On the safe side: If you have household contents insurance, you are well protected against damage caused by burglary or fire. But only if you stick to certain rules of the game.
Imagine an apartment fire destroying all your furniture, inventory, clothing: Would you be financially able to replace all of this? Household contents insurance protects you against such and other risks - from just over 50 euros a year.
However, if damage does occur, the insured must also be able to prove which items they owned. But how? The most important questions and answers about household contents insurance.
What risks does household insurance cover me against?
Contents insurance covers damage caused by burglary, fire, lightning, storm, hail or tap water. If you also want to protect your belongings against natural forces such as floods, rain, snow pressure, avalanches, landslides or earthquakes and backwater, you need another component in addition to your household contents insurance: natural hazard insurance.
What items are insured?
"Everything you can take with you when you move," writes the magazine "Finanztest" (issue 7/2022). So any inventory that is not permanently installed in an apartment: furniture, carpets, electrical appliances, textiles, kitchen utensils and books. In many tariffs, prams parked in the hallway are also protected against theft, for example. Or the bike if it was in a locked part of the building. Garden furniture, on the other hand, is not comprehensively insured in every tariff.
The Federation of Insured Persons (BDV) recommends choosing household contents insurance that also includes cash holdings up to at least 2,000 euros. As part of the external insurance, household contents are also covered if they go on a trip with you. For example, if electronic devices or clothing are stolen from the hotel room. If you want to insure your bike against theft outside your home, you usually have to take out separate bike protection.
According to the BDV, if you have borrowed items in your own home at the time of damage, they are also insured. On the other hand, damage caused to valuables by visitors must be covered by their own household contents insurance.
How do I prove what items I owned?
In order to get money from the insurer in the event of damage, insured persons should be able to prove exactly which destroyed or missing items they actually owned. According to the NRW consumer advice center, receipts, bank statements, receipts, guarantee certificates, repair bills or photos of the items can help. But also video excerpts of the apartment - for example at parties or celebrations - are helpful to document possessions.
The BDV advises compiling documents that can later serve as proof of ownership when the contract is concluded and keeping them in a safe place outside the apartment. This could be with relatives, friends or even digitally in a cloud. If new acquisitions are added over time, the documents should be supplemented accordingly.
In the case of cash, it becomes more difficult to provide proof. According to the BDV, a photo of the safe or cash box in which the cash should ideally have been located is a good idea. Account statements proving the cash withdrawal serve as a supplement.
How do I prove the damage incurred?
In the event of damage, quick action is required. Because those affected are obliged to avert further damage to the household contents. In the event of water damage, for example, the main tap must be turned off. In addition, the insurer must be informed immediately.
The losses should be documented on photos or better videos. Before the insurer agrees to the clean-up work, everything that could make it difficult for the insurer to determine the damage should be avoided.
Then a damage list with all destroyed or damaged objects should be created, advises the consumer advice center of North Rhine-Westphalia. "Ideally, you add purchase receipts. If you don't have them, you should write down the approximate date of purchase and the new price from memory."
To what extent do insurers compensate for losses incurred?
In the event of an insured event, the insurer replaces the replacement price of an item "in new condition" - i.e. the new value, according to the consumer advocates from North Rhine-Westphalia.
How soon can I expect the insurance money to settle a claim?
According to consumer advocates, it is not uncommon for people to wait a long time for their claims to be settled. However, those affected can ask the insurance company for an advance payment - if all the documents are available no later than one month after the notification of the damage. They have a legal right to that.
Are there conditions I have to meet to get full insurance coverage if I'm away from home for a period of time?
"A longer absence is a so-called increase in risk and should therefore be communicated to the insurer," says the BDV. The terms and conditions of insurance indicate which length of absence is considered relevant.
As long as there are no signs of impending damage, there is no obligation for insured persons to turn off the mains tap during a longer absence. According to the BDV, it still makes sense. The same applies to the disconnection of all unused electrical devices from the mains in order to avoid overvoltage damage in the event of a lightning strike.
In which cases can insurers refuse or reduce payment for damage to household contents?
The BDV advises consumers to only conclude contracts in which insurers completely waive their right to reduce insurance benefits if the insured caused the insured event through gross negligence. However, insurers can still refuse, reduce or terminate the contract. For example, when policyholders do not meet their so-called obligations or are in arrears with the premium payment.
Obligations before the occurrence of an insured event would be, for example, to heat the apartment in the cold season or to report a longer absence. Obligations after the occurrence of an insured event are, for example, the immediate notification of the damage and the support of the insurer in the settlement - for example by providing information on the course of the damage. But: According to the BDV, not every breach of obligation entitles the insurer to reduce the benefit completely.