Personal possessions insurance: Why, when and what do you need?

Are your most valued personal possessions covered enough in case something happens to them

Have you got any idea about how much valuable "stuff" you have in your home? Not in terms of fixtures and fittings. We're talking about items that you either wear, use or take around with you everyday (think laptop, camera, mobile phone, your wedding ring....). Items that you might have been given from previous generations. (Did someone in your family play for the England football or rugby team and hand you down trunks full of rare memorabilia? Was your great great great great grand-father a famous Impressionist? ). Even if you don't have an illustrious person in your family, you might still have more valuable personal possessions than you realise. Time to do a little check and make sure you are keeping them as safely covered as you want to in case something happens. 

NEW: Compare home and content insurers based on their claim ratings

How much do we own (worth of personal possessions)?

These 3 facts might really shock you.

According to a 2018 State of the Market report from the ABI (Association of British Insurers)

•    UK households own a total of nearly £1 trillion in personal possessions (that’s more than the government spent last year)

•    The average amount of stuff we own (£35,000), is worth more than the average annual UK salary of £27,000

•    Over a quarter of households - 7.5 million - have no contents insurance

That’s a lot of “stuff”.

7.5 million households in the UK have no content insurance

What are home contents personal possessions

Personal possessions or home content include items that you wear, use or carry around with you in or outside the home. These include items such as:

  • Watches and jewellery
  • Clothes
  • Accessories (sunglasses, handbags, wallets…)
  • Laptops and tablets
  • Mobile phones
  • MP3s
  • Money
  • Credit cards
  • Wearable tech
  • Cameras and tripods
  • Bicycles…

What's the difference between 'unspecified' contents and 'individual possessions' in contents insurance

From an insurance point of view, there is normally a clear distinction within your personal possessions. Unspecified items  are covered to a maximum overall value set within your insurance policy. Specific items that cost over £1,000 each are insured individually

Individual possessions include:

  • Collectibles
  • Art
  • Sports equipment
  • Audio /visual /photography
  • Precious metals/jewellery
  • Musical instruments
  • Tech/gadgets
  • Bicycle
  • Expensive items of clothing or accessories

All the items covered are the ones intended for personal use (Trade items should be insured under business insurance. Business equipment is sometimes included under personal possessions. Check your terms and conditions for more details).

WORTH KNOWING: Home contents (and insurance) normally relate to your house and exclude any outbuildings, sheds and garages etc.

Are your personal possessions covered under your home insurance?

Thankfully they are (if you have buildings and contents insurance). However, you might find most insurance policies terms and conditions carry some limitations such as:

-    Items that are in your house (not outbuildings) or out of your house should only be left unattended in a safe manner - For example if you leave your designer sunglasses on the dashboard and your car gets smashed in and the glasses stolen you might not be covered. Your insurer might disagree with the level of reasonable care you took to conceal them before leaving your car and would argue that you could/should have locked them inside the boot or the glove box….If in doubt, refer to your policy terms and conditions.

GOOD TO KNOW:  If you make a claim with your insurance and you're not happy about their justification for rejecting it, you can contact the Financial Ombudsman to review the fairness of your situation and outcome. 

-    Items that are judged portableIn case study 35/2 shared by the Financial Ombudsman, a person complained about his electricity generator not being covered by his home contents insurance after it was stolen from their stable block. The FOS rejected the claim on the basis that a bulky electricity generator was not an item that you would carry around for "personal use or convenience". However, in case study 35/3 it upheld another customer’s claim about their desktop computer being stolen from a friend’s house where they were staying.

-    Pets, motors, documents and securities are not included under personal possessions - As well as items already insured under a separate specialist insurance.

It often boils down to each specific insurer’s terms and conditions. It is a very boring read to get through. But if you do this when you are about to purchase your new home content policy, you are likely to pick up useful details about what might be excluded from a claim you make in the future. You can then decide whether to:

  • Still go ahead and take additional precautions to meet the insurer’s stipulations
  • Take a stand alone additional insurance
  • Find a different insurer all together.

What if you are renting or a student?

If you are renting or sharing accommodation, you should really have a specific contents or personal possessions insurance. Contents insurance will cover you for your own possessions as well as any damage you might cause to the property’s fixtures and fittings.  But you might not need this depending on your landlord's existing cover, so do ask. If not, you might be better off using a specialist personal possessions insurer like Trov or UrbanJungle. Urban Jungle also includes a personal liability cover within its policies.

If you're renting or house sharing, you don't have to buy your personal liability cover from your landlord. Here are other (perhaps cheaper) solutions

Sadly it doesn’t seem like contents insurance is very high on the mind of all tenants. According to specialist letting insurance Homelet “just over 40% of tenants don’t have contents insurance, with under 40s – a demographic often bracketed as millennials or Generation Y (and the most likely demographic to be renting) – the least likely to have cover.”

What are the personal possessions we insure the most?

Historically, single valuable items insured under personal possessions have been things like expensive or rare collectibles, engagement rings, bespoke jewellery, paintings or musical instruments. However these days it's expensive tech like laptops, DSLR cameras or carbon fibre road bikes, which can cost over £10,000.

