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Buildings Insurance - Standard Cover

This is where we split up into standard cover and accidental damage (or all risks). If you have standard cover, you need to compare any loss you have with the list of 'peril's that you are insured for. If you can't match the cause of the loss to one of the perils on the list, you are not covered. The 'onus of proof' is with you. That means it is you that has to prove the cause of loss is covered.

If you have accidental damage, you then have an 'all risks' type of cover. Here you are covered for any and every possible type of loss, except those listed in the exclusions (small print). The 'onus of proof' rests with your insurer. That means, they have to prove you are not covered.

Standard Cover
You should have a list of perils covered with another list of exclusions that apply only to that peril. It might look something like this:
Fire, Lightning, Explosion, Earthquake, Smoke - excludes damage caused gradually
Aircraft and articles dropped from them
Impact by animals, vehicles or falling trees or branches - excludes damage caused by felling or lopping trees
Theft or attempted theft - excludes losses that happen if left unoccupied for more than 30 days or left unfurnished or caused by a tenant or lodger or paying guest.
Malicious Persons - the same exclusions as for theft
Burst Pipes - some exclude frozen pipes, others include it
Storm or Flood - excludes damage by frost and damage by storm to fences, gates and hedges
Riot, Civil Commotion, Strikes, Political or labour disturbances
Oil leakage
Television Aerials, Satellite or radio-receiving aerials, fittings and mast breakage or collapse
Subsidence - a long list of exclusions, see next section !

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FIRE - Damage caused by a fire will usually only be paid for where there has been ignition. Where there was also smoke damage to your property from the fire, that is also covered. You cannot claim for the smoke damage to your decorations caused gradually by smoking cigarettes and so on. That is not a fortuitous event, it is something over which you have control. Hence the exclusion. There are some more exceptions to the rule that there must be ignition. you can find out more from the 'home insurance - grey areas' page of this site.

LIGHTNING STRIKES - to your buildings are no problem. If it hits an aerial, sorry but that is a contents claim! Although aerials are listed as an insured peril, they do not appear in the definition of a building. They do appear in contents. So damage to aerials constitutes a contents claim. Similarly with explosion and earthquakes. Fortunately these are few and far between here in the UK.

AIRCRAFT - This will cover anything dropped from anything that flies. Again, fortunately, a rare occurrence.

IMPACT - The intention here is that if your home is hit by a car or a wild animal, you are protected. With trees, if you have arranged to have your tree cut down or branches taken off, you need to make sure that all precautions are taken to prevent it hitting your house (or out buildings). Where you have an outside contractor doing this work, and they cause damage to your property, then you have the right to seek payment for the damage from them. But your policy will still exclude this damage so you cannot ask your insurer to help.

THEFT - Cover is very wide, in other words the exclusions do not take much away from you. Where your home is left unoccupied for a long time (e.g. 30 days or more), then cover is restricted as it is seen as a more tempting target for thieves. Indeed, if you home is left unoccupied or unfurnished you should tell your insurer anyway! Similarly with a tenant or lodger. The risk of the tenant or lodge being involved in the crime is such that your insurer does not want to take the risk on, hence the exclusion. And again, if you are doing this, you should tell your insurer.

MALICIOUS PERSONS - In many ways this is the same as for theft.

BURST PIPES - Insurers position on this has gradually changed over the years for the better. A good insurer will pay for any leak, from any pipe, tank or water apparatus, even where it has been leaking over a period of time. Some insurers will also now include damage caused by frozen pipes defrosting. When I first started working in this industry, it was strictly the case that the pipe itself was not covered, only the resulting water damage. Where there is clear evidence that the pipe has failed due to rust then your insurer might still raise this argument. If a pipe is holed by a nail, say when fitting a carpet, then you will need accidental damage cover for the pipe repair but the resultant water damage to your building is paid for under this peril.

STORM OR FLOOD - What constitutes a storm is given in the grey areas page of this site. Frost damage is excluded although damage caused by snow is covered. A common area of disappointment is that damage caused to fences, gates and hedges are not covered. Some fences seem to blow down with even the most mild gust of wind! I have seen at least one insurer offering additional cover, at a premium, for storm damage to these items.

RIOT, CIVIL COMMOTION etc. - Again, it is rare for these to cause damage to your property, but when it does, you are covered. In certain circumstances, your insurers will have a right to recover their outlay from the local police.

LEAKAGE OF OIL - For those with oil fired central heating, any damage to your buildings caused by the oil leaking is covered.

TELEVISION, SATELLITE AERIALS - As indicated above, your buildings are protected if any receiving aerials collapses and cause damage. But the items themselves are defined as contents and thus, not covered by your buildings policy.


"I am black and blue under my private parts.
I would like you to look into this as soon as you can."
Extracts taken from actual claim forms submitted to
a number of UK car insurance companies