Your possessions are at risk from the same threats as the structure of your house, such as floods and fires. But the biggest factor determining what you pay is security. You could pay a higher premium, for instance, if your house was in an inner city and more at risk from burglars. In fact, in some crime hotspots it may be very difficult to insure your effects. Costs are higher for younger people, too, as they are deemed by insurers to go out more. Your occupation is also important. Entertainers pay over the odds, for instance, because they are often away from home. And anyone prone to leaving large amounts of cash or valuables in the home, such as market traders and antique dealers, will also tough out higher premiums.
To insure the contents in your house or flat you have to calculate what it would cost to replace them new. Just like with your buildings insurance this can be sum insured or bedroom rated. You can also add the accidental damage option to your contents insurance.
Deciding against it could cause you anguish in ways other than the financial and emotional cost of having your possessions stolen or destroyed. For example, there is a grey area deciding whether certain items are covered under buildings insurance or contents insurance. Generally, anything you own that is removable such as TVs and stereos is classed under contents. Anything fitted, like kitchens, built-in wardrobes (even if you put them in after completion date) will be covered under your buildings insurance. But what about curtains and carpets? These are fitted but unlike kitchens or baths there is the option to take them with you when you leave. So you could be in trouble if, for example, a small fire destroys your carpets and you make a claim for them under your buildings insurance. The insurance firm could easily turn around and claim they are classed as contents - for which you are not covered.
In one case referred to the Financial Ombudsman Service, a man's roof and TV aerial were damaged in a storm. The insurance company happily paid for the roof to be fixed but would not fix his TV aerial as they said this came under contents insurance - which he didn't have. Examples such as this highlight why you might want to buy your buildings and contents insurance together. You can get a combined discount on buildings and contents insurance by about one and a half times the individual cost.
Some insurers offer lower premiums if you have a burglar alarm installed (BS4737 approved). You should also have five lever mortice locks fitted to all external doors (to BS53261 standard), and doors should ideally be at least 44mm thick. You may also get a cheaper deal if you are a member of a Neighbourhood Watch scheme. There are plenty of contents insurers around, from traditional insurers to supermarket banks and online sources. Always shop around for the best cover.