House and contents insurance

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Protect your assets against major disasters and minor mishaps with the right house and contents insurance policy. We explain what to look for, ways to save, and review policies and premiums.

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The basics

What's covered, what's an excess, how about EQC cover? We explain the basics about house and contents insurance.

Find out more

Sum insured or full replacement

Since the 2011 Christchurch earthquakes, homeowners have been responsible for estimating the cost of rebuilding their homes. This is your sum insured: the maximum your insurer pays if your home is damaged or destroyed.

The shift to sum insured allows reinsurers (the companies that back insurance companies) to gauge how much they’ll have to stump up in the event of a natural disaster. But for homeowners, it’s a difficult figure to calculate as it must account for indeterminate costs, such as demolition and rubble removal. According to Treasury, 85% of Kiwi homes could be underinsured by an average of 28%.

Some insurers are offering full replacement cover again, at least in some circumstances. Under a full replacement policy, the insurer pays whatever is necessary to repair your home, meaning you don’t have to come up with the figure.

Traditional full replacement: FMG and MAS offer comprehensive forms of full replacement cover. If disaster strikes, they’ll pay the reasonable cost of rebuilding your home to an “as new” condition based on the square-metre area listed on your policy schedule.

Unfortunately, FMG doesn’t offer full replacement cover to new customers in Auckland, Wellington or Christchurch.

When it comes to MAS, you must be a member to take out a policy. Typically, members belong to professional bodies, including the Medical Council and the Dental Council. But it will consider applications from others on a case-by-case basis.

Events other than natural disasters: AA Insurance, ANZ Bank and Warehouse Money provide full replacement cover if your home is destroyed by an event other than a natural disaster. However, policy conditions state you must still provide a sum insured figure.

For instance, AA Insurance says it’ll only rebuild on a full replacement basis if you’ve taken “the steps a reasonable person would take” to provide an accurate sum insured and floor measurements.

Full replacement for fire: Providers underwritten by Tower Insurance (including Kiwibank, Trade Me Insurance and TSB Bank) offer full replacement cover if your home is destroyed by fire, except when the fire follows a natural disaster. Replacement costs are based on the square-metre area listed on your policy schedule or the actual square-metre area of your home (whichever is less).

Aside from full replacement cover, most insurers offer protection against “demand surge” – where the cost of rebuilding your home spikes after a disaster because labour and materials are in short supply. Here, insurers may opt to pay an extra 10% on top of your sum insured, but only if they agree you’re out-of-pocket solely because of demand surge.

Annual premiums

Renters (contents-only policies)

PoliciesContents excess ($)[sort;desc]Auckland premiums ($)Auckland premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Hamilton premiums ($)Hamilton premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Wellington premiums ($)Wellington premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Christchurch premiums ($)Christchurch premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Dunedin premiums ($)Dunedin premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]
AA Insurance Contents Insurance300850.10850.10623.80623.80573.62573.62578.98578.98441.57441.57
AMI Insurance Advanced Contents Insurance250560.52560.52437.67437.67408.05408.05489.49489.49379.01379.01
ANZ Asset Protector Home ContentsA250656.33656.33542.20542.20571.34571.34494.19494.19445.63445.63
ASB Bank Classic Contents Insurance250731.42731.42545.61545.61476.09476.09398.29398.29361.86361.86
BNZ PremierCare Contents Insurance250527.24527.24419.67419.67386.84386.84350.74350.74334.68334.68
FMG Household Contents300416.20416.20298.43298.43n/a9999999n/a9999999298.43298.43
Kiwibank Contents Insurance Extra CoverB250693.03693.03509.66509.66522.16522.16422.98422.98401.32401.32
Lantern Insurance Echelon Contents250855.53855.53691.75691.75635.45635.45579.15579.15502.38502.38
MAS Contents Insurance250667.30667.30448.85448.85385.48385.48452.02452.02414.02414.02
State Insurance Contents Comprehensive Insurance250669.97669.97534.68534.68472.52472.52502.50502.50380.39380.39
The Co-operative Bank Asset Care Contents250713.24713.24461.88461.88427.56427.56436.48436.48383.71383.71
Tower Insurance Contents Insurance Plus Cover500606.20606.20480.78480.78453.97453.97401.03401.03402.98402.98
Tower Insurance Contents Insurance Standard Cover500510.05510.05406.39406.39384.24384.24340.46340.46317.56317.56
Trade Me Insurance Your Contents Insurance500512.57512.57508.67508.67n/a9999999450.24450.24356.75356.75
TSB Contents Cover InsuranceB500474.90474.90329.22329.22402.06402.06351.83351.83296.56296.56
Warehouse Money Everyday Plus Contents Insurance 300594.24594.24558.96558.96654.23654.23487.51487.51427.60427.60
Youi Home Contents420974.08974.081294.841294.841456.871456.87n/a99999991220.941220.94
Median 656.33656.33508.67508.67472.52472.52450.24450.24383.71383.71

