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How to help your parent find the right buildings and contents insurance

News and advice for older people

Ashley Shepherd, Managing Director of Over50choices, helps us take a look at the factors your parents should consider when choosing home insurance, providing helpful guides on how to find the right policy to suit their needs.

They say your home is your castle, which is probably true when you consider the amount of money we plough into mortgages, decoration, furnishings and home improvements. So if the time comes when your parent could do with help finding home insurance, here are some points to consider so they stay fully protected, regardless of what life might throw their way.

Don’t get caught out

We’ve all read horror stories about people losing everything because they failed to protect their belongings or didn’t have enough insurance cover. Don’t let your parent suffer the painful and expensive consequences of a fire or theft, water damage or accident resulting from extreme weather conditions. Make sure they’re fully protected.

If your parent lives in rented accommodation, their landlord should have buildings insurance in place so they’ll just need to consider contents insurance. If they’re a home owner, they may have buildings insurance in place as a matter of course, as it will be a requirement of their mortgage agreement but it’s worth checking just in case, especially as they may well have reached an age where their mortgage is paid off.

When it comes to contents insurance, don’t let your parent overlook or underestimate the value of this type of cover. Get them to think about what would happen if they lost everything and how much it would cost to replace those items. It’s amazing how costs start to mount up – even for those of us who live a more minimalistic life.

Choose the right level of cover

Buildings insurance should be based on the amount of money it takes to rebuild the home, not the value of the property. It’s important to get this figure right as the insurer will only pay up to the amount specified. If you are unsure of these costs, the Association of British Insurers has an online rebuild calculator that will help (requires registration).

Some insurers offer a set amount of buildings insurance cover, typically based on the number of bedrooms your parent has. This may be an easier option but it’s still important to check that the amount covers the full rebuild costs, and on the flip side, that your parent isn’t paying for a level of cover they don’t need.

With contents insurance, again some plan providers offer a fixed amount of cover which may suit your parent’s needs. It‘s important to walk through the property room by room and add up how much it would cost to replace everything, including things like curtains and carpets.

Double up for discounts

As with many services these days, you often find that you get a better deal when you have both services supplied by the same company. Home insurance is no different. Not only will it make life easier when it comes to the paperwork, your parent will probably get a discount if they choose to combine their buildings and contents cover.

Options to consider

As well as the standard buildings and contents cover, there are a number of additional options that might be worth looking at:

  • Accidental damage. Cover those day-to-day accidents that cause damage to buildings or contents. Although our parents may never claim on this it might be good to have in place for those who have various family and friends providing care, cleaning and maintenance work, that are unfamiliar with the property.
  • Personal belongings away from home. Additional cover for your parent’s belongings when they’re out and about.
  • Public liability. Cover for any legal fees your parent may incur should anyone become injured at their home.
  • Legal expenses. Cover any legal fees as a result of a dispute.
  • Home emergency. Cover some or all of the cost of call outs and repairs in the event of a boiler, plumbing or drainage emergency. This could be good for parents who don’t have an easily accessible support network who can help them arrange payment for home repairs. Also those with long-term conditions that may be exacerbated by cold temperatures or lack of power for medical machinery could benefit from this kind of cover.
  • Garden cover. Additional insurance that protects the garden should your parent worry about the flora and fauna.

Cut the cost

There are a number of options that may encourage insurance providers to reduce their premiums:

  • Pay once a year rather than by instalments.
  • Increase the excess.
  • Take up the offer of no-claims protection.
  • Increase your parent’s security. The Royal Insurance Advisory Service offers some handy home security tips to help your parent protect their home.
  • Don’t over insure.

Leaving the house empty

If your parent is going on holiday, they will still be covered as long as the house isn’t left empty for long periods, typically more than 60 days. If they’re planning on taking an extended break, they will need to contact their insurer and inform them of their plans.

If your parent’s circumstances change in any way, it’s always worth notifying their insurer just in case it invalidates the terms of their insurance. For example, if they needed to spend any length of time in hospital or a nursing home, they would be covered for the first 60 days but would need to let their insurer know if the house remained empty after this period; just like if they were to take an extended holiday.

Preparing insurance for carers

If your parent needs home care and you employ a carer you’ll need to have Employer’s Liability Insurance (ELI) in place to protect against the carer seeking compensation for injury or illness whilst caring for your parent.

In this case a Public Liability add-on to your parent’s home insurance probably won’t provide the right cover for you and your parent. It’s possible to be fined by the Health and Safety Executive if you don’t have the right insurance in place but this is largely circumstance specific.

A self-employed carer should have their own insurance to cover accidents or injuries – but do check their certificate to be sure.

For more information about insurance cover for home care click here.

Home insurance for mobility adaptations

It’s worth mentioning to your parent’s insurer any home adaptations that are needed. This might incur extra cost or perhaps a switch to a specialist provider.

Mobility Insure is one place to start when looking for disability home insurance policies.

Save online ……. again!

If your parents aren’t internet-savvy or they’re at the stage when they need a little bit more help managing their finances then you can help them to shop around online for the best deals, compare home insurance quotes as well as choose the right level of cover.

Don’t forget, sad though it may seem, insurance companies don’t tend to hand out discounts to existing customers so when your parent’s home insurance is due for renewal, take a few minutes to compare quotes and if necessary switch provider.

Until we live in a world where customer loyalty is recognised, actively comparing prices on a regular basis is the only option if you want to keep the pennies in your parent’s pocket.

Over50choices is a personal finance comparison website for the over 50s authorised and regulated by the Financial Conduct Authority. The Over50choices team take an honest approach to explaining insurance and seek to make life simpler for those of us who just don’t get industry jargon! For more information contact Ashley on [email protected].

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