From humble beach huts to villas in Spain, many of us have holiday homes we've lavished a huge amount of love - as well as money - on.
But a holiday home is a big investment. And potentially a big worry. Is your holiday home secure while you're not there?
Holiday home insurance can help ensure your peace of mind. If anything happens to your home-from-home, you're covered.
Let's find out how it works and how to get the best policy at the best price.
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How does holiday home insurance work?
Insurance for holiday homes works just like your regular home insurance, except that it's intended for homes that are left unoccupied for long periods.
Regular home insurance assumes that you'll be at home most of the time, and most policies limit your absence to 30 days (or less) at a time. Obviously, an insurer is taking more risk writing a policy on a property that's not regularly occupied; the chances of a break-in are higher. It's also more likely that if, say, a pipe bursts while you're not there, the damage could be much more than would have been the case at home, where you'd have turned the water off quickly to prevent damage.
The risk is higher - that means your premiums could be higher, or the cover you're offered won't be quite as extensive.
Like regular home insurance, holiday home insurance comes with two strands, buildings and contents. You can buy both as part of the same policy, and it's usually cheaper than buying the two parts separately.
Buildings covers the fabric of the house, including (for instance) fitted kitchens and bathroom suites, while contents covers the movable contents - anything that's not nailed down. (And carpets, even if they are nailed down.)
What is covered by holiday home insurance?
Holiday home buildings insurance covers the fixed fabric of your home against damage by fire, flood, storms, burst pipes and other accidents. It also covers malicious damage and vandalism.
While many policies are written for houses and apartments, you can also get holiday lodge insurance and cover for static caravans, log cabins, and chalets.
Holiday home contents insurance will cover your furnishings and personal possessions left in your holiday home against damage and theft. Some policies also offer cover against accidental damage, or allow you to add it as extra cover.
Both forms of insurance will have an overall cover limit, and contents insurance may have a limit for any single item.
You may also get cover for:
- Public liability - if anyone has an accident on the premises;
- Employer's liability - in case you employ a gardener or cleaner;
- Legal expenses cover - usually an optional extra;
- Loss of pre-booked rental income - if damage to the property means you have to cancel bookings;
- Alternative accommodation costs if when you arrive, your holiday home isn't in a habitable state;
- Special cover for travel to the property in emergencies. (Always check with your insurer before you book a ticket, though.)
Some insurers also include a 24 hour emergency helpline. That can be a godsend, particularly if you're abroad and facing a difficult situation.
What is not covered by holiday home insurance?
Holiday home insurance provides you with an impressive amount of protection. But your holiday cottage insurance won't apply if you leave the windows open when you leave, or rent it out without telling the insurer
- It won't cover damage if your negligence contributed to it - for instance if you didn't lock the property up, or if you haven't kept the gutters clean. Some policies will require you to drain the central heating and water system if the property is unoccupied over the winter.
- It may not cover renting out the property, even to family. Some policies include rental and others don't - make sure you know! If your policy doesn't cover rental, renting the property out could invalidate your cover.
- Wear and tear isn't covered. If your forty year old boiler gives up the ghost, your insurer's not going to foot the bill.
- Accidental damage (by you or your family) may not be covered, or you may have to add it as an extra level of cover.
- Not all policies will cover solar panels, hot tubs, or swimming pools.
- High value items may not be covered, because of the increased risk of a break-in. If you have bikes or sports gear you may need to specify them separately to make sure they're covered.
- There will always be an excess which isn't covered - an amount that you have to pay yourself before the insurer pays out on your claim.
Before you buy your policy, make sure you've checked the exclusions.
If you have a regular home insurance policy with personal possessions cover, things you bring with you on holiday - like your smartphone and laptop - will be covered by that policy. It's worth checking, as you don't want to pay for cover twice.
Do I need buildings insurance for a holiday home?
Buildings insurance for a holiday home isn't a legal requirement in the UK, though if you have a mortgage on the property, your lender may require you to insure it. However, you should think about what you'd do if your holiday home was destroyed by fire or wrecked by a storm - could you afford to rebuild, without insurance?
The exception is if you own an apartment, in which case the freeholder, apartment block, or residents' association will usually arrange buildings insurance for the entire block. You should check this with your lawyer and make sure you check every year that the cover has been renewed.
Note that some countries, like France, require you to have at least third party liability cover for a house that you own.
Do I need contents insurance for a holiday home?
Whether you need contents insurance as part of your second home insurance depends on the value of the contents of your holiday home and whether you could afford to replace them if they were stolen or damaged.
If you have a bare bones cottage with just a bed, sofa, and tiny kitchenette, you may decide to take the risk. But if you have a nicely furnished holiday villa with carefully selected furnishings and décor, a flat screen TV, American style fridge, and so on, you would be better off taking out contents insurance.
