10 ways people could accidentally invalidate home cover

Man stood outside house on street

...Aviva urges customers to ensure they are properly protected.

  • An alarming 63%iii of UK consumers have done something that could unwittingly invalidate their home insurance cover.
  • Common actions include leaving a house unsecured while away from home, undertaking significant renovations without letting their insurer know, or subletting their home.
  • Only 29% of people say they have a good understanding of what their home insurance policy covers.
  • Aviva wants to help customers properly protect their homes and belongings.

Millions of UK consumersii may have on occasion accidentally invalidated their home insurance policies, new data from Aviva reveals.

The survey of 2,002 people found that an alarming 63%iii of consumers have done something which goes against common policy terms, meaning that a potential claim could be declined.

For example, most policies require that residents adopt reasonable security measures to minimise the risk of break-ins. But the Aviva research finds one in nine people (11%) have left their house unsecured while away from home, including leaving a window open or a door unlocked, while 9% of people have left a key in an unsafe place such as under a doormat or plant pot.

Most policies also require that customers ensure their properties are kept in good condition as insurers are unlikely to cover loss or damage caused by wear and tear or a lack of maintenance. But 7% of people admitted to not maintaining their property properly, leaving it at risk of deterioration by not prioritising important jobs such as checking for damp or clearing out gutters.

On the other hand, one in 20 (5%) have undertaken significant building work or home renovations without letting their insurer know, which is often a requirement of standard home insurance policies.

6% of the population have used their home as a business without checking in with their insurer, including storing stock at the property or even having customers visit their home.

Other faux pas include leaving the house unoccupied for several weeks or months without letting their insurer know (5%), when policies often include a limit to the number of consecutive days a home can be left empty. Others have not updated their insurer about a permanent change in their household circumstances (5%), such as an increase or decrease in the number of people in the home.

One in 25 side-hustling consumers (4%) have even sublet their home as a holiday or short-term let without advising their insurer.

The data also found that only 29% those surveyed felt they have a good understanding of what their home insurance policy does and doesn’t cover.  

Some people are unwittingly putting their homes, belongings, and finances at risk, through common actions as well as misconceptions about what their cover provides.

Hannah Davidson, senior underwriter at Aviva, says: “Most standard home insurance policies have specific requirements that customers must comply with to ensure their insurance remains valid, yet some people are unwittingly putting their homes, belongings, and finances at risk, through common actions as well as misconceptions about what their cover provides.

“This can include something as simple as leaving a window open while away from home or leaving a house key under a mat, to potentially rendering an insurance policy void with more serious oversights, such as subletting their home without letting their insurer know.

“At Aviva, we want to help people avoid any difficulties or confusion when trying to make a claim, as well as make sure their homes, belongings and peace of mind are properly protected. With this in mind, we recommend customers maintain their properties to the best of their ability and keep them secure.

“Customers should also ensure they understand their home insurance policies properly, review their policies regularly and always update their insurance provider about any significant changes to their circumstances or properties.”

Home insurance is critical to protecting your property and belongings. Below, Aviva shares common pitfalls that might accidentally invalidate your home insurance policy, and how to prevent this from happening:

  1. Not maintaining your property properly. Insurance is a partnership and when a customer takes out a home insurance policy, they enter into an agreement with their insurer. This will include general conditions, such as keeping the insured property in good repair, and keeping up to date with maintenance.
  2. Not declaring building work, alterations, and renovations. Even relatively standard upgrades such as adding a new kitchen, bathroom, or a new extension can alter the terms of your home insurance policy. You don’t need to tell your insurer if you are simply redecorating but should let them know if you plan to renovate or alter a property.
  3. Setting up a business from home. Most home insurance policies provide cover for remote working. However, if you set up and run a business from home, you’ll need to let your home insurer know as you will most likely need a commercial insurance policy.
  4. Leaving your home empty for several weeks or months. Leaving your home unoccupied can increase the risk of something going wrong, such as water leaks. Most insurance policies specify the number of days a property can be left empty, e.g., up to four weeks, but if you plan on leaving your property empty for a significant period of time, you should let your insurance provider know. If you are leaving your property unoccupied for longer, you can also take steps to reduce the risk of water leaks, for example by turning your mains water off at the stopcock.
  5. Not keeping your home secure. Ensuring your property is secure is vital to protecting your home and belongings from incidents of vandalism or theft. If someone can easily enter a property, such as by using a key left under a plant pot, or entering through an unlocked door, there’s a chance that a claim may be declined.
  6. Subletting your home. Some home insurance policies may provide cover for occasional short-term lets or holiday swaps, but you should always check with your insurer in advance, especially if you plan to make money from the rental. Even short-term sublets can require specialist insurance.
  7. Deliberate damage by policy holders. Insurance providers will not normally cover intentional damage to a property by a policyholder or anyone living at the property who is covered under the policy.
  8. Not disclosing previous claims. It’s important to be honest with your insurer about previous home insurance claims. Providing false or misleading information when applying for or renewing a policy can potentially invalidate cover.
  9. Over-inflating the value of your contents. Exaggerating the value of contents during a claim could be viewed as fraud by your home insurance provider. Similarly, under-valuing your contents could result in the underinsurance of your belongings. Correctly valuing your contents will help ensure smooth sailing if you need to make a claim.
  10. Not reviewing your insurance regularly. As your circumstances change, such as acquiring new belongings, making renovations to your home, or even adding extra additions to your family, review and update your insurance policy accordingly. You may also wish to add on optional covers, such as accidental damage cover. Taking time to understand your home insurance policy will help ensure there are no nasty surprises when it comes to making a claim.



i. Research conducted by Censuswide, among a sample of 2,002 Nationally Representative UK Consumers, aged 16+. The data was collected between 19.04.2024 – 22.04.2024. Censuswide abides by and employs members of the Market Research Society and follows the MRS code of conduct which is based on the ESOMAR principles.

ii. Inverse percentage of those who selected ‘None of the above’ when presented with a list of actions that may potentially invalidate home insurance x ONS mid-year UK population estimate figures, aged 16+)

iii. Inverse percentage of those who selected ‘None of the above’ when presented with a list of actions that may potentially invalidate home insurance

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Karmen Ivey

General Insurance

Notes to editors:

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