don’t, then depending on the policy you might:
- Not be covered for them at all
- Only covered up to sub-limits, such as $1,000 per piece of jewellery and $10,000 for all jewellery in total.
Additional cover is often available for these types of items.
Items kept outdoors
Outdoor items can include:
- Portable swimming pools
- Kayaks, go-karts and other outdoor personal vehicle
- Anything else which policy specifically refers to as an outdoors item, or defines as such
These kinds of items are may be subject to a range of conditions or sub-limits, which can vary widely between policies. For example, one might specifically cover barbecues up to $500, and everything else up to $100. Another might exclude all watercraft over 3m in length, or any motorised equipment.
Where your contents insurance also includes liability cover, conditions might apply around how you’re insured for liability while using outdoor equipment away from home. If you’re looking to insure any of these kinds of items under contents cover, it can be well worth looking at your policy in detail.
Business equipment, trade tools and other income earning items
Items that are used for the purposes of earning you income are often their own distinct category in your policy. It might include:
- A home office computer and printer, when essential for your business
- Trade stock that you are keeping at home prior to sale
- Any trade tools
- Anything else that is essential to your income, such as musical instruments for a professional musician
These will often be subject to their own specific limits, or excluded entirely. You may want to look into additional cover for these essentials.
Pets and other animals don’t count as home contents, and are typically not insured against “damage” like other possessions.
However, some policies might insure your possessions or building against damage caused by pets in very specific ways, and a handful might also offer some form of veterinary type cover for injuries they might sustain. Contents insurance is no substitute for pet insurance.
Cash and documents
Sub-limits generally apply to cash and documents that may be insured under your contents policy. The total sub-limit typically applies to all cash, cashable documents and other documentation that could be said to be cashable, such as cheques made out to you, invoices and similar.
This sub-limit is typically relatively low, such as $250. Contents insurance is generally not designed to cover large amounts of cash kept on the premises.
Portable items and electronics
Portable items and electronics, such as phones, laptops, handbags, personal organisers, handheld GPS devices, and anything else that meets the policy definitions, will typically be subject to exclusions or specific sub-limits.
The way policies cover these might vary widely, and may be affected by your chosen portable contents cover options. For example, if you insure these specifically, you might still not be covered in the event of theft that occurs outside of your premises.
These are often not insured under your contents insurance at all, by default, but cover for them may be available as an optional extra, or included in more comprehensive cover types.
Strict sub-limits typically apply, such as $500 total for guest belongings. Other conditions may apply as well. For example, some policies might no longer cover guest contents after they’ve been staying with you for a month.
Wheelchairs, guns remote control planes and other miscellaneous items
Policies may apply specific restrictions to a range of specified miscellaneous items. These can be almost anything, including some that might fall into other categories, like outdoor equipment, in some policies.
Some of the items that are commonly subject to special conditions may include:
- Wheelchairs and other medical aids or devices
- Vehicles of all kinds, including go-karts, kayaks, jetskis, surf boards and others
- Guns and all other firearms or weapons
- Remote control devices
- Musical instruments and electronic musical equipment
- Other electronics of any kind
- Artworks, including painting, statues and anything else
As you compare contents insurance, it can be worth bearing these differences in mind. If there’s anything especially valuable you want covered, it can be worth looking for specific conditions around it in your contents insurance.