If you're about to purchase a home insurance policy and you're blithely scrolling through those reams of terms and conditions without reading them, stop. Just stop.
Those clever people at The Money Advice Service have compiled a list of things that could invalidate your insurance. Here are ten of the best.
Lost keys: If you leave doors and windows open and a thief decides to take advantage, watch out, as insurers may invalidate your claim as your house won't be seen as secure. It goes without saying that you should never leave keys under the doormat or stashed in a plant pot, and make sure that all previous tenants/housemates return their keys.
Lock it up: Most home insurance forms will have a section asking about your door and window locks - namely, if you have a five-lever mortice lock conforming to BS3621 on outside doors. It's wise to avoid ticking 'yes' if you're unsure; if your home is broken into, insurers may decide not to pay up if they discover you have different locks. If in doubt, call them and tell them what locks you have.
Cause for alarm: If you have a burglar alarm fitted at your home, it’s only worth mentioning when you apply for home cover if you use it. If a crime takes place and the alarm wasn't being used at the time, an intruder-related claim could be rejected.
Get offline: Common sense prevails here. Never allow your tweets or Facebook statuses to post your location, and don't talk online about going away. Insurers will take a dim view if your place is broken into after you've been telling the world about your travel plans.
Count the days: Many home insurance policies have a clause stating the maximum number of days that your home can be unattended for. This is often 30 days, but it can change. If you're planning a trip longer than a month, contact your insurer to see if this affects your policy.
Call the police: Your insurer will need a crime number if you suffer a loss through a crime, which only the police can give you. Our advice? Call them as soon as possible - your insurer will need it ASAP. Don't forget that this also covers criminal acts while you're out and about, such as having your keys stolen.
DIY Dont's: Unless you're a confident builder and decorator, avoid doing any DIY work - unless you have accidental damage cover. A spilled can of paint on a carpet or drilling through a gas pipe can be a costly mistake; our advice? Get a quote for the added protection or employ a professional.
Costly visitors: Accidental Damage Protection generally only covers members of the household; guests and tradespeople won't be covered. Ask anyone working on your home if they have public liability cover to cover damage to your home (and potentially your neighbours' properties).
No smoke without fire: Install a smoke alarm to each floor of your home - most insurers require this. Make sure that it's regularly tested and works fine - if the batteries run out and you suffer fire damage, your policy could be invalidated.
Pesky pests: Your home insurance may not cover damage caused by pets or vermin, such as mice or rats. If you see rodents charging about the house, you should deal with them at once. Seek professional help, set traps or lay poison, and keep areas where you eat and drink clean, tidy and mess-free. Exercise caution if you have young children or pets.