Standard house and contents

PoliciesHouse excess ($)[sort;desc]Contents excess ($)[sort;desc]Auckland premiums ($)Auckland premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Hamilton premiums ($)Hamilton premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Wellington premiums ($)Wellington premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Christchurch premiums ($)Christchurch premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Dunedin premiums ($)Dunedin premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]
AA Insurance Home and Contents Insurance4003001510.111510.111390.561390.561545.881545.88n/a1111111111346.161346.16
AMI Insurance Premier House and Advanced Contents Insurance4002501500.561500.561339.031339.031666.321666.321500.981500.981291.951291.95
ANZ Asset Protector Home Buildings and Contents2502501496.361496.361427.631427.631741.291741.291423.201423.201281.591281.59
ASB Bank Home and Classic Contents Insurance4002501770.861770.861682.581682.581639.091639.091463.501463.501497.671497.67
BNZ PremierCare Home and Contents Insurance4002501717.701717.701631.021631.021682.911682.911434.211434.211450.271450.27
FMG Home and Household ContentsC3003001544.131544.131295.091295.09n/a11111111n/a111111111295.091295.09
Kiwibank House and Contents Extra Cover Insurance2502501543.741543.741388.461388.461818.631818.631620.071620.071285.061285.06
Lantern Insurance Echelon Home and Contents4002502187.762187.761981.021981.022027.602027.601929.091929.091723.701723.70
MAS House and Contents Insurance Full ReplacementD2502502161.352161.351623.951623.952105.922105.921618.241618.241543.261543.26
MAS House and Contents Insurance2502502011.112011.111518.901518.902024.142024.141519.111519.111447.801447.80
State Insurance Home and Contents Comprehensive Insurance4002501528.661528.661423.211423.211619.391619.391412.501412.501349.281349.28
The Co-operative Bank Asset Care Home and Contents4002501744.531744.531527.661527.661659.81659.81484.181484.181410.591410.59
Tower Insurance House and Contents Insurance Plus Cover5005001332.111332.111255.141255.141985.371985.371606.051606.051361.851361.85
Trade Me Insurance Your House and Contents Insurance5005001278.171278.171274.211274.21n/a111111111361.771361.771216.771216.77
TSB House and Contents Cover Insurance5005001418.941418.941225.631225.631760.001760.001520.841520.841248.851248.85
Warehouse Money Everyday Plus Home and Contents Insurance 3003001442.031442.031405.181405.181950.071950.071424.931424.931272.301272.30
Youi Home Contents4204202281.302281.32416.482416.485103.975103.97n/a111111112460.102460.10
Median1543.741543.741423.211423.211760.001760.001492.581492.581349.281349.28

