Why you need to wise up on your home insurance
Whether you’re an owner or a tenant, and whether or not someone else arranged it for you, understanding your home insurance can save you headaches and money.
Roughly speaking, expats in Belgium follow the same housing pattern. When they arrive, they identify a home to rent. Then, after four or five years, they either leave the country or stay and become property owners. Wising up on the details of home insurance makes sense at every stage.
Most expats come for work, and for many of them, their employers take care of practical details such as taking out fire insurance. This in fact covers a lot more than burning buildings; ING recently decided to simply call it home insurance.
Not many would complain about having an employer handle some of the formalities of settling in. But that should never lead to complacency. Everyone makes mistakes, and the responsibility in the end rests with the insured individual.
Take the initiative
“Relocation services are often used by employers to help expats settle in quickly. They take care of everything. But in terms of liability, you need to be protected against all the risks. This means that, even if your employer helps, you must know the details of how you are insured,” says Christel Engelen, customer journey expert at ING.
Especially with third parties involved, it can be difficult for expats unfamiliar with Belgian procedures to be clear about who is responsible for taking out home insurance. It’s common that a real estate agent will include it as part of the rental agreement, but that doesn’t guarantee that the insured party has access to all the information about their policy.
In these cases, it’s important to grab the initiative and ask for disclosure of all the details, including the liability of any intermediaries.
“It’s OK to have an intermediate managing the insurance, for instance between a real estate agent and a tenant. But you should be aware that you can hold the broker responsible if they make a mistake, and you need to have enough information to exert that option,” says Engelen.
If you do end up in an argument with an intermediary, make sure to have proof of what you’re claiming. “In the end, it’s all about proof. Anything in writing or other clear, physical format – email, letters, photos – helps you stake your claim,” she adds. The same goes for theft. If someone breaks into your home, regardless of whether you’re an owner or a tenant, you need proof that what is gone was in fact there.
Theft is not always a standard component of basic home insurance, however, so you also need to check whether you need an upgrade to get it. “The basic insurance covers everything you need such as protection against fire, explosion, water damage and natural disasters. But always check if theft is included when you take out basic insurance,” says Engelen.
Check your belongings
Many expats on a shorter stay in Belgium opt for furnished homes. So, as a tenant, make sure your insurance covers both the contents of the house and your own belongings. “It’s important that the owner’s belongings are covered under the tenant’s liability. Ideally, the actual items should be stipulated in the contract alongside the amount of what is covered,” explains Engelen.
Speaking of belongings, you might think the summer holidays are a high season for burglary. When we leave town, intruders are waiting to pounce, aren’t they? Not necessarily, says Engelen. “There is an increase in summer, but the really dangerous months are actually November and December. These are dark months with no natural light from early evening until late in the morning. We register most burglaries, most claims, in the evening between 6pm and 8pm.”
That doesn’t mean, of course, that you can relax and forget about taking precautions before heading on holiday this summer. The advice is to make sure your property doesn’t seem deserted.
“If you leave for holiday, and there are signs of no activity, such as a letterbox piling up with mail, that does attract thieves. Make sure your letterbox is empty and, if you can, borrow someone’s car to occupy the driveway,” says Engelen.
Find more information here about setting up home insurance from ING, which also covers your holiday home.
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