Shopping around for home and contents insurance is one of those tedious tasks that few GPs want to spend much time on. Often the ideal policy is defined by insurers in terms of how little it costs - and life seems too short to worry about an extra £50 or £75 a year.
Finding the right cover does matter. It is vital to know that all your possessions are properly covered and will be replaced in the event of damage or theft, or full compensation paid for any loss.
The task is less difficult than it seems. A spokeswoman at insurer Norwich Union says that with house buildings cover almost all insurers now make fairly sophisticated assessments of how much it would cost completely to rebuild a property in the event of serious damage. They also accept rebuilding quotes from builders, or send in their own surveyors to assess damage.
The two main areas to watch out for are very old or unusual homes, for example timber-framed Elizabethan properties, which may need sympathetic restoration. For these, you may need specialist cover, available through a broker.
Also, some policies might be more basic and will not cover accidental damage to pipes or cables, carpets or wallpaper.
On the contents side, insurers and brokers increasingly are tailoring their policies to meet the specific needs of individual professional groups.
For example, Towergate MIA, a specialist insurance provider for the medical, veterinary and dental professions, approaches the issue by looking at the types of cover a GP might want.
Simon Gent, head of customer relations at Towergate MIA, says his firm offers a range of products that starts at the more affordable end of the contents market, right up to very prestigious households 'where the value of contents may be in excess of £500,000'.
'These are new-for-old policies, based on full replacement costs of the total sum insured,' he explains.
Mr Gent adds that these policies are specifically designed for doctors, in particular those who wish to practice partly at home, and cover medical bags, signs and nameplates and patient's liability, plus protecting computers used for work.
'The benefit is that they don't need to purchase additional policies to cover working at home,' he says.
Nick Dunn, divisional director at Heath Lambert insurance services, a broking firm which provides cover to GPs through BMA Services, says GPs need specific protection in relation to their activities, such as insurance for medical bags kept in the home or in transit if on call.
GPs are also likely to be more affluent than the general population.
'Some might well have second cars and second homes, or own valuable art, top-of-the-range hi-fi equipment or expensive watches and jewellery,' says Mr Dunn.
'In that case we will offer cover on a sum-insured basis: the GP tells us the value of what they own and we insure it for that amount.'
Security is often seen as a critical issue. While it is possible to buy cheaper cover where fewer security measures are required, the amount you will be insured for will probably be less too.
BMA Services uses a panel of 13 insurers who will offer cover only if it meets their individual risk assessment criteria, both in terms of the value of the item to be insured and the level of security. The latter can include deadlocks on all windows, a house alarm that is linked to a police station and five-lever mortice locks on all exterior doors.
According to a recent survey by HSBC Bank, only 44 per cent of those polled have installed a burglar alarm. An HSBC spokeswoman says her bank tries to encourage greater security consciousness among the public by offering up to 15 per cent off premiums for those who take the right measures.
In addition, as Association of British Insurers spokesman Malcolm Tarling explains, all policyholders have a duty of reasonable care to ensure their homes are protected. He says: 'If you leave your patio doors open on a hot day while you nip to the loo and someone walks in and nicks a painting off the wall, you will probably be able to claim. But if you go on holiday for two weeks and leave your front door open you will be turned down.'
Specialist insurer Hiscox focuses on insuring the owners of higher-value houses and their contents. Kevin Kerridge, a Hiscox director, says that GPs want to be treated like members of any other senior professional category.
'For example, if you were an executive and you had your expensive laptop stolen, you would expect it to be replaced. If you are a GP and you have an expensive item of specialist medical equipment stolen, the same applies,' he explains.
'At the end of the day, you are paying more for your pol-icy than for a standard high-street one and you need to know that regardless of the small print, if something goes wrong you are covered.'
- Home insurance offer for GP readers, page 64
CALCULATE THE COVER YOU NEED
- You need to insure for the full rebuilding cost of your property. To help you do this, the Association of British Insurers' website - www.abi.org - has a rebuilding cost calculator (for houses and bungalows only).
- A typical policy provides cover against a series of specified risks, including storms, fire, lightning, explosion, subsidence, thieves and vandals.
- As well as the structure of your home, the policy includes permanent fixtures such as baths and toilets, fitted kitchens and bedroom cupboards. Interior decorations are also covered.
- Most polices include garden sheds, greenhouses and garages, but check.
- Boundary walls, fences, gates, paths, drives and swimming pools might not be covered. You might have to pay extra to insure these.
- Make sure that the policy also covers frost damage to pipes and accidental damage to underground pipes and cables.
- Many claims will be for damage both to your home and its contents. Check your two policies overlap and that nothing falls through the middle.
- As with buildings cover, a typical policy will cover you for a similar specified list of risks.
- Work out how much you should insure for by going through each room in your house in turn, writing down the amount it would cost to replace every item in the room, new. Do this with the contents of your shed, garage and other outbuildings as well. Calculate the total of all these amounts to arrive at the sum you should insure for.
- See www.abi.org.uk for a house contents spreadsheet to help you to do this.
- You can extend contents insurance to cover accidental damage or loss of items you take away from home.
- Items worth more than the single item limit (often £1,000) in the policy should be listed separately in your cover to avoid a claim for them being refused. You may need to obtain up-to-date valuations.
- Watch out that you don't under-insure or fail to detail all your valuables above the single item limit in the policy. Many insurers cap payments on such items, unless the amount is previously agreed.
- So-called 'room-rated' policies set premiums on the basis of how many rooms your home has. The overall value of the insurance is usually generous enough to cover all possessions. But if in doubt, make sure.
BUILDINGS AND CONTENTS
- Index-linking the cover will help to prevent under-insuring.
Association of British Insurers www.abi.org.uk
BMA Services (0845 010 1120); www.bmas.co.uk
Hiscox (0845 330 4107); www.hiscox.com
HSBC (0800 744 844); www.hsbc.co.uk
Norwich Union (0800 015 7767): www.norwichunion.com
Towergate MIA (01438 739 739); www.towergateunderwriting.co.uk