Find out how buildings insurance works, what it covers and typical exclusions to watch out for.
What is buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance covers the cost of repairing damage to the structure of your property.
This includes the walls, windows and roof as well as permanent fixtures and fittings such as baths, toilets and fitted kitchens. As a general rule, buildings insurance covers the cost of rebuilding your house from the ground up.
This sum is likely to differ from the market value of your home and often includes the cost of services like demolition, site clearance and architects’ fees.
Generally, buildings insurance covers the cost of loss or damage caused by:
- fire, smoke, explosions
- flood, storms, natural disasters
- fallen trees, lamp posts, aerials or satellite dishes
- vandalism or malicious damage
- vehicle or aircraft collisions.
Depending on the type of policy you choose, you may also be covered for structures around your home like garages, outside walls and driveways.
Homeowners often combine this with contents insurance, which protects their belongings from loss, theft or damage.
Here we reveal the best buildings insurance policies. If you’re looking for tips on getting cheap buildings insurance, go to our guide.
Do I need buildings insurance?
Buildings insurance is often purchased by homeowners or those renting out a property that they own.
Even if you don’t have a mortgage, it is advisable to take out a buildings insurance policy. It’s important to bear in mind the cost of rebuilding your house if it were damaged or destroyed.
You won’t need buildings insurance if you’re renting a property as it will be up to your landlord to ensure they have a policy.
If you are a tenant and would like to insure your belongings, you may want to consider taking out a contents insurance policy.
What are the different types of buildings insurance?
Sum insured cover is calculated by working out the cost of rebuilding your home from scratch.
This includes expenses such as professional fees and is not the same as your home’s market value, which may be higher or lower than the estimate.
The cost of rebuilding your property will increase over time so it’s best to review your cover each time you renew to check it remains adequate.
Bedroom-rated insurance estimates the cost of rebuilding your home based on the number of bedrooms you have.
These types of policy protect you from under-insuring and provide very high levels of cover.
With bedroom-rated cover, you don’t have to worry about calculating the rebuild cost of your home.
It’s important to bear in mind, however, that you could end up over-insuring yourself and paying for cover that you might not need.
Does buildings insurance cover accidental damage?
Accidental damage occurs when there’s a one-off unintentional incident that harms the structure of your property.
This could be anything from putting a nail in the wrong place and bursting a pipe to a football being kicked through your window.
Full cover for accidental damage is usually bought as an add-on to a policy. Where available as standard, it’s typically very limited – for example, only covering fixed glass or sanitary fittings.
- Find out more: Home insurance: add-ons, fees and charges explained.
What is excluded from buildings insurance?
Exclusions from buildings insurance policies can vary depending on your provider and level of cover.
Common exclusions on buildings insurance policies include:
- general wear and tear
- damage caused by neglecting your property
- bad workmanship
- storm damage to gates, fences and plants
- frost damage to outside pipes and brickwork
- damage caused by insects, birds or other pests.
Is buildings insurance affected if my home is unoccupied?
Most insurers will cover your home on the condition that it will not be left unattended for longer than the policy’s ‘unoccupancy period’ – this usually ranges between 30 and 60 consecutive days.
If your home will be left unoccupied for an extended period of time, be sure to let your home insurance provider know as there may be some restrictions to your cover.
Buildings insurance: your questions answered
Does buildings insurance cover damp?
Damp is not covered by buildings insurance.
It usually occurs when there is excess moisture in your property and it’s important that you deal with it promptly as it could cause further damage such as discolouration and mould.
Do I need buildings insurance for a new build home?
It is advisable to get buildings insurance, even if your home is newly built.
The majority of newly built homes in the UK are protected by an NHBC warranty called ‘Buildmark’, which lasts for 10 years.
For the first two years of the warranty, the builder is liable for putting right any problems with your home if they have failed to comply with NHBC standards.
This protection, however, is only limited to poor workmanship and does not cover accidental damage or protection against fire or flood.
Leaseholders: Do you need buildings insurance?
Usually, if you own a leasehold flat, the building should be insured by your landlord who owns the freehold.
Sometimes leaseholders in the same building group together to buy a share of the freehold.
While this gives more control over the property it also means that they may have to arrange buildings cover as well. This can be done individually or a cheaper option could be to take out a ‘block policy’, which covers them all.
Landlords: Do you need buildings insurance?
While not a legal requirement, it is advisable for homeowners to get buildings insurance as it covers damage to the structure of their property.
If you decide to become a landlord and rent out your property, it is still your responsibility to take out buildings insurance.
This often covers malicious damage by tenants, but it’s important to double-check with your provider.
Some landlords may decide to take out landlord insurance as well, which provides a variety of cover features such as accidental damage, liability, legal expenses and rent guarantee.
Does buildings insurance cover a leaky roof?
It depends. If your leak was caused by some sort of damage to the exterior of your property, for example a storm that pulled off a lot of tiles, your home insurance may cover you.
Where there are no signs of external damage and the leak is caused by the roof structure being worn out, your home insurance provider is unlikely to cover it, as it would fall under the wear-and-tear exclusion.
Does buildings insurance cover subsidence?
Most home insurers will cover the cost of damage to your property caused by subsidence.
This is often limited, however, to the house itself and will not include patios, garden walls, driveways and swimming pools.
The excess for subsidence damage is often higher than the excess for other areas of the policy – usually as much as £1,000.
It is important to bear in mind that insurers only cover the cost of repairing damage caused by subsidence and not the cost of preventing another incident.
Be sure to check with home insurance provider, as the terms for subsidence can vary.
Is flood damage covered by buildings insurance?
Flood cover is a standard part of buildings insurance, and it’s widely available for most homes – even those in areas deemed to be of high flood risk.
However, if you do live in such an area – or have been flooded yourself in the past – you should check your policy carefully before buying – as some will add exclusions or high excesses that are easily overlooked.
If you’re having trouble finding a policy that has decent flood cover (at a reasonable price), you may be able to find a suitable specialist provider on the British Insurance Brokers’ Association’s website.
- Find out more: flooding and home insurance
How do I make a claim on my buildings insurance?
No one wants to have to make a claim on their home insurance, but, should the worst happen, there are ways to make the process as smooth as possible.
Our guide on making a home insurance claim tells you all you need to know about handling the claims process and which home insurance companies stand out from the pack when the going gets tough.
Do homebuyers you need buildings insurance when exchanging contracts?
If you are taking out a mortgage to buy a house, your lender would have already required you to take out buildings insurance as a condition to get your mortgage.
For homebuyers not using a mortgage, it is advisable to get at least temporary buildings insurance from the moment you exchange contracts.
The seller’s buildings insurance will not cover you if there are any mishaps between the exchange of contracts and completion of sale.
What is contingent building indemnity insurance?
Contingent building indemnity insurance is a one-off policy that is purchased if you’re a buying a flat where there is an issue with the buildings insurance policy already in place. These problems are usually identified by your conveyancing solicitor.
This type of policy protects you from financial loss if the building where your flat is situated is destroyed or damaged.
Does buildings insurance cover underpinning?
Underpinning is the process of strengthening the foundation of a property.
If your house needs underpinning because of damage to the exterior, for example through subsidence, then your insurer should cover it.
However, if your house needs underpinning because you want to change the structure of the property, eg adding a new extension, it will not be covered by your home insurer.