Jargon-busting common home insurance terms!

They say “home is where the heart is”, not “the cardiac organ is a sufficient metaphor for expressing familiar affection towards one’s domestic surroundings”. Because when it comes to our homes it’s best to keep things simple; including the language! When complicated insurance jargon puts up walls, we do our best to break them down - so you can feel totally ‘at home’ with terms of the trade and able to make informed decisions, and not get lost in the lingo. Here’s what some common home insurance terms mean in simple, clear language.

The amount paid by you (the policyholder) to us (the insurer).
One of the main documents you receive when you take out a policy, with all your details and the info about what’s covered and what terms there are (like Excesses and Endorsements - eyes peeled for those, below…). It’s super-important to check that all details you’ve supplied are right, as if they’re not, it could mean your insurance isn’t valid and could be cancelled.
The amount of money you’d need to pay the insurer towards the total cost if you made a claim, over and above your premium. There are two main types:
- Compulsory excess is set by the insurer and can’t be changed by you
- Voluntary excess is an additional amount that you can offer to pay (if you want to) and you can choose the amount. Generally, if you have a higher voluntary excess your Premium will be lower
Don’t forget, if the worst should happen and you have to make a claim you’ll need to pay the total excess amount (Compulsory plus Voluntary), so make sure it’s an amount you can afford. Both amounts will be in your Insurance Schedule, as well as any other excess amounts, as some are different for different types of claims.
Individuals or companies who help insurers work out the risk they’re taking, and then how much your Premium will be. This is based on lots of clever things like how old your house is, how many bedrooms it has, what type of locks you have on your doors etc.
Insurance that covers you for the value of an item at the time it was stolen, lost or damaged. This is likely to be lower than the value it had been when it was new, as the value has probably just decreased over time, plus any ‘wear and tear’ will also affect this. This is different to ‘New for Old’ insurance, as that cover values your item at whatever it would cost to buy a bright, shiny new version of the same thing to replace the old one.
Cover that protects you if someone who doesn’t live with you gets injured or their stuff gets damaged while they’re in your home, and you’re found responsible in a claim.
An Endorsement is any amendment to the standard terms in the policy booklet that applies to only you and your policy, not everyone. These are shown in your Insurance Schedule. An Exclusion is something not covered by a standard policy – things like damage caused by pets (so don’t let Fluffy chew your brand new sofa!). We list them all in your policy booklet under the headings ‘What is not covered’, and ‘General exclusions which apply to this policy’.
The amount you tell us it would cost to replace all your worldly goods in your home and garden (apart from some garden items, like that shed – sorry), at today’s prices. It’s super-important to work this out as accurately as possible, and keep it up to date, otherwise you might be Underinsured (keep reading…). You can watch our video on home cover for more info.
A high value item (or items) which needs to be specifically mentioned on your policy to make sure it’s covered. For Sheilas’ Wheels, this is anything worth over £1500, or bikes + accessories worth £500 or more. If you don’t let us know about these they won’t be covered if you need to claim, so it’s another thing to add to that ‘super-important things’ checklist!
Something that shouldn’t be as confusing as it sometimes is! Basically if you turned your house upside down, anything that falls out of it, plus the carpets and curtains comes under Contents Insurance. Everything left, so the walls, roof, floors and all those structural bits, is covered by the Buildings Insurance.
One of least-jargony terms in this list – it’s damage caused by an accident. Your standard home insurance policy won’t cover you for things like spilling a drink and staining your shagpile or drilling through a water pipe, but you can choose to add Accidental Damage cover to your Buildings and/or Contents Insurance policy for an additional cost, and get yourself peace of mind against the consequences of clumsiness!
The full amount it would cost to rebuild your home exactly as it is now if it was destroyed and couldn’t be repaired. It includes not just the materials and building costs, but also professional fees, the costs to meet building regs and other local authority and statutory requirements, clearance costs – everything you’d need to pay to recreate your home again. Here at Sheilas’ Wheels we offer Unlimited Buildings cover – one less thing to worry about working out!
An extended or regular period of time when no-one’s living in your home. For Sheilas’ Wheels, we class your house as unoccupied when no-one’s living there for more than 30 days in a row, or if it’s empty for at least 3 nights in a row every week – other insurers have different thresholds though. You might not be covered for things like theft, malicious damage and water damage during this time, so let us know if you’re ever going to need to use this definition!
Basically, not having enough cover in place. Imagine there was a fire in your home and your things got damaged, but the cost to replace them all was more than the value you gave us for your Contents Sum Insured…you might be the one footing the bill for the difference. That’s why getting that Contents Sum Insurance value as accurate is possible is another thing that absolutely is on that ‘super-important things’ checklist. Holding onto receipts and having photos of your items can also really help if you need to make a claim.
Defaqto is a leading financial information, ratings and fintech business. Its Star Ratings help consumers make better informed financial decisions (did we mention our Home Insurance is 5 Star Rated already…?).

So, now you’re hopefully feeling a bit more ‘at home’ with all this, you should be all the better prepared for policies you’re looking to add or renew, or claims you might have to make in the future. For more jargon-free information and tips, check out our Content Garage.


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