Has lockdown DIY killed your cover?

Eugen Str
Eugen Str

As the lockdown ensured all but essential workers were essentially housebound, Brits began to turn their attention to DIY – presumably deciding that if they were going to spend more time indoors then those homes should be as pleasant as possible.

In fact, according to a new study from Aviva, 85 per cent of UK adults have undertaken home improvements during lockdown. This includes everything from decluttering to gardening to bigger projects that require some serious remodelling.

But while cosmetic DIY like painting or putting up shelves has no impact on insurance, more extensive updates do. Failure to declare such work could risk invalidating an existing home insurance policy.

And as tradespeople and builders are allowed back to work in people’s homes those larger planned projects are now starting up. It’s essential property owners inform their insurer before they begin any major projects like extensions or loft conversions.

Otherwise, if they come to claim they might find their insurer won’t pay out.

The biggest risks to home insurance

Policies vary from provider to provider so read your small print so you can clearly understand what is within your own and what puts it at risk.

Aviva advises always telling a home insurer before renovating or altering a property. That allows them to decide whether they can provide cover both during the work and afterwards, when the property will be different to the home they insured.

If your home insurer is happy to continue cover during building work then make sure you know what that cover includes.

Many will exclude accidental damage resulting from any work so make sure your tradesperson has the right insurance so your home is protected if they get something wrong.

Once your major home improvements are finished, it’s also a good idea to review your home insurance policy. If your property is now larger then the value of your home could have risen and this may need to be reflected in your policy.

And if you complete your new-look home with lots of expensive new furniture then it is a good idea to review your contents cover as well, just in case.

Did you buy a lockdown hot tub?

Even if you have not used lockdown to undertake a major project, it is still a good idea to reassess a home contents policy if you have spent money making a home more enjoyable during lockdown.

There have been spikes in sales of gaming equipment and electronics, while the closure of gyms means many more people invested in home exercise equipment and bikes.

With few people hoping to jet off to some sun, there has also been a boom in sales of garden equipment like trampolines, hot tubs and paddling pools.

Simon Stanney, general insurance director at SunLife, recommends homeowners take a moment to check they are covered for any new purchases under their contents policy.

“Insuring your home and its contents for the right amount is crucial to guarantee any claim you make will be paid in full,” he says.

“Because if you make a claim for a certain amount and your insurer discovers you’ve said your possessions are worth less than their true value – even if you have done this accidentally – you will receive less money or may not get a payout at all.

“So if you have bought a new bike, new garden furniture or upgraded your home tech, make sure you ask your insurer to confirm that your policy provides sufficient cover for your needs.”

A nation of extremes

While many households have been using lockdown to spruce up their properties, many others have been watching theirs fall into disrepair.

Research carried out by smart home systems installer BOXT shows that many people have been too worried about Covid-19 to allow tradespeople into their homes, even for work that has become urgent.

One in three homeowners said they had put major work on the backburner because of the health crisis, while a quarter said they had decided not to have work carried out because of concerns about social distancing.

And one in seven people began DIY improvements in lockdown only to discover the job was bigger than they could manage themselves, meaning it has gone unfinished.

BOXT co-founder Andy Kerr warns against relying on short-term fixes for major problems.

He says: “Some of the jobs which need doing can wait if you get the temporary fix right, but others will end up costing you far more in the long run, so it is worth looking around for companies which can carry out work now while respecting the need to minimise contact.”

Many of us have spent lockdown making our homes generally more pleasant places to be. It’s essential to now make sure those homes are covered by policies that provide full protection.

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