Large house and contents

PoliciesHouse excess ($)[sort;desc]Contents excess ($)[sort;desc]Auckland premiums ($)Auckland premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Hamilton premiums ($)Hamilton premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Wellington premiums ($)Wellington premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Christchurch premiums ($)Christchurch premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]Dunedin premiums ($)Dunedin premiums ($)[sort;asc;hidden]
AA Insurance Home and Contents Insurance4003001779.711779.711702.461702.461905.871905.87n/a111111111700.701700.70
AMI Insurance Premier House and Advanced Contents Insurance4002502007.882007.881806.411806.412365.072365.072046.942046.941760.261760.26
ANZ Asset Protector Home Buildings and Contents2502501932.841932.841907.011907.012433.262433.261934.401934.401653.391653.39
ASB Bank Home and Classic Contents Insurance4002502372.942372.942368.552368.552348.122348.122097.182097.182188.822188.82
BNZ PremierCare Home and Contents Insurance4002502533.662533.662500.662500.662653.182653.182186.262186.262241.512241.51
FMG Home and Household ContentsC3003002052.982052.981781.811781.81n/a11111111n/a111111111781.811781.81
Kiwibank House and Contents Extra Cover Insurance2502502055.092055.091910.151910.152673.242673.242374.582374.581803.631803.63
Lantern Insurance Echelon Home and Contents4002502847.142847.142615.512615.512726.872726.872602.672602.672317.982317.98
MAS House and Contents Insurance Full ReplacementD2502502793.782793.782158.312158.312943.762943.762171.202171.202082.972082.97
MAS House and Contents Insurance2502502598.282598.282021.612021.612887.342887.342042.222042.221958.741958.74
State Insurance Home and Contents Comprehensive Insurance4002502097.472097.471997.791997.792391.272391.271997.801997.801964.791964.79
The Co-operative Bank Asset Care Home and Contents4002502560.432560.432355.362355.362700.042700.042317.762317.762222.372222.37
Tower Insurance House and Contents Insurance Plus Cover5005001633.221633.221569.231569.232695.722695.722069.082069.081723.871723.87
Trade Me Insurance Your House and Contents Insurance5005001598.281598.281594.231594.23n/a111111111772.431772.431590.671590.67
TSB House and Contents Cover Insurance5005002024.662024.661782.241782.242712.592712.592310.132310.131850.891850.89
Warehouse Money Everyday Plus Home and Contents Insurance 3003001827.261827.261786.021786.022717.872717.871877.281877.281639.621639.62
Youi Home Contents4204203270.33270.33518.863518.866366.016366.01n/a111111113617.643617.64
Median2055.092055.091910.151910.152695.722695.722083.132083.131850.891850.89

GUIDE TO THE TABLES OUR SURVEY took place in February and March 2017. Apremiums based on $46,000 sum insured (this was the insurer’s minimum). Bpremiums based on $40,000 sum insured (this was the insurer’s minimum). Cpremiums in Hamilton and Dunedin based on full replacement cover. Dall premiums based on full replacement cover. ANNUAL PREMIUMS Median premium is the midpoint of the premiums in that column.

About our survey

We asked insurers to quote annual premiums for comprehensive policies for three profiles:

  • Renter: our young professional wants contents-only insurance for belongings worth $35,000.
  • Standard home: our couple wants to insure their home for $400,000 and their contents for $90,000.
  • Large home: our family of four wants to insure their home for $800,000 and their contents for $140,000.

We’ve made these assumptions:

  • Our couple and family of four own the homes they live in. Our young professional rents with two others.
  • No one has made a claim in the past five years.
  • No one runs a business from home.
  • All the properties include a single-storied stand-alone home and a carport. The homes have weatherboard cladding, a corrugated steel roof and an alarm (which isn’t monitored).

Most companies offered discounts for taking out combined house and contents policies and for remaining claims-free over a set number of years. Most also offered a discount if the home had an alarm. We accepted these discounts.

