Home contents insurance for tenants

What is insurance for tenants?

If you rent a property, this means you are a tenant living in a home owned by a landlord. The landlord could be an individual person, a couple, a property management company or a housing association.

It is the landlord’s responsibility to insure the building, known as buildings insurance. This covers the structure of the building as well as fixtures such as a fitted kitchen and bathroom. 

The landlord will also have insurance for any contents supplied in the property such as furniture, sofas, beds and so on. But the landlord is not responsible for your insurance.

There are 2 types of insurance for tenants:

  • Contents insurance for tenants covers your personal possessions 

  • Tenant liability insurance covers accidental damage to your landlord's contents 

Do I need contents insurance as a tenant?

Tenants often wonder if they need home insurance when renting. Although the landlord has to be insured, there is no law to say tenants must have contents insurance. 

However, it is sensible to have contents cover for peace of mind if your possessions are lost, stolen, damaged or destroyed, or you accidentally damage items your landlord has provided for you.

You can take out your own individual insurance or club together with your housemates. The disadvantage with clubbing together is that if one person has something stolen, it affects the ‘no claims’ discount for everyone. No claims means that if you do not claim on your insurance, each year you will get a discount on the premium paid for the policy. It could also be problematic if different people move in and out of the property.

If you move to a new property, you can take your own individual tenant contents insurance with you but remember to inform the insurance company.

What does home renters’ insurance cover?

Contents insurance for tenants covers your possessions in the event of theft, fire, storms and flooding. You will also usually be covered for escape of water, for example, if pipes burst and water damages your belongings.

Your belongings can be anything from clothes and shoes to appliances, laptops, TV, jewellery, watches, bags and other possessions.

Other things that may be covered in your tenants’ contents insurance could be:

  • Money

  • Credit cards 

  • Food in a freezer or fridge

  • Garden

  • Guests’ personal belonging

  • Replacement of door locks and keys

  • Contents in locked and secure outbuildings such as a garage or shed

Not all insurance companies will offer these but if they do there will be a limit on how much a policy will pay. For example, it could be a limit of £500 for money stolen from your home while outbuildings range from £250 to £5,000. 

The total amount of contents you will be covered for will be a set amount, such as £50,000, or you can specify the amount you want covered – known as the ‘sum insured’. If you were to lose all your possessions due to a fire or flood, how much would it cost to replace everything? 

There will also be a single item limit such as £1,500. If you have anything valued over the insurer’s limit, let them know. They may include it – but your premium will go up. There might also be a limit in any one claim for expensive items. These limits will vary depending on the insurer. 

You should keep receipts, especially for expensive belongings, as the insurer may want proof of the value of items. Very expensive items may need to have a professional valuation carried out, for example, artwork or jewellery.

If you have a number of expensive possessions, some insurers might increase the limits they will cover you for or you could consider high value home contents insurance. Either way you will have to pay a higher premium to cover for the higher risk.

What does insurance for tenants not cover?

  • Wear and tear 

  • Damage caused by pets such as scratching, chewing and fouling

  • Malicious damage by you, a member of your family or guests

  • If you leave your home unoccupied for more than 30 days

  • Theft if there has been no forced break in. If your doors and windows are unlocked and a burglar walks in you might not be covered

You can pay extra to have additional cover if you want a more comprehensive insurance policy. Options include:

  • Full accidental damage 

  • Unspecified personal belongings away from home – you do not have to list the items you want covered. This could be UK only or Europe or worldwide

  • Specified personal belongings away from home. This could be valuables such as jewellery and mobile phones – you can choose to be covered in the UK only or Europe or worldwide

  • Legal protection – if there are disputes you might need legal representation

Is personal liability insurance included in insurance for tenants?

Some policies might include personal liability insurance within the tenant’s contents cover, others do not but you may be able to add it on. 

Personal liability insurance covers you for injuries to another person such as a guest falling down the stairs and breaking their leg. This will cover any medical bills and legal costs if the person sues for compensation. 

You will also be covered if you or someone living in your household accidentally damages a neighbour's property.

What is tenant liability insurance?

Tenant liability insurance covers you for accidental damage to your landlord’s property whether that is the contents or the actual building. For example, it will cover accidental breakages of crockery, mirrors, windows and damage to furniture and white goods in the kitchen.

It does not cover wear and tear, so if the sagging old sofa is on its last legs, and you haven’t broken it, that would be up to the landlord to replace it.

If you break or damage something deliberately or maliciously, or you are negligent, you will not be covered.

As with tenant contents insurance there will be a limit on how much tenant liability insurance will cover. It will usually be less than the contents cover such as £10,000.

Do I need tenant liability insurance?

By law it is not compulsory to have tenant liability insurance but some landlords will insist on it as part of the tenancy agreement. 

The advantage of