Home insurance glossary

Confused by some of the language in your policy? Here’s a quick guide to insurance terms.

Accidental damage

When we say ‘accidental damage’ we mean damage that’s sudden, unexpected and not done on purpose. There needs to be a one-off, specific event that caused the damage. For example, a football smashes your window or you spill a drink on your carpet.

It doesn’t include damage that’s due to a lack of maintenance or damage that happens slowly over time. For example, if your roof leaks because it hasn’t been looked after properly, or your computer breaks down because it’s old.

Contents sum insured

This is the maximum amount of money that can be paid out to replace or repair the contents of your home. It includes household goods, personal belongings and valuables, and home office equipment. Fixed or fitted furniture, such as fitted kitchen cupboards or fitted bedroom wardrobes, aren't included – these would be covered by your buildings insurance.

High-value items

These are items that could be particularly attractive to thieves, for example, jewellery.

Insurance excess

 An excess is the amount that you have to pay towards the cost of a claim. For example, if you have storm damage to your roof that will cost £1,000 to repair and your policy has an excess of £100, you’ll be asked to pay the excess of £100 but can claim for £900 (the cost minus the excess).

Insured event

These are the incidents which your insurance protects your buildings and contents against – for example, storm, flood, fire and theft.

Personal legal responsibility

Everyone in the UK has a legal responsibility to avoid causing injury to other people or damage to other people’s property. Personal legal responsibility insurance covers you and your family if any of you are in breach of your legal responsibility as an individual. For example, if you damage someone else’s property and have to repair or replace it. This is known as your ‘legal liability’. Things that happen both inside and outside your home are covered. 

Policy limits

The most we would pay for any single event or item. View the policy limits for Home Insurance Select (PDF, 101kB).

Home owner's legal responsibility

When you own a home, you have certain legal responsibilities. These include making sure it’s safe so it doesn’t injure someone. Home owner's legal responsibility insurance covers you if you’re in breach of the legal responsibility you may have as owner of your home. This is known as your ‘legal liability’. It applies even if you don’t live there.

Proof of ownership

A little-known but vital fact: if you’re going to make a home contents claim, you may need to prove that something was yours in the first place, particularly if it’s very expensive. Some of the documents you might expect to establish ownership actually only prove the item existed, not who it belongs to.

These documents may be acceptable as proof of ownership:

Receipt – if you paid by Direct Debit or credit card, the till receipt would come with a copy of the card transaction, which instantly tells us who bought the item.

Invoice – an invoice for goods delivered or work done should be addressed directly to you, and immediately establishes cost and ownership.

Pre-loss valuation – a valuation carried out on, for example, a piece of jewellery. If you have a valuation done, it’s wise to get your name and address included on it.

Credit agreement – this should list the item you got credit for and your details.

Photos – best when the item can be identified with you – for example, a snap with the TV in your front room, or of a piece of jewellery being worn.

Rebuild cost

The total cost of rebuilding your home if it's completely destroyed, say by fire. It includes the cost of all professional fees, materials and labour, including the cost of demolishing and clearing the old building.

The rebuilding cost is usually less than the market price of a house, because the market price includes the value of the land.


Subsidence is downward movement of the ground underneath your buildings, which isn’t caused by the weight of the buildings. Particular problems arise when the movement varies from one part of the building to another, often causing cracks to appear in walls and the building’s structure to become unstable. It’s normally caused by certain soils, trees/shrubs taking moisture from the soil causing it to shrink, or leaking drains.

Wear and tear

Wear and tear is a phrase all insurance companies use. It means damage that happens as something gets older, such as carpets getting dirty and worn, or nails in the roof corroding, allowing slates to slip and let water into the home. You can't claim on your insurance for damage caused by wear and tear.