Buildings insurance: the complete guide
Buildings insurance is non-negotiable when you buy a house. But what is buildings insurance? And what does buildings insurance cover?
What is buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance protects you from the cost of repairing or rebuilding your home if it’s damaged or destroyed.¹
It covers the structure of your home like the roof, walls, and windows. And any permanent fixtures and fittings, like fitted kitchen units and bathroom suites.
For flats, buildings insurance also covers communal areas such as staircases and hallways. As well as liability cover in case someone who visits the building gets hurt in an accident.
What does buildings insurance cover?
Buildings insurance protects you against damage caused by:
weather such as storms and lightning
burst or frozen pipes and water damage. It will not cover pipes that burst due to being old or corroded
fire or explosion
subsidence (when the ground under your home moves and causes the foundations to sink
theft and vandalism
falling trees or branches
cars or other traffic hitting your property
Most policies also offer accommodation if you cannot live in your home and you're insured.
Most buildings policies will cover this as long as it has not happened before.
It might be harder to find well-priced cover if your property has had subsidence in the past.
These things may vary from insurer to insurer, so it’s worth checking the insurer’s T&Cs.
Buildings insurance does not cover everything. Events and risks that are not covered are “exclusions".
Exclusions vary between policies. It's worth checking the insurer's terms and conditions.
Your cover usually does not include:
general wear and tear such as leaking gutters
damage due to lack of maintenance such as not replacing roof tiles that cause the roof to leak when it rains
items such as boilers or fridges breaking down
homes left unattended for a long time (usually 30 days but some policies go up to 90 days)
any amount over the limits specified in the policy
deliberate damage by you or anyone living in your home
You should compare buildings and contents insurance to check what’s covered, as well as how much it would cost.
Boiler repairs are not usually included as standard on a buildings insurance policy. You'll need home emergency insurance or boiler insurance to cover boiler repairs.
You should compare buildings and contents insurance to see what’s covered and how much it would cost.
How does buildings insurance work?
When you buy an annual buildings insurance policy, you pay for it in one lump sum or in monthly instalments.
The policy will protect your home up to a stated limit against certain risks.
If you make a claim, the insurer will either pay you a sum of money to fix the damage or arrange for a company to do the repairs.
Do I need buildings insurance?
Anyone who has a mortgage needs buildings insurance. This is because the lender needs to know your home is protected as it's their security.
The person responsible for organising the buildings insurance is:
the freeholder for someone who lives in a flat. They'll need to insure the whole building. If it's jointly owned, you'll all be responsible
a landlord that is renting out a property
If you’re a landlord you’ll need landlord buildings insurance.
If you’re building your own home you’ll need self-build insurance.
Types of buildings insurance
Sum insurance calculates your cover based on how much it would cost to reconstruct your home from scratch.
This will not be the same as your property's market value as it also includes things such as professional fees.
This 'rebuilding' cost will increase as time goes on, so having your cover reviewed every time you renew it is always best.
When your buildings insurance is bedroom rated it means the cost of rebuilding your property is based on the number of bedrooms.
This type of cover means you will not need to calculate the rebuild cost of your home and it provides high levels of cover.
However, it's important to speak to an expert on your options so that you do not end up over-insured and paying more than necessary.
How to buy buildings insurance?
You need buildings insurance if you have a mortgage, but you do not have to buy it from your mortgage company.
You can get a quote from banks, building societies, and insurance firms.
You can buy buildings insurance as a policy on its own. or as a combined policy of buildings and contents insurance. To get the best deal, compare stand-alone and combined policy quotes from different companies.
How much does buildings insurance cost?
When you apply for a buildings insurance quote the insurer will ask you about your property. They'll use this information to calculate a premium.
To get a quote you’ll need to know:
when your property was built
if your home was made with standard materials
how much of your roof is flat
if you live in an area likely to flood
if your home is near any tall trees
if your property has had subsidence before
if you have a listed property
any security measures in your home (like alarms or a camera)
Some insurers may want to know more. So be ready with the information they need when you look to get a quote.
More about buildings insurance
Home insurance often means buildings insurance or contents insurance. Or a joint policy covering both.
Buildings insurance only covers the structure of your home, not the contents.
The excess on an insurance policy is the amount you’ll have to pay towards any claim. Often cheap buildings insurance will have a higher excess.
A listed building is a property that has special architectural or historical interest or importance.
You’ll need specialised buildings insurance if your home is a listed building. This is because you may need specialist materials or techniques for repair and renovation work which can cost a lot.
When you take out buildings insurance, your insurer will want to know your property’s “rebuild cost”. This is different to its market value.
The rebuild cost is how much it would cost to rebuild your home if it was destroyed beyond repair.²
The rebuild cost covers:
the property structure
permanent fixtures and fittings like bathrooms and fitted kitchens
You can calculate your rebuild cost using the Building Cost Information Service (BCIS) calculator.³
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