Right contents cover can ensure you don’t lose the home comforts

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A HOME reflects your taste. The belongings may have taken years, even decades, to build up. Enjoy the peace of mind from holding good contents cover so that in the event of a claim, the insurer is truly protective.

Many policies sadly either have too low a limit or do not take into account the true cost of replacing like for like, which is the essence of all insurance.

The good news is that premiums are falling. Research by MoneySupermarket shows that an average £93.81 in March 2010 fell to £74.20 this February, a 21 per cent reduction.

It warns that thefts rise in the summer and autumn, probably because doors and windows are less likely to be locked. It is foolhardy to not have adequate cover and yet the AA says 24 per cent of under 35-year-olds have none.

As a basis, insurers offer one or more approaches:

n Bedroom-rated, depending on the number in the property;

n Fixed sum which can be increased usually in £10,000 bands;

n Unlimited.

Make a room by room inventory, noting as much detail as possible which will be helpful in any claim. Photographs, sizes and condition will all be important not only for the insurer but also the police in the event of theft.

Keep a copy away from the home, perhaps with a family member or solicitor.

The easy to remember approach is that ‘contents’ – as opposed to ‘buildings’ insurance – covers everything that is not fixed. Don’t forget carpets and curtains.

LV= (formerly Liverpool Victoria) says cover should always be based on actual value, rather than the number of bedrooms. It offers a contents calculator at LV.com.

The area most often overlooked and under-insured is outside the home: the garage and garden. Everything from a BBQ and children’s toys to lawnmowers and tools attract thieves. Mature trees and shrubs – possibly purchased at £40-£60 a decade ago – may now each cost £500-£1,000 to replace.

One of the few to take contents in the open seriously is the NFU Mutual which covers £10,000 under its Home Plus policy and up to the sum insured for any theft from outbuildings.

Nationwide Building Society, which uses UK Insurance, offers either £6,000 or £500 in the garden, depending on which policy is chosen with zero and £50 excess respectively.

Comparison websites have limited value as they omit key insurers and often hide away crucial information, such as the single article limit. Instead, ask an experienced independent broker to check the market and suggest the most appropriate policy for your needs, which may not be the cheapest.

Check if accidental breakage is included, such as when wine is spilt on a carpet or a pet knocks over a prized vase. It is automatically included at John Lewis, which uses AXA Insurance.

Ian Johnson, a retired health and safety inspector from Rotherham, accidently spilt a chemical on a hall carpet but fortunately had contents cover with Saga, underwritten by Ageas, which paid £455 less £100 excess.

He pays £77.08 annual premium and says: “It’s definitely important that everyone has contents insurance.” With his incident, Saga initially paid for a professional carpet cleaner but, when this did not work, requested two carpet estimates and let the 75-year-old client choose which he preferred.

Keep a detailed list of all valuables and ensure replacement prices are kept up to date, using a specialist wherever possible. Period silver and antique paintings should be examined and valued by a reputable authority, such as a member of The British Antique Dealers’ Association.

Individual valuables are covered up to £15,000 with a total limit of £30,000 with John Lewis. Darlington Building Society uses a panel of insurers which cover valuables up to £7,000 with £2,500 single item limit.

Aviva offer high net worth policies, termed ‘Distinct’, via brokers. The single limit can be £15,000 for jewellery, watches and guns and up to £25,000 for art, antiques and collectables with a standard £250 excess.

If you have an extensive range of valuables, it may be best to go to a specialist insurer. Hiscox has a single article limit of £25,000 for fine art and £15,000 valuables under its 606 policy.

With Legal & General’s Extra policy, valuables are covered up to one-third of the chosen contents sum with a minimum £14,000 cover and five per cent limit per item.

Ask if there is a discount for articles kept either in a safe or at a bank. Leeds-based Direct Line Select reduce premiums for the latter. Pairs or sets should be valued higher.

Some insurers offer a panel of specialists to ensure the most appropriate one meets your needs. The AA has 12 on its panel, all of whom have £100 compulsory excess for standard claims whilst 70 per cent of clients add a voluntary excess of the same sum to reduce the premium.

NFU Mutual has no excess on jewellery claims. It offers two policies with £5,000 and £10,000 respectively for a single valuable but these limits can be raised by agreement.

Ask who is underwriting the policy to check on their service record and financial strength. For example, Spanish bank Santander (which owns the Alliance & Leicester and Bradford & Bingley) uses Aviva.

Remember to advise your contents insurer during the course of the year for any significant purchases or disposals. This is essential for valuables. Some allow the sums insured to rise around Christmas and when a wedding takes place.

Contents cover away from the home can be useful and may mean a saving on travel insurance. Ask how much protection is available (£25,000 with John Lewis, £10,000 or £5,000 with Nationwide) so that in the event a camera is lost on holiday, a claim can be made when you return.

LV= protects unspecified items away from the home from £2,500-£6,000 and for specified articles of £2,500-£30,000.

The AA allows for up to £7,500 to be taken away on £40,000 cover.

Check for discounts. MoreTh>an is giving clients who have had contents cover for a year 20 per cent off another insurance product and 10 per cent if under 12 months (0800 107 9038).