Do I need to buy home insurance before closing on a property?

Do I need to buy home insurance before closing on a property?

Having adequate home insurance can help manage risks from unforeseen events like floods, bushfires and other natural calamities. But if you’re purchasing a property, you need to know when the responsibility for property damage shifts between the seller and the buyer to make sure there’s no gap in coverage at any time. 

In some parts of the country, the seller may be responsible for damages only until the exchange of contracts. After that, it becomes the buyer’s responsibility. In other parts, the seller continues to be accountable until closing or settlement, when the balance of the price is paid, and the property legally transfers to the buyer. 

Generally, the standard contract of sale in a state or territory is a good place to look to determine when the liability for damage passes between the seller and the buyer. Most property purchases use a standard contract of sale, so these terms would be consistent across the state. Here’s a summary of the standard position in various states:

  • ACT, South Australia and Tasmania – The responsibility for damage to the property passes to the buyer on exchange of contracts.
  • Northern Territory and Western Australia – The buyer becomes responsible for property damage on whichever of the below occurs first:
    • The date the purchase price is paid in full.
    • The date the buyer is entitled to or receives possession of the property.
  • New South Wales and Victoria – The responsibility for property damage shifts to the buyer on closing or settlement of the property purchase.
  • Queensland – The buyer becomes responsible for damages at 5 pm on the first business day following the exchange of contracts.  

Despite the standard position in a state or territory, the contract of sale may differ from these terms and pass the risk to the buyer at a different time. It’s important to read through the contract and speak with a conveyancer, solicitor, or lawyer to correctly understand the terms.

When to buy home insurance during the sale?

If you plan to purchase a home, your lawyer or solicitor may ask you to buy insurance before closing irrespective of when the responsibility for damages passes on to you. They’ll advise as a way to protect your interests and avoid any nasty surprises later. For example, if the responsibility for damages passes to you on the settlement date but there’s a delay in taking out insurance, you would have to pay to fix any possible damage out of pocket. 

Some lenders also require you to get home insurance as a condition of home loan approval to protect their interests as well as yours. It’s worth checking with your lender if they have this requirement to void any delay in getting your home loan approved.

If you’re purchasing an apartment in a strata-managed building, building insurance is often covered by strata. This insurance cost would be split between all owners in the building and covered by your strata fees. It typically provides coverage for the building including common property like gardens and stairwells, and other items listed on the property’s title. However, it doesn’t cover your belongings or anything that’s not permanently attached to the building. You should look into contents insurance to cover these things. 

The bottom-line

Getting the right home and contents insurance policy gives you peace of mind that what’s likely your most costly asset is well-protected.

As a buyer, you may choose to err on the side of caution by getting home insurance before closing even if the seller’s insurance covers the property until settlement. It’s often better to be safe than sorry, as the saying goes. You can also discuss the matter with your lawyer or conveyancer to figure out when you need to buy home insurance during the sale process. 

Increase your chances of finding a competitive deal on home and contents insurance by comparing home insurance policies online. Once you have a shortlist of policies, compare the features and benefits offered by each policy. You should also go through the Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) thoroughly to make sure you get the right cover for your home.

Did you find this helpful? Why not share this article?

Fact Checked -

This article was reviewed by Kate Cowling before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.

Advertisement

RateCity
ratecity-newsletter

Money Health Newsletter

Subscribe for news, tips and expert opinions to help you make smarter financial decisions

By signing up, you agree to the RateCity Privacy Policy, Terms of Use and Disclaimer.

Advertisement

Learn more about home insurance

What is home insurance?

For homeowners, home insurance can provide some financial protection to your property when things don’t go as planned. If you have home insurance and your property is damaged (or even the permanent fixtures inside), you could make a claim to your insurer to cover the costs of getting it fixed, replaced or rebuilt.

The idea behind property insurance is that you pay insurance providers to take on the risk of loss or damage to your property that you would otherwise be carrying. 

Do I need home insurance for a home loan?

While home insurance isn’t necessarily a requirement for a home purchase per se, it’s likely that if you’re purchasing a home with the help of a home loan, you’ll need to take out home insurance on the property. Home insurance can be one of the factors required in the pre-settlement documentation for a home purchase, and you may be advised by either the bank or a broker (or both) ahead of settlement.  

Is my home insurance covered for weather damage?

It is important to understand what is covered and what isn't covered in your home insurance policy before purchasing it. One crucial point to consider at the time of evaluating home insurance policies is whether it includes home insurance weather damage cover, and what it actually means if it does.

