House and contents insurance: What it covers and how to claim
Everything you need to know about insuring your home and possessions.
Everything you need to know about insuring your home and possessions.
From buying the right cover for your house and contents to making a claim, we’ve got you covered.
House insurance covers most structures on your property – your house, garage and fences.
Most policies also cover your retaining walls and recreational features (for example, swimming pools) but the cover is often capped. You can increase these caps for a higher premium.
Basic policies may only cover you for major adverse events such as fire, theft or flood.
Comprehensive policies cover you for major adverse events and for accidental damage to your house caused by you or your family.
Both types of policies cover your legal liability if you accidentally damage someone else’s property.
It’s important you have enough cover because you don’t want to be underinsured.
Unless you have a full replacement policy, the maximum insurance companies will pay is the sum insured. If the rebuild costs are more than the sum insured, you will have to meet this cost.
Homeowners are responsible for estimating the sum insured. If you haven’t specified a sum insured, you’re probably relying on the insurer’s default sum insured – an estimate based on the size of your house and a typical rebuild cost.
If you rely on the default sum, you risk being caught short if disaster strikes.
If you choose a higher sum insured, you’ll be charged a higher premium. But it might not be much higher. Ask your insurer how much an increase will cost. A slightly higher premium is a good investment to make sure your house is fully covered if it’s a total loss.
You can get an indication of what your sum insured should be by using the Cordell Calculator – an independent online tool to calculate the cost of rebuilding. A builder or quantity surveyor can also assess the value.
If you are a Consumer member, you can compare a range of insurance premiums, on price, customer satisfaction and more.
Our house and contents insurance survey is available to everyone.
Contents insurance usually covers your belongings when they're at home or temporarily moved elsewhere in the country.
Basic policies may only pay the “present value” for your contents (the cost of repairing or replacing an item, so you’re left with something in the same general condition). Some policies only cover items damaged by defined events such as fire and theft. Others provide limited or no cover for items damaged while they’re temporarily removed from your home.
Comprehensive policies offer a mix of present and “replacement value” (that’s the cost of replacing the item or repairing it to an as new condition). They also cover your contents for accidental damage – not just defined events – in your home and while they’re temporarily removed.
It always pays to check the cover: what’s standard in one policy may be an optional benefit in another – or may not be covered at all. This includes credit cards, jewellery, keys and locks, professional tools and equipment kept at home, and items damaged during cleaning.
Some insurance companies require a valuation certificate for items over a certain amount.
If you are a Consumer member, you can compare insurance premiums and services.
Our house and contents insurance buyers’ guide is available to everyone.
A free resolution service has been set up to help homeowners with insurance claims in the wake of the Auckland floods and Cyclone Gabrielle.
The New Zealand Claims Resolution Service (NZCRS) will provide support with insurance claims to avoid disputes, resolve issues and ensure claims are settled as quickly as possible.
Minister of Commerce and Consumer Affairs Hon Dr Duncan Webb said a similar service was first used in response to the Canterbury Earthquakes and provided over 10,000 homeowners free advice for insurance claims.
It will now be a permanent nationwide service for all forms of natural disasters. It will also help homeowners with access to legal, technical and wellbeing services tailored to individuals and whanau.
The resolution service can be contacted on 0508 624 327, [email protected] or www.nzcrs.govt.nz.
If you think you’ve been treated unfairly by your insurer, here’s how to complain:
Contact your insurer, or the NZCRS, about your complaint.
Your insurer will have an internal complaints process. However, it can be difficult knowing how to word your complaint, so we’ve set up some templates for cases when the insurer rejects your claim.
If the insurer sticks to their original decision, you can push back again, but it’s likely you’ll need to provide more evidence to support your claim.
If you can’t come to an agreement, your insurer will send you a letter saying your complaint is ‘deadlocked’. The next step is going to an external disputes’ resolution scheme.
If you can’t come to an agreement after going through the internal complaints process, you can contact the insurer’s free dispute resolution scheme. It will be either the Financial Services Complaints or the Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman Scheme. Or you can contact the NZCRS if the claim is for damage due to anatural disaster.
Your policy document should list which dispute resolution scheme your insurer belongs to.
For small claims (up to $30,000), there is the option of going to the Disputes Tribunal.
Use these as a guide for writing to an insurance company if it rejects or disputes your claim, or if you wish to reject its offer.
Most insurers will have a 48-hour stand-down period which means any loss that happens in that time won’t be covered.
Toka Tū Ake EQC provides natural disaster insurance – called EQCover – for homes and some residential land areas.
You automatically have EQCover if you have private house insurance which includes fire insurance – which most policies do. Part of the insurance premium includes a levy which goes to Toka Tū Ake EQC to manage and settle natural disaster claims. In the event of a natural disaster, you have up to $150,000 (plus GST) worth of EQCover for damage to your home – this is commonly called the ‘EQCover building cap’. While the cap increased to $300k from 1 October 2022, this change could take up to 12 months as individual policies come up for renewal. The revised cap will apply to all new policies issued from October 2022.
If the damage to your home is over the cap, your private insurer should pay out – up to the claim limits of your policy. It’s likely EQCover and your private insurer will deduct an excess, too.
EQCover is provided for land under or within 8m of your home and certain outbuildings, like a shed or garage. Land under or supporting your main accessway to the property is also covered, up to 60m from your home.
To qualify, land must be within the boundaries shown on your Record of Title. It may also include a right of way over a neighbouring property (if it’s a legal easement). Some cover is also provided for bridges and culverts within the dimensions mentioned above, and some retaining walls that are necessary to support buildings and land.
The payout for residential land is different to the EQCover building cap for your home. EQCover will cover the cost to repair damage to that insured land, or the value of the land – whichever is less. The maximum payout is capped at the land value.
If your property is damaged in a storm or flood, EQCover will only provide cover for the residential land, not your house. Read more about EQC.
If a homeowner can’t get private house insurance because they live in a high environmental risk area, you can apply to EQC for Direct EQCover against natural disaster damage.
It provides the same benefits as the EQC portion of private insurance. All applications are considered on a case-by-case basis.
However, given that EQC only provides land cover for storm or flood damage, this has limited benefits for homeowners with increased risk of flood damage due to climate change. Read more about the impact of climate change on insurance.
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