House and Contents Insurance

The best time to think about insurance is before you need it. Insurance provides cover for sudden and accidental damage. There are steps you can take to avoid common issues, and to make it more likely you’ll have the cover you expect. Start by checking your policy.

Our Information Sheets in our Document Library have quick guides to common issues. Consumer tips and case examples are included.

Our Glossary explains the meaning of technical terms used in tips and cases.

  1. Check your policy

    Check what you are, and are not, covered for. Check the sum insured for your house insurance, which is the maximum an insurer will pay to rebuild your home. Check the m2 measurement, and check that additional property features and other rebuild costs are included.

  2. Ask about policy exclusions and limitations

    Generally, insurance provides cover for sudden and accidental damage. Gradual damage is an example of a common exclusion. Confusion often occurs as people discover damage, such as water damage, suddenly, but the cause is a gradual leak and therefore it is not covered.

  3. Find out what you need to do to avoid issues with cover

    For any valuable items, keep receipts, get up-to-date valuations for jewellery, and specify these items on your policy schedule. Contact your insurer to discuss. Take “reasonable care” of your property, for example, lock your house and car, don’t leave bags in your car.

  4. Find out what you need to make a claim

    Your obligations, in the event of a claim, will be set out in your policy. Receipts, valuations, records or photos help to prove ownership. Stolen items must be reported to the police within certain timeframes. Paying an excess is a usual requirement if you make a claim and it is accepted.

    Check out the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) Fair Insurance Code that explains what insurers do at claim time and what they expect you to do when you make a claim.

  5. Tell all, and tell the truth

    When you apply for insurance, renew your policy, or make a claim, answer all questions accurately and truthfully. If in doubt, ask. Many claims are declined, and policies cancelled, because of incorrect or false statements or fraud. This can affect future insurance cover.

Insurer declines burglary claim because of open window image
Mr and Mrs Singh's claim was declined because they'd left a window open on a security stay during their holiday.
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Pre-existing damage? image
Mr S made a claim for water damage to his house, which occurred when his washing machine overflowed ...
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Ombudsman finds that claim statement "was not complete and correct" image
Ombudsman finds that claim statement was not “complete and correct”
Consumers must always tell the truth. If they don’t, they might find that they are not covered when ...
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Tenant turns house into animal refuge image
Regular property inspections can reveal issues before they turn into big problems.
The IFSO, Karen Stevens, warns landlords to ensure tenants abide by the conditions of the rental. In...
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Methamphetamine contamination confusion image
Confusion over methamphetamine contamination standards can have severe consequences for some landlords.
Through a financial adviser, Mr and Mrs Singh* held insurance on a rental property. In June 2020, Mr...
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Steak cooked in a toaster sparks disaster image
The unusual preparation of a meal caused a catastrophe in which a couple lost their home.
Mr H* had a craving for steak and chips. For reasons unknown, he decided to cook his steak in a toaster.
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Gradual damage? image
A couple were dismayed when their insurer declined their claim on the basis that the damage was gradual and not covered by the policy’s gradual damage extension.
Mr and Mrs Forest* discovered their dryer had been leaking, causing damage to the surrounding walls ...
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Stress after the storm image
Independent evidence can help to progress insurance claims.
After a claim for flooding and storm damage was accepted, issues and delays continued for a stressful year.
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Excess dog damage image
An excess is paid when claims are accepted. If there is more than one event, more than one excess can be applied.
Viv’s claim, for carpet damaged by dog vomit and diarrhoea, was accepted. But three policy excesses were applied.
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No cover for derelict house after fire image
Your insurer can decline your claim if it can prove you didn’t take “reasonable care”.
Before Liam’s house was set on fire, it wasn’t in good shape due to vandalism and neglect.
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Pay out for stolen ring disappointing image
Specify items of value on your policy. Check the sum insured.
Wiremu was disappointed to be receive an insurance payout that was less than it cost to replace his stolen ring.
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No cover for missing ruby image
Check your policy exclusions. Check your jewellery for wear and tear.
Sophia’s claim, for the missing ruby in her wedding ring, was declined due to wear and tear over 42 years.
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Disappointing cover for stolen watch image
Specify items of value on your policy, get valuations.
A jeweller valued Daisy's stolen watch at $6,375. But its estimated value on the contents policy was $2,900.
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The leaky ranch slider and the sudden hole image
Check policy exclusions. Insurance covers sudden and accidental, not gradual, damage
Paula discovered a hole in the floor of her rental property. The cause was leaking ranch slider over many months.
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Photos not enough for $56K jewellery claim image
Keep receipts and valuations. Photos might not be enough to prove your loss.
Vera’s only evidence she owned the stolen jewellery was a photo of herself wearing it at a party.
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House in disrepair, no fire cover image
Disclose all information likely to affect the terms of insurance. If in doubt, ask
Chris’ claim for fire damage was declined, and his policy avoided. He hadn’t disclosed that his house was in disrepair.
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Previous declined claim, no cover for fire image
Disclose your claims history when you first apply for insurance.
Barbara's claim for fire damage was declined. She hadn't disclosed a previous declined claim on her application.
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Fake photo, fake jewellery, no cover image
Tell the truth. Your claim, and your evidence, will be checked.
Maria provided photos of costume jewellery from a random website to support her claim for a ruby pendant.
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D.I.Y receipts image
If you provide false information, insurers can decline all aspects of a claim
Xavier produced $91.5K of fake invoices for earthquake repairs on his home. His claim was declined and his policy cancelled.
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Lost and found glasses and the ICR image
‘Little lies’ have big consequences. Tell the truth. False statements can't be retracted.
Helen made a claim for lost glasses, and later admitted they were just scratched and worn.
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18 criminal convictions, no clean slate image
Complete insurance applications accurately. Include any criminal convictions.
David’s burglary claim wasn’t even considered after his 18 criminal convictions were revealed – he'd said he had none.
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Coffee-stained carpet, dining room only image
Check your policy limitations and exclusions.
After Viv's Nespresso coffee stained a patch of dining-room carpet, she wanted most of the carpet in the house replaced.
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Fair Insurance Code Breach image
Insurers bound by the Fair Insurance Code must provide agreed minimum standards of service to customers.
After Kim's claim, for cracking walls, was initially accepted, it was later declined.
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My premiums are increasing, why is it more than the rate of inflation?