Typically, the protection afforded by home insurance actually depends on how the home was damaged or affected by conditions. The whole idea behind home insurance is to protect you from loss or damage against an unexpected, sudden event, like a fire or storm. If your home was in the way of a storm and your roof was damaged, which also caused internal water destruction, you may be covered for the damage to the roof and the property. The same holds true for walls or a fence that got damaged in a storm or flood.

However, you may not be covered if the damage occurred because your property was not well maintained and your home suffered a leak. A poorly maintained fence is less likely to be covered by home insurance.

Does home insurance cover tenant damage?

If you have a property that you rent out to tenants, you may ask, does home insurance cover tenant damage? Generally, as a landlord, you’ll require a different type of insurance policy than a regular home and contents insurance that offers coverage for the unique situations faced by landlords.

Landlord insurance

As a landlord, you must insure against additional risks to protect your investment. A landlord home and contents insurance policy covers loss due to natural disasters, storm, and fire. Generally, it also covers fixtures like stovetops, light fittings, window coverings, carpets, and ovens.

Additionally, you may protect yourself against any loss arising due to damage to your property caused by your tenants or their guests. Some landlord insurance policies may also protect you against financial loss due to unpaid rent.

Does homeowners insurance cover tenant damage? In most cases, regular homeowners’ insurance policy will not cover such damage. It’s always best to refer to the product disclosure statement (PDS) to clearly understand what is included and excluded from your home insurance policy.

Can you transfer home insurance?

When you sell your home, you cannot transfer the home insurance policy to the new owner. The buyers need to purchase a new home insurance policy where the insurer will calculate the premium based on several factors.

The risk of any damage to the home is transferred to the new owners when you sell the property. You can speak to an experienced conveyancer or solicitor to find out more about when the risk gets passed to the buyers in your state or territory.

If you move to a new home

Can you transfer home insurance to a new property if you move to a new home?

Some insurers may allow you to transfer your policy to a new property as long as you meet certain conditions. These include informing the insurance company as soon as you enter into a contract to buy the new home. You may need to pay an additional premium when transferring your existing home insurance policy to the new property.

What does home insurance cover?

What home insurance specifically covers and the extent of the coverage depends on the insurance provider and the individual policy. However, home insurance typically covers the property and other permanent structures found on or in the property, such as fences, in-ground swimming pools, garages, and dishwashers, to name a few.

There are usually two types of homeowner's insurance you can choose from, with "total replacement cover" or "sum-insured cover". 

If you’re not sure which option to take, it may be worthwhile to speak to a professional valuer to understand how much it might cost to rebuild your home and replace what's inside.

Are bikes covered under home insurance?

Ordinarily, home insurance only covers damage to your house, which can include additional buildings such as garages, sheds, and fences, as well as permanent fixtures. 

However, to protect the items located in your home or in any of these other buildings, you will likely need to purchase home and contents insurance. Even so, your bike would only be covered if it does not require separate vehicle registration, as is the case for bicycles and 50cc minibikes, but not motorcycles, and only when located on your property, parked or otherwise. 

Depending on the cost of your bicycle or minibike, you can have it listed in your home and contents insurance as a high-value item. You'll want to check your insurer’s Product Disclosure Statement (PDS) to know the normal coverage limit for a bike included as part of your home and contents insurance, as well as the incidents which are covered. 

Insuring your bicycle can be distinct to insuring any personal effects on your bike at the time, or even using the bike when you're out and about. If you want to cover those, such as something in a basket or a camera equipped to the bicycle, or the bike itself as you travel, you will likely need to purchase additional personal effects insurance. You can also read about any additional coverage available under the personal effects policy, though for full coverage, an ideal option will likely be a separate bike insurance policy.

Do I need legal cover on home insurance?

Besides protecting your home and your possessions from damage and theft, many home insurance policies also cover unfortunate accidents that sometimes result in legal action. This is called home insurance legal cover.

What does it cover?

This type of insurance cover protects you and your family members from liability if someone gets injured on your property. You can also get coverage for scenarios such as you or a family member accidentally injuring someone else outside your home or accidentally damaging someone else’s property. 

Typical liability claims include slips and falls in your home and the ensuing medical expenses, or falling trees or branches that cause  damage to your neighbour’s home or parked car.

