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Make sure your policy suits your needs with our guide to the small print

No-one wants the nasty surprise of making a claim on their home insurance only to discover that it won't pay out. Make sure your policy suits your needs with our guide to the small print.

Underestimating your total contents value will get you a cheaper premium, but it means that if you have to make a claim you won't necessarily have enough cover. Go through your home's contents and check the value against your policy.

Make sure that the value allocated to high risk items is adequate. This includes anything fragile, hard to replace or attractive to thieves such as TVs, PCs, jewellery and games consoles. Take photos and keep receipts to prove their worth.

Most insurers increase the value of contents cover you get at Christmas by at least 10% and at no extra cost. But it's worth checking how long this top up lasts for.

Don't assume that if your three year old laptop breaks you'll get a brand new replacement. Some insurers offer new for old cover, but more offer wear and tear. Because an items value depreciates over time, these policies cover its value at the point of claim rather cost of replacing it.

Be aware that some circumstances can make your policy insufficient. Both working from home or subletting a room require extra cover.

Most home insurance policies only cover you in the event of a break in if you have industry approved locks. Always look for the British Standard kitemark.

Work out what items you are likely to take out of the home such as bikes, laptops, mobile phones and jewellery and check they're still covered. You only need to specify individual items if they cost more than your insurer's single item limit, typically 1,000, unless they're a bike or laptop in which case the threshold is a much lower 150.

Even if you're not that big a gardener, pricey patio furniture or a barbecue would cost a fair bit to replace without the correct cover and the usual 200 of garden insurance included often wouldn't be enough.

Cover for accidental damage, home emergencies and legal expenses isn't always standard so double check.

You can include the possessions of those studying away from home, but weigh up if separate contents insurance through specialist student providers like Endsleigh would be cheaper.

And finally, remember to read through all the paperwork your insurance company sends you. If you have any querie or think the level of cover you have isn't correct, contact your insurer.

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