There are all sorts of reasons that your premiums increase each year, depending on what type of policy you have. For instance, your age on a life policy, your claims history on a vehicle policy, an increase in weather damage for your house policy. The best thing to do is talk to your insurer about why the premiums have increased. The IFSO Scheme can only consider complaints about premiums if the insurer has misrepresented the premium levels when you arranged the policy, or if the insurer has increased the premiums outside the terms of your policy.

What do I have to tell my insurer when I take out insurance?

You must tell your insurer everything that may affect its decision to insure you. This is referred to as the duty of disclosure. If in doubt, tell your insurer everything. If you do not tell your insurer all the information it requires, it can treat your policy as though it never existed and refuse your claim – this is called avoidance.

What information do I have to provide when making a claim?

You must be able to prove your loss in all cases. This means you may be expected to provide some proof of ownership, such as receipts. It is a good idea to keep an up-to-date photographic record of important household contents and personal items. You also need recent jewellery valuations for specified jewellery.

Do I have to tell my insurer about my criminal convictions?

As a rule you must tell your insurer about all of your convictions. If you do not tell your insurer and later have to make a claim, it can avoid your policy and refuse to consider the claim. The exception is the “Clean Slate” legislation, which gives some people the right to withhold information about their criminal convictions in stated circumstances.

Why has my insurer only raised the lack of information now, when I have made a claim?

When you make a claim, your insurer will ask you more questions or check up on your history. This can lead to your insurer finding out information which it should have been given when you applied for insurance.

Can my insurer decline my claim if I gave them information which wasn't true?

Yes, if the policy allows the insurer to do so. An insurance policy will usually state that you must not give it incorrect or false information when making a claim. If the information you give to your insurer is incorrect or false, it may mean the insurer can decline your claim or even cancel your policy. It can also affect any future insurance application you make. If you don't know the correct answer, let your insurer know that you will get back to them with the right information.

My insurer has told me that, because I included items which were not stolen in my claim for a burglary, it can decline my whole claim. Is this true?

Yes, if the policy says so. If you provide false information it can mean your whole claim is declined and/or your policy is cancelled.

What does “sum insured” mean?

The “sum insured” is the maximum amount your insurance company will pay if your home is totally destroyed or badly damaged in an earthquake. It is not the price you paid for your home, or the rates valuation, or what you could sell it for. The sum insured is based on the m2 measurement of your home and additional features such as driveways, fences, swimming pools, sheds, retaining walls, and should include additional costs, such as demolition and professional costs like architects fees. It is the cost to rebuild it on a clear site.

How do I check my sum insured?

Check the m2measurement of your home and other buildings on your property are recorded accurately. Check additional features have been identified. Answer the questions on your insurer’s free online calculator. You might want to ask a builder or quantity surveyor for their expert advice.

Is my insurer subject to a standard of care or code of conduct?

Most general insurers are members of the Insurance Council of New Zealand (ICNZ) and subscribe to the Fair Insurance Code - a code* developed by the ICNZ, which sets out "the standard of service member companies must provide to their customers. These obligations are in addition to those imposed by the law". (*The code describes how your relationship with your insurer should work, including what you need to tell them and how they need to respond.)