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What can void home insurance? And what you can do to safeguard your cover

Peter Terlato avatar
Peter Terlato
- 7 min read
What can void home insurance? And what you can do to safeguard your cover

Your home is the place you should feel safest. It’s where you keep your most treasured possessions and it provides you and your family with shelter and comfort. For many Australians, their home is also their most valuable asset. Protecting this investment is incredibly important.

If disaster strikes and your property is damaged or destroyed, a home insurance policy can provide financial relief to help cover some or all of the costs. Insuring your home can be a sensible way of withstanding unforeseen losses, whether accidental or malicious in nature.

Although it’s not a legal requirement for homeowners, when applying for a home loan some lenders may require borrowers to take out home insurance as a condition of the borrowing agreement.

As with any insurance policy, there are various occurrences that may void your coverage and impede your ability to pursue claims. We’ll examine several of the most common instances.

Poor property maintenance

Insurers don’t take kindly to customers that inadequately care for their homes. There are a number of circumstances that may risk your capacity to lodge a successful claim. For example, many insurers stress the importance of cleaning debris and junk from your gutters.

“A build up of water could have long-term impacts on your roofing or allow it to seep through any gaps in your joinery, creating water damage. For those at risk of fires, a build up in your gutters can be a major concern with floating embers,” according to a guide published by GIO Insurance.  

Regular maintenance also helps to ensure the safety of your property. Broken roof tiles can allow heavy weather to cause additional damage that otherwise may have been prevented. Other examples of insufficient upkeep may include holes in walls, missing steps and rusty piping.  

If you have a home alarm system, insurers may consider this when calculating your premiums and risk capacity. However, if it’s not in use at the time of an incident this could affect the outcome of your claim.

Additionally, make sure that all your locks and windows are secure and not broken or damaged. Faulty powerpoints, smoke detectors or other appliances can be a fire hazard so it’s useful to check these regularly.

Leaving your home unoccupied for extended periods

If you decide to go on a lengthy holiday, or perhaps you’re house sitting for friends, and you leave your home unoccupied for more than 60 days, your insurance policy may be revoked. Check with your insurance provider and consult your Product Disclosure Agreement (PDS) for details. One way to potentially avoid invalidation is to inform your insurer of your intentions to vacate the property for an extended period.

Waiting too long to file a claim

Time can be your enemy. For example, if a storm causes damage to your home and your insurer assesses that you delayed filing a claim, for whatever reason, you may have it knocked back. If they can establish that further damage, such as mould, occurred as a result of this delay it may disqualify your case. 

To avoid any contention, document any damage when it occurs and register your claim as soon as possible.

Ownership issues

Insurers will request as much information and evidence as possible to validate claims. With this in mind it’s sensible to hold onto any relevant receipts, invoices, valuations and documents that certify proof of ownership. This is particularly important if you have home and contents insurance as you’ll often have a laundry list of items that need replacing if your home is burgled or there’s a ruinous fire.

Renovations and repairs

If you’ve made improvements to your home or acquired valuable items since you last renewed your policy it’s practical to inform your insurer and keep a record of these changes. Poor or dodgy handiwork may be justification for a denial of claim so be careful when employing contractors to work on your home. When buying a home, new or existing, it may be beneficial to commission a pre-purchase building inspection to identify any undiscovered damages.

Subletting rooms and home-sharing

Your home insurance may have certain restrictions relating to how the property is tenanted. If you’re considering renting a room or subletting your home through an agency or online service, such as airbnb, it’s advisable to check whether this may contest the conditions of your policy.

Working from home

In a post-pandemic world, working from home is a far more common situation. Insurers understand this and generally don’t consider home offices as a risk they’re unwilling to insure. However, it would be shrewd to check with your provider to see if you need to take out extra cover to ensure you’re protected.

Operating a commercial business, such as a food delivery service, is another thing altogether. If you have an ABN registered to your address an insurer may ask various questions to determine the business activity occurring at the property and assess the level of risk involved.

Failing to file a police report

If a break-in or attempted robbery occurs and you don’t report it to police you could risk any claims you may file. Insurers will often ask for a police report as part of the claims process.

Misleading policy details and falsifying claims

It’s best to be honest when signing up for an insurance policy. If you misrepresent information this can nullify your agreement and possibly result in prosecution. Submitting false claims, such as lying about how damage occurred or inventing or overvaluing items in your possession, can also have detrimental consequences if you’re found out.

Pet problems

Most insurers don’t offer accidental damage cover as part of a standard policy. It’s seen as an extra. Even with accidental damage, many policies exclude damage caused by pets, and so it’s important that you read the fine print to understand your exact cover.

If you install a dog or cat door so your pet can move freely between indoors and outside be sure to inform your insurer, as these kinds of additions may void your policy on a security basis.

Strata insurance

If you currently own, or are considering purchasing a unit, you should have been advised that strata insurance is mandatory. Homeowners and would-be buyers should consider familiarising themselves with what is and isn’t covered under strata insurance to mitigate the risk of gaps in personal insurance coverage.

Policy renewal

It might seem obvious that in order to maintain coverage you need a current and valid policy. However, life can be busy and an endless barrage of bills can cause some notices to slip through the cracks. Once your insurance expires your protection is voided, so consider setting yourself regular reminders to renew policies.

Compare insurers to make an informed decision

When it comes to purchasing home insurance, taking the time to compare different insurers can be helpful and cost effective. Having adequate home insurance can help manage risks from unforeseen events like floods, bushfires and other natural calamities.

Seeking out a home insurance policy that meets your needs and is less likely to be voided based on your circumstances is sensible.

Don’t forget that 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.

Compare home insurance

Product database updated 16 Jun, 2024

This article was reviewed by Personal Finance Editor Alex Ritchie before it was published as part of RateCity's Fact Check process.