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10 things you didn't know were covered by contents insurance

From vet bills to pot plants and the food that went off when your fridge broke down, you might be surprised at what's covered.

Last updated: 15 January 2020

Whether you're a family raising kids in a home you rent, a young couple renting your first place on your own, or a professional living in rented accommodation, there are many good reasons why you might want contents insurance.

It covers pretty much anything that's not bolted down in your house, from your TV to that expensive pair of sneakers you splurged on. And there are a few surprising things covered by certain policies that could definitely come in handy.

"There are lots of variations between contents-only policies," says CHOICE insurance expert Daniel Graham. "Often it's a case of you get what you pay for, so be wary of bargains that seem too good to be true. If there's something specific you're interested in cover for, make sure you check with the insurer and compare policies at CHOICE."

CHOICE tip: Most insurers have two or three levels of cover. All policies cover a standard list of insured events, while premium policies will give you extra benefits like cover for accidental damage, or higher limits for things like portable valuables.

1. Your stuff when you're not at home...

(even if you go as far as New Zealand)

As well as covering all your prized possessions in the home, contents insurance includes the option to cover items you take with you, like your laptop, bicycle or your diamond ring, wherever you are in Australia (and many policies also extend this to New Zealand). What's included varies between insurers, and you may need to specifically add higher priced items, so check before you buy.

2. ...and when you're overseas

Although it's always a good idea to take out travel insurance, many contents policies will cover your possessions for up to 30 days when you're overseas, too.

3. Things on your lawn or on the front porch

If all your pot plants and your pricey outdoor furniture were damaged in a storm, for example, or someone walks off with your lawnmower (even if it's in an unlockable garden shed), you could be covered by certain policies. Check any restrictions with each insurer.

4. Your treasured library of music and movies

Anxious about your backlog of Game of Thrones episodes? Rest easy. Many contents policies will cover you for software, music, movies and other media that you've downloaded legally or installed from a CD/DVD and can't replace if your laptop is stolen from your home or lost in a fire.

5. Vet bills

If your furry friend is hit by a car, gets an illness or is injured in a vehicle accident or an insurable event like a fire, some insurers will cover the associated vet bills. Keep in mind, it's much less cover than you'll get with a separate pet insurance policy.

6. Your guest's stuff

Your mate comes to stay and your house gets robbed, along with all their stuff. Awkward. Luckily, many policies cover visitors' contents usually up to around a few hundred dollars.

7. Food spoilage

If you have a freezer full of meat from the posh butcher down the road, and it all goes to waste when your fridge carks it as the result of a motor burnout or something like a power outage during a storm, many policies will cover the cost up to a certain amount.

8. Moving house

Things can get broken or damaged when you move from A to B, so many policies offer overlapping cover at both your old and new address for around two weeks when you're moving house, and also for when items are in transit. Some policies may also cover items placed in storage – check policy conditions with insurers.

9. Moving house because of an insured event

If you have to move because of a flood or fire or other insured event, your insurance will stump up any extra rent you have to pay to rent a comparable home. You'll usually be able to claim for either 12 months or up to a percentage of the amount you're insured for.

10. Accidents that may or may not have been your fault (your legal liability)

Accidents do happen – perhaps there was a cooking incident that caused a kitchen fire, or your washing machine overflowed and ruined the floorboards in your rental property. Your landlord has insurance to protect their building, but you could be liable for damage that your bond won't cover. In cases like this, contents insurance that includes cover for legal liability could come in very handy. As always, check for restrictions before you buy.

We care about accuracy. See something that's not quite right in this article? Let us know or read more about fact-checking at CHOICE.