Dog bites are another claim often covered. If your dog bites someone and you’re found liable, you’ll be covered for the vet and medical bills. Similarly, if your dog damages someone else’s property, home insurance legal cover will often take care of your liability.

Every member of your family is usually automatically included in home insurance legal cover provided they live with you.

Does home insurance cover accidental damage?

Home insurance offers cover for any damage to your house and most policies cover the main building, garage, permanent attachments, and other external buildings that can be locked. 

Every insurance policy lists the defined events that will be covered, such as fires, floods, lightning strikes, theft, or falling trees. A few may also offer the option of accidental damage home insurance cover for other possible mishaps and unintentional damage around the home, such as when the dog knocks over the TV, or when red wine is spilled on the carpet.

The home insurance accidental damage cover is available only for the address provided at the time of buying the policy. 

What is a home insurance premium?

Your home insurance premium is what you pay your insurance provider for covering your home under their home insurance policy. It is calculated based on the type of coverage you choose for your home as well as any additional coverage you buy for either your possessions or specific incidents. Your premium can either be paid annually or in smaller instalments. 

Your home insurance policy may cover the total replacement cost, which is the actual expense of rebuilding your home from scratch. Alternatively, it can cover an insured sum, which is a predetermined estimate of what it might cost to rebuild your home. You’re more likely to pay a higher premium for total replacement cover than for insured sum coverage.

Apart from selecting your coverage, you’ll have to figure out your excess, which is the amount you pay out of your own pocket for each insurance claim. If you are okay with paying a higher excess, your insurance premium may be lower. Conversely, if you choose a lower excess, you may pay a higher premium. 

Your insurance premium can also be higher if you live in an area prone to incidents like floods, bushfires, or theft, as insurers are more likely to receive a higher number of claims in such neighbourhoods. 

If you also want to buy insurance for your belongings, a combined home and contents insurance policy may have a lower premium than paying premiums on separate policies for your home and your belongings. 

Is hail damage covered by home insurance?

If storms are among the incidents covered by your home insurance policy, hail damage protection is more than likely assured. While all policies differ based on your needs and what a home insurance provider will offer, some things are close to a certainty. 

Extreme weather events tend to be unpredictable in their severity, but dangerous all the same. You'll never be able to fully prepare for any damage caused, be it lightning, strong winds, rain leading to flooding, or hailstorms, but home insurance can at least provide you with a way to deal with life's unpredictable nature. 

If your home suffers from hail damage, you can file a claim with your insurer. In the event that this happens, remember to take pictures of any hail damage as an insurance adjuster will need to evaluate the impact on your home. Any additional wind damage to your roof will also need to be documented similarly.

You may want to check if your home insurance also covers hail damage to the cars parked on your property, and then file the claim for the total damage caused by the hailstorm. Once your claim is approved, your insurer should offer you either a cash settlement or refer you to a network vendor for the necessary repairs.

Do I need home insurance?

While homeowners' insurance is not legally required, it’s an option for those who want financial protection for their property. Some mortgage lenders may even require borrowers to take out home insurance.

Type of home insurance do I need?

There are two types of house insurance policies, namely total replacement cover and sum insured cover. The former covers the total cost of rebuilding the house to the same standard before it was damaged. The latter home insurance type covers the cost of damages up to a predetermined limit, which is called the sum insured.

Different types of homeowners’ insurance may offer extra cover at an additional premium, including accidental damage, fire insurance, storm insurance, flood insurance, motor burnout insurance, home and contents insurance, and contents insurance. These extras are not classified as homeowners’ insurance types; include one or more based on your situation. 

How do you compare home insurance rates?

When you compare the home insurance quotes offered by various Australian insurers, consider looking at the type of coverage they offer as well as coverage limits and exclusions. You can choose an insurance policy which covers either the total replacement cost, which is the actual cost of rebuilding your home from scratch, or a fixed insured sum, which is an estimate of the cost to rebuild. The home insurance policy is likely to cost you more if you go for the total replacement cost coverage.

Your insurance policy’s exclusions and coverage limits usually depend on how exposed your home is to adverse events like floods and bushfires. It also tells you the maximum compensation that your insurer is likely to pay for damage caused to your home. If you live in an area with a greater incidence of crime or disasters, your insurance policy will likely cost you more.

The amount you actually pay for home insurance can be adjusted by agreeing to a higher excess, which is what you will pay over and above the insured amount from your own pocket. You should consider using the online calculators provided by various insurers to check how different coverage limits affect your insurance premium.