What are the most common claims related to personal possessions?

According to the AA's own insurance data, the top 5 items people claim for the most under their contents insurance are:

  1. Jewellery or watches – 43%
  2. Purse, wallet or money – 38%
  3. Computer or computer equipment – 34%
  4. Electrical goods or cameras** – 19%
  5. Mobile phones – 13%

** (Electrical goods or cameras includes televisions, videos, stereos, cameras, MP3 players and DVD players)

What about when you go out, travelling or on a gap year?

It’s one thing keeping your personal possessions safe when you are at home. When you decide to go out for the evening, or travelling for a longer period of time especially (if you're taking a gap year or a career break), you should check how your personal possessions will be covered.  We often take personal items like cameras, laptops, tablets and jewellery on holiday or on a night out (well, hopefully your jewellery rather than your laptop on a night out!). 

As a rule of thumb you should make sure that you don’t leave your most precious possessions unattended, or if you do, that they are as safe as possible (in your boot, not visible, with the car locked; in a safe at your hotel….).

You might also want to look at stand-alone specialist insurance for your gadgets or your bike. Or even  get separate cover for your most precious items of jewellery.

How to keep an eye on your home when you're not there

You might have great neighbours and be able to ask them to keep an eye on your house. We have a fantastic postman who does this a bit as part of his daily routine. He's even got our mobile number in case he notices something really unusual. But that situation is, well, unusual and also relies on the goodwill and time of other people. A perhaps more practical approach to keeping your home safe when you're away is to adopt a new style of 'tech style' house insurance solution. 

For example, Neos insurance uses smart technology to actively protect your home....From your phone. You can choose one of 3 levels of protection via a quick a convenient app. On top of a traditional home insurance contract you also get equipped with an HD indoor security camera; then, depending on the cover option you choose, you might also receive a combination of motion detection sensor, smoke sensor, flood sensor, smart plug and door sensor. Set everything up, activate your devices and monitor any activity through your smartphone. If anything happens, you can call them 24/7. 

with a smart home insurance solution you can jet off in the sunset fully relaxed

Top tips about keeping your personal possessions as safe as possible

At ClaimScore we believe that sharing tips, feedback and knowledge benefits us all. Which is why we work on helping you share your insurance claim experiences. So you can help other people buy more wisely.  

Shared knowledge is a great source of learning. For example, if you are planning a trip, you can learn a lot from simply asking travel experts you know about their best tips. We did that. We asked "What are your top tips for keeping your personal possessions safe when you travel?". Here are our experts' top 5 tips:

1- Jacob Wedderburn-Day is the CEO of Stasher, the world first sharing economy left luggage service. He told us about how you don't need to add unnecessary risks on a night out whilst travelling, especially if you have your luggage with you. "'When travelling abroad or looking to keep your stuff safe on a night out, I'd recommend storing it somewhere secure.

It sounds obvious, but lots of people forget that there are hundreds of safe storage locations solutions dotted around cities across the globe. So when you are next on holiday, you can keep your possessions safe by leaving them at your nearest StashPoint for example."

2- Anthony Neary, MD of home security products makes a great point about keeping your home and its content secured whilst you are on holiday. "Keep your most valued personal possessions (like your car keys and precious jewellery), locked inside a safe properly bolted to the wall or the floor." Mr Neary adds: "A great place to secure a safe is in the loft. The loft can be one of the only places burglars won’t go as once they’re in the loft they’re stuck and can’t escape."

3- Planning ahead can also be a great way to keep your personal belongings safe. Rather than worrying about your luggage getting lost or stolen, why not send them ahead to your destination? Stuart Cooke from luggage shipping company Uni Baggage explains "Save time, money and get extra piece of mind that your luggage will be safe. You can simply ship your suitcases ahead to your destination (you can track them all the way) and travel hands-free." 

4- Pay real attention to your terms and conditions before you leave home for a trip. The devil's in the detail. Abi Tucker, Director of Marketing at home insurance business explains that "You cannot claim on some items if you lose them or have them stolen while you are away from home.  Check the terms on your contents insurance policy for items like mobile phones and jewellery, to make sure you're covered." The items covered can really vary from one insurer to the other. Don't assume. Check it out. Better to be safe than sorry. 

5- Finally, think about keeping your data safe too. Charlotte Leavy, who is part of the Digital Team at UK gadget insurer has expert advice on this point: "There are a couple of precautions that you can take in a hotel regarding your data. If you're joining the hotel's Wi-Fi, make sure that your connection is secure before accessing any personal applications or files. While the risk of cyber theft is slightly less than physical theft, it is a growing problem, and you may not know it's happened until it's too late. Equally, you should ensure that your Bluetooth connectivity is permanently turned off while you're abroad. If your signal is on, anyone with the inclination can connect to your phone and access your personal data remotely."

NEXT: Does your hire car insurance cover you for stolen personal items?


Did you find this article useful? What are your top tips? Let us know in a comment below. Remember. Better together.

Keep your personal posessions safe


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