Most of us assume that when we buy insurance for our home, car or a holiday then we’re completely covered. We’ve read the details, found the right level of cover for our own circumstances and can enjoy the peace of mind of knowing that we’ve taken the right precautions. However, what many people don’t realise is that, even if your insurance policy is perfect for your situation, there are certain things that you can do that will invalidate your cover. If you don’t want to find yourself with a useless policy on your hands then look out for the following in the small print.
Not belting your pet in. Insurers will often refuse to pay out for a car insurance claim if you had your pet in the car and they weren’t properly secured at the time of an incident or accident
Driving overseas. Most car insurance policies won’t actually cover you for driving overseas – don’t make assumptions about this, read the small print to make sure.
Using a domestic car for work purposes. If you have a car only for ‘social, domestic and pleasure’ then you’ll pay less for the insurance on it. However, if you then start mixing in work purposes the entire policy could be invalidated.
Getting behind the wheel of someone else’s car. Make sure your policy extends to third party cover for driving another car with the owner’s permission – many policies don’t provide this.
Not notifying of changes. If you make changes to your vehicle then you need to let an insurer know. Even something as minor as blacked out windows could give the insurance company a reason not to pay out.
A dirty windscreen. If you don’t take proper care of the car you could face a lot of resistance from your insurer if something happens. In particular when it comes to the windscreen – if this is dirty, muddy and grimy then an insurer may refuse to accept that they should pay out. You might also find yourself with a fine if you’re caught by the police with the windscreen in this kind of state.
Your windows have locks but you don’t use them – or you’re in the habit of leaving your windows open, for example when you leave the house. The same goes for a burglar alarm – if you’ve got one and don’t use it an insurer may refuse to pay out.
Leaving a key out for burglars. Ok, so you may not have left the spare key under the flower pot specifically for the burglar but if you decide to leave a set of keys outside the home this could completely invalidate your insurance.
You don’t report any theft to the police. There is a time limit on this too – you must report it within 24 hours or your claim may not be successful.
Not notifying your insurer about building work. Specifically, you need to tell them that builders are on site or you may not be covered for any damage they do, such as a burst pipe.
Posting about your holiday. This is fairly new but if you’re posting photos on social media that indicate you’re not at home – and then someone breaks in while you’re away – an insurer may claim that you’ve invalidated your insurance policy as a result.
Paying for a holiday with points instead of pounds. If you’ve used loyalty points to pay for some or all of a trip, any insurance claims you make resulting from that trip may be refused as a result.
Certain activities and sports. The key with sports and activities on holiday is to assume you’re probably not covered and then check. Even something as simple as riding a banana boat may not be covered, which will leave you without insurance if you’re hurt during the experience.
Having a drink or two. Most people are beginning to realise that being drunk is highly likely to give an insurer a reason to refuse to pay out. However, what many of us don’t spot is that insurers often state that any alcohol consumption at all will invalidate the policy – you don’t even have to be over the limit.
Not taking care of your stuff. If you don’t properly secure your valuables then an insurer may not pay to replace them. So, if you leave your phone on your beach towel when you go for a swim and someone takes it you might find yourself with a refused claim.
It’s always important to read the small print when you’re taking out insurance. The most common ways that we invalidate policies are very often avoidable.
Amanda Gillam is Solution Loans's General Manager and has been since 2009. She is also a prolific writer on personal finance issues, and has been quoted numerous times in articles published on 3rd party websites and in press releases. Her...Read more about Amanda Gillam