When your home insurance won’t pay out

From leaving a window open to going on holiday, we look at the reasons your insurer might not pay out if you need to make a claim.

The cost of home insurance has now reached record highs according to the latest figures published by the AA. On average, buildings cover jumped by 13.6% over the year while contents cover shot up by 11.9% during this period — to £147 and £76 respectively.

But even if you do have home insurance, certain actions could invalidate your policy and the company will not pay out if you need to make a claim.

Warm weather increases risk

Following reports this April was the warmest on record, many people may have inadvertently voided their home insurance policies by opening windows to enjoy the warm weather.

If a burglar enters your home through an open window, an insurer may claim you have failed to take adequate security precautions and refuse to pay out. Bear in mind, around a third of burglars enter the property through an open window.

Likewise, it goes without saying that your insurer is unlikely to pay out if your house is broken into after you have left the door unlocked.

Taking a long holiday

If you're planning on going on holiday this summer, you risk invalidating your home insurance policy if you're away for too long. Most insurance companies will not cover a claim if the property has been unoccupied for a 'significant' period of time.

In some cases this period can be as little as 30 days so it's worth checking the fine print on your policy before planning any trips.

[Useful: Compare home insurance deals]

Social media addiction

Facebook and Twitter have been around for a while and most users are savvy enough to know that posting details of a holiday online could increase your risk of burglary.

However, there are other risks involved in social networking. For example, sharing your location online could alert a criminal to the fact your property is empty.

In fact, there has been speculation that some insurance companies may begin to increase premiums for social network users to reflect this increased risk.

What's more, posting details of a party online could put your home at risk of damage caused by uninvited guests. Should your property sustain damage as a result of gatecrashers, Sainsbury's Finance warns your insurance company may refuse to pay out.

Not testing your smoke alarm

The majority of home insurance companies will offer a discount on your policy if you have a smoke alarm. However, your insurer may not cover fire damage if you have failed to test the alarm regularly or allowed the batteries to run down.

Insurance companies often advise you to test the alarm is in working order as often as once a week. In addition, insurers will often stipulate you have at least one smoke alarm on every level of the property.

£246 million of 'little white lies'

According to research from insurance company AXA, Britons exaggerate the value of their home insurance claims by £246 million a year and more than a third of people would consider inflating the value of their goods.

Exaggerating the value of an item for a genuine claim is known as opportunistic retail fraud and is one of the most common types of insurance fraud.

"Exaggerated claims have always been an issue for insurers but over the last few years there has been a marked increase," said James Barclay, home underwriting manager at AXA.

"There are various measures we can use to check on claims and ultimately, people risk having the whole claim turned down if they submit fraudulent details."

The cost of botched DIY

On the surface, performing jobs around the house yourself could seem cheaper than hiring a professional. However, DIY mishaps can prove costly to repair if you cut through a wire or spill paint on a white carpet.

Bear in mind, a 'standard perils' policy may not cover such damage and you might want to consider adding an accidental damage clause to your policy if you plan on doing work around the house yourself.

Furthermore, you could invalidate your insurance by performing gas and electrical work if you don't have the necessary qualifications.

[See also: The 9 costliest DIY mistakes]