Customer satisfaction

House insurance

Insurance providers (responses)[width=40%]Overall satisfaction[bar;width=40%]
MAS (299)82%
FMG (382)77%
AA Insurance (967)60%
Crombie Lockwood (52)58%
Aon (255)57%
Vero (284)52%
NZI (216)48%
AMI Insurance (1359)47%
State Insurance (1137)47%
AMP (203)46%
Tower insurance (571)44%
BNZ (175)43%
Westpac (188)41%
ANZ Bank (152)40%
ASB (205)40%
Lantern Insurance (167)39%
AVERAGE (6910)52%

Contents insurance

Insurance providers (responses)[width=40%]Overall satisfaction[bar;width=40%]
MAS (303)87%
FMG (394)79%
AA Insurance (1136)60%
Aon (235)58%
Crombie Lockwood (56)57%
Vero (257)56%
NZI (212)52%
AMP (203)51%
AMI Insurance (1444)49%
State Insurance (1265)48%
ASB (220)45%
ANZ Bank (146)43%
Tower Insurance (563)43%
BNZ (184)42%
Westpac (184)42%
Lantern Insurance (181)41%
AVERAGE (7295)54%

These results are from our 2016 insurance survey of 8000 Consumer NZ members.

Ways to save

  • Shop around: Get at least 2 or 3 quotes. You could save up to $1000.
  • Negotiate: If you rarely make claims and your premiums are increased, ask your company for a better deal before walking away. If you think the company is unfair at claim time, push for better. Note: Most companies set a minimum premium.
  • Multiple policy: If you have your house and contents insurance with the same insurer, you should get a discount. We strongly recommend this approach and have based our premium analysis on it.
  • Higher excess: The excess is the amount of each claim that you must pay yourself. It's usually around $400 for house and $250 for contents – but taking a $1000 excess can cut your premium almost in half with some companies.
  • Age discounts: Some insurers offer these from ages 50 or 60.
  • Security alarms: The alarm must usually be professionally installed and in some cases monitored.
  • Other discounts: You can also save money by paying your premium annually rather than monthly.

Multiple events

Insurers apply an excess to each event or incident that results in a claim. But it’s not always so easy to separate one claimable event from another. One of our members awoke to find her domesticated rabbits, which sleep inside at night, had peed on the carpet throughout the house. Our member lodged a claim under her house insurance policy to replace her damaged carpet.

Her insurer determined the different stains constituted separate events and, therefore, multiple excesses of $1000 applied. As damage to the carpet in the two bedrooms cost less than $1000, it wasn’t worth a claim. Our member had to cover the damage in these rooms herself.

Should the insurer consider each stain an event? Or should the entire night be considered the event?

Policy definitions don’t necessarily clear up the matter. For instance, one insurer's home policy defines an event as: “a sudden and unforeseen occurrence that causes loss that is not intended or expected by you.” Inconveniently, our member’s policy didn’t define an event at all. It simply stated: “where you discover damage caused on multiple occasions, then an excess will be applied in relation to each occasion or event that occurred.”

At the very least, we think these clauses leave room for debate. It’s worth challenging your insurer if it attempts to apply multiple excesses when it’s unclear if the damage was caused by one or multiple events.

If you’re unhappy with your initial settlement, try to resolve the issue via your insurer’s internal complaints process. Still no luck? Refer the matter to your insurer’s independent dispute resolution scheme. By law, all insurers must belong to one.

Making a claim

Our tips for making a successful claim, and how to complain if your claim's rejected.

Be reasonable

Insurance policies for your house, contents, car or travel contain a clause that reads “you must always take reasonable care to avoid circumstances that could result in a claim” or words to that effect.

To decline a claim under a clause for reasonable care, your insurer must prove you were grossly careless, negligent or reckless. It can’t decline your claim for run-of-the-mill carelessness. The Insurance and Financial Services Ombudsman (IFSO) said “this is because insurance, by its very nature, protects the insured against negligence and mere inadvertence”.

So how does an insurer prove gross negligence? According to IFSO, it looks at the circumstances leading up to your loss and asks “would a reasonable person have run the same risks?” If the answer is “no”, it can decline your claim.

In addition, the benchmark for “reasonable care” depends on circumstances such as where an item was left and for how long. There’s a difference between leaving your baggage unattended in the locked boot of your car for 10 minutes and leaving it on the passenger seat overnight.

With this in mind, you can challenge your insurer if your claim is declined for failing to take reasonable care. All insurers must belong to an independent dispute resolution scheme such as IFSO or Financial Services Complaints Limited. If you and your insurer can’t settle the dispute, you can refer it to the applicable service.

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