You should also think about what you store in the property between holidays. If you leave bikes, skis, or surfboards, you'll want to make sure they are covered.
What are the best Holiday home insurance policies?
Whether you're looking for holiday home insurance in the UK, or you want holiday home insurance in Spain, holiday home insurance in France or even further afield, you'll find a lot of the big insurers don't want to know. Instead you'll find a number of specialist insurers who understand the holiday home market and are ready to give you a custom-made quote.
|||Countries covered?||Emergency cover||Loss of income cover||Liability cover||Buildings/contents cover|
|40 inc UK, Spain, France, Cyprus, Greece||Yes||Yes||Up to £5m||£1m/ £250,000|
|UK only||No||No||Up to £5m||Varies|
|EU and UK||No||No||Not stated||£1m / £100,000|
|UK only||No||No||Not stated||£1.5m/£100,000|
|UK, France, Spain, Italy, Portugal||Yes||Yes||£5m||£2.5m / unlimited|
|UK, France, Ireland, Spain, Portugal, Italy, Greece, Southern Cyprus, Bulgaria.||£300 travel expenses||No||Varies||Varies|
What’s the difference between second home insurance and holiday home insurance?
Some insurers offer different policies for second homes and holiday homes. A second home is defined as one that you use frequently, not just for holidays. So, for instance, a country cottage that you use every weekend would be a second home, and could get a lower premium than a villa you only use twice a year.
Usually, second home house insurance is only available on UK properties.
What extras can I add to my holiday home insurance?
If you take out holiday home, cottage or chalet insurance, you will usually get the choice of adding paid-for extras to your policy. The most common add-ons are:
- Legal expenses insurance: this is particularly useful if you rent out your property as it will cover you for any claims made against you by guests.
- Accidental damage: some policies include it as standard, but it's often provided as an optional extra.
- Home emergency cover: In the UK, you may be able to add home emergency cover, which will cover urgent repairs.
What insurance do I need if I rent out my holiday home?
If you let out your holiday home you should consider a holiday let insurance policy that will provide additional protection.
- Liability cover will protect you if a guest has an accident while they're in your property.
- Accidental damage cover protects you against damage by guests.
- Loss of rent cover protects you if you need to cancel a booking because the property or contents have been damaged and you can't get it ready in time. (It only covers bookings that have already been made, not potential bookings.)
Check for exclusions. Some policies won't cover lettings to hen or stag parties, for instance.
How much does holiday home insurance cost?
UK holiday home insurance will generally cost slightly more than for regular home insurance on an equivalent property.
The Association of British Insurers suggests home insurance costs around £160 on average; it doesn't give figures for second home insurance.
Property portal Rightmove has given some figures for European holiday home insurance as a guide to buyers:
- £322 for a three-bed villa in the Costa Blanca,
- £257 for a three-bed townhouse in the Algarve,
- £192 for a two-bed ski apartment in the French Alps.
All these prices include accidental damage cover and a relatively low amount of contents insured (£5,000 to £10,000).
Can I insure a second home abroad?
Yes, you can insure a holiday home abroad. If you buy in a country where there is already an established community of British buyers, such as Portugal, France, Spain or Italy, you'll find it easy; you may have fewer choices if your property is located in a country where Brits don't buy so often.
Some holiday home insurers only cover the UK. But many cover a number of other countries too. Each insurer will have different coverage for overseas holiday home insurance, so you'll need to ask. They may also have slightly different rules and exclusions for each location.
Of course, you could also insure your property with an insurer in the relevant country. Home insurance in Spain is easy to find, for instance, but it may not offer exactly the same cover as a UK based package. And there's definitely a language barrier. Even if your French is good, for instance, you may find it hard going reading technical insurance documents in your second language.
With a UK insurer, all the documents will be in English and you'll know exactly what you're getting! That's particularly useful if you need to make a claim.
How can I save on my holiday Home insurance?
First of all, you should definitely shop around and compare holiday home insurance. It's the easiest way to save money on your premiums.
But there are other ways to save on your insurance.
- Improve the security at your holiday home. A burglar alarm, better locks, smoke alarms, and even security lighting, could all help reduce your bill.
- Buying your buildings and contents insurance as a package is always sensible. You'll get a better price for the package.
- Remember not to double up on insurance. If you already have personal possessions cover, don't insure the same items in your holiday home cover.
- Pay annually, not monthly. Most companies make you pay more when you make monthly payments.
- Pick a higher excess. Because if you claim, you'll have to pay for more before your insurer starts to pay out, your premium will be reduced.
- Good maintenance might not reduce your premiums, but it vastly reduces the chance of getting a claim refused or reduced.