Do you need buildings insurance?

If you’re a homeowner, buildings insurance could save you thousands if your home gets damaged. Here’s what’s covered, extras you can add, and exclusions to look out for.

What is buildings insurance?

It’s an insurance policy that could pay for the cost to repair or rebuild your home if it suffers damage.

What does it cover?

It covers the main structure of your home (bricks and mortar, roof, floors and walls) plus:

  • Fixtures and fittings e.g. a fitted kitchen and tiles
  • Garages, conservatories and outbuildings
  • Other structures like boundary walls, patios, gates and decking

It doesn’t cover your personal belongings, you’ll need a contents insurance policy for these.

Who is it for?

Buildings cover is for anyone who owns a property that they live in or rent out.

If you’re a landlord, you’re responsible for insuring the property itself, and your tenants are responsible for insuring their belongings.

If you’re a homeowner, buildings cover may be a condition of your mortgage, as it offers protection against damage and theft, which lowers the risk.

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What does it protect your home against?

Most policies commonly cover damage caused by:

  • Fire (and smoke), explosion, lightening, earthquake
  • Storm or flood
  • Falling trees or branches
  • Falling aerials, masts, satellite dishes or security cameras
  • Impact by an aircraft, vehicle or train, or objects falling from them
  • Theft or attempted theft
  • Riots, political disturbances and vandalism
  • Water and oil leaks, and oil spills
  • Subsidence, landslip and ground heave

Your policy may also include cover for alternative accommodation that could be needed, for example following a break in or flood.

Check the exclusions for each of the examples and choose a policy that fully meets your needs.

What’s not included?

Most policies won’t cover you for damage caused by:

  • Someone in your home, if deliberate
  • General wear and tear, or existing damage
  • Faulty workmanship, materials or design
  • Pests
  • Frost (on external pipes)
  • Leaking gutters

If your home is unoccupied for a set number of consecutive days (usually 30 or more), your policy may be invalidated. So, if you’re planning on being away for a while, make sure you get specialist cover.

What extras can you add on?

If there are features you need that aren’t included as standard, you can pay more to add them on. Some extras include:

  • Accidental damage to buildings: This covers unintentional, sudden damage that happens to things like your kitchen units, roof and ceilings.
  • Replacement of external door locks: If your keys have been stolen following a break in to your home, you won’t need to pay for your locks to be changed.
  • Trace and access: Covers the cost to remove or replace any part of the building, in order to repair a water, oil or gas leak.
  • Breakage of fixed glass and sanitary fittings: Includes the replacement or repair of things like windows, skylights, wash basins and baths, if the damage is accidental.
  • Fire brigade charges: from your local authority will be covered if the fire services need to control or extinguish a fire affecting your building.

Only add on the extras you need, as they will bump up the cost of your policy.

How much should you insure your home for?

You’ll need to know the cost of rebuilding your home, which is different from its market value.

Some providers use a bedroom rated method to calculate the rebuild cost, which is based on the number of bedrooms your home has, and isn’t always accurate.

Others use the cost to rebuild from scratch - you can use the rebuild calculator from the Society of Chartered Surveyors Ireland to help with this.

The more accurate the calculation the better. You could pay up to 20% more for a higher rebuild cost than you need, but you wouldn’t get more than the actual rebuild cost back in a claim.

How to get buildings insurance

Search for home insurance providers or brokers to get as many quotes as possible.

As well as confirming basic information like house type and number of bedrooms, you’ll also need to confirm:

  • The year the house was built
  • Its history e.g. subsidence and flooding in the area
  • Roof type
  • Heating type
  • How many smoke detectors are fitted
  • If there’s an alarm system and whether it’s monitored

Always give accurate information or your policy could be invalidated and won’t pay out in a claim.

How to get a discount on your policy

You can build up your no claims bonus, which is the number of complete and consecutive years you’ve been claim free. Having five years no claims could earn you up to 50% off.

If you use the same provider for other types of insurance, like car insurance or life insurance, you may be eligible for a multi policy discount.

Look out for general discounts and offers too when you’re getting quotes, like discounts for buying online or introductory offers.

It may work out cheaper to buy a combined buildings and contents policy if you also need cover for your belongings. Find out more about contents insurance

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Buildings insurance FAQs

Do I need buildings cover if I'm renting a property?

No, the property owner or landlord is responsible for insuring the building. You will need to get contents insurance though to cover your personal belongings, including any furniture or furnishings.

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