House and contents insurance

 
  1. Do I have to tell the company about every criminal/traffic conviction I have ever had?
  2. When making a claim, what information do I have to provide to the company?
  3. The company refused to meet a claim for damage to my house, because it alleged the damage occurred gradually. Can the company decline my claim, even if I didn't know about it?
  4. The tenants in my rental property have damaged the house and the company won't pay out. Can the ISO look at this?
  5. The company offered to replace my ring up to $2,000 but when I asked for a cash payment, it offered me $1,000. Can it do this?
  6. The company has said the damage to my house is 3 separate claims and I have to pay 3 excesses, is this right?

1. Do I have to tell the company about every criminal/traffic conviction I have ever had?

It depends. If you are eligible under the scheme provided by the Criminal Records (Clean Slate) Act 2004, you will not be required to disclose convictions covered by the scheme.

You must meet all of the following criteria (section 7 of the Act) before all of your convictions can be concealed (the Act should be consulted for full details):

  • No convictions within the last 7 years;
  • Never been sentenced to a custodial sentence (e.g. imprisonment, corrective training, borstal);
  • Never been ordered by a Court during a criminal case to be detained in a hospital due to his /her mental condition, instead of being sentenced;
  • Not been convicted of a "specified offence" (e.g. sexual offending against children and young people or the mentally impaired);
  • Paid in full any fine, reparation or costs ordered by the Court in a criminal case;
  • Never been indefinitely disqualified from driving under section 65 Land Transport Act 1998, or earlier equivalent provision.

If you are eligible for the scheme, you are deemed to have no criminal record for the purposes of any question asked about your criminal record. A criminal history check with the Ministry of Justice will not reveal convictions which fall under the scheme. If an insurer attempts to require an applicant to disclose such a conviction, it will be committing an offence punishable by a fine of up to $10,000 (section 18).

If you are not sure whether you are eligible under the scheme, you can request a copy of your criminal record from the Privacy Assistant of the Ministry of Justice to determine whether you meet the criteria. If your convictions are on your criminal record, you do not meet the eligibility criteria.

If, when you apply for insurance, you are not eligible under the scheme, you must tell your insurer about all of your convictions.

If you do not tell the company and later have to make a claim, it may avoid your policy and, as a consequence, be unable to consider the claim.

2. When making a claim, what information do I have to provide to the company?

The information required will vary, depending upon the nature of the claim. However, you must be able to prove your loss in all cases. Therefore, it is necessary to satisfy the company that the items, which have been lost or stolen, were owned by you. While the company must be realistic when requesting proof of ownership, it is entitled to expect reasonable proof e.g. it is reasonable to expect some proof of purchase or ownership of items, which were purchased a few months before the loss. Many items are now purchased by credit card and this provides a good record of transactions, even when receipts are not retained.

It is a good idea to keep an up-to-date photographic record of important household contents and personal items, such as jewellery. It is also important to have jewellery professionally valued and to make sure your insurance cover is regularly updated.

3. The company refused to meet a claim for damage to my house, because it alleged the damage occurred gradually. Can the company decline my claim, even if I didn't know about it?

Insurance policies cover damage which is sudden and accidental. Most policies exclude cover for gradual damage, using terms like "wear and tear" and "corrosion" to indicate the kinds of damage which are excluded. Companies do not provide insurance cover for foreseeable events, or for routine maintenance.

Some house policies do include limited gradual damage cover in specified circumstances. The extent of cover will depend on the wording of the policy. Have a look at your policy to see what type of gradual damage you are covered for.

4. The tenants in my rental property have damaged the house and the company won't pay out. Can the ISO look at this?

Yes but be aware that restricted cover often applies to rental property.

5. The company offered to replace my ring up to $2,000 but when I asked for a cash payment, it offered me $1,000. Can it do this?

It depends on the policy. It is industry practice to attempt to replace the item. Any cash payment the company offers will normally be based on the indemnity value of the ring. Indemnity value is the cost to purchase an item of the same age, quality and condition in a "fair market" situation. Where few sales of similar items have occurred, indemnity may be calculated at replacement value less depreciation.

6. The company has said the damage to my house is 3 separate claims and I have to pay 3 excesses, is this right?

Strictly speaking, an excess applies to each claim you make. This applies to each occasion on which damage occurs. However, sometimes the company may choose to apply one excess to various areas of damage, if the damage occurred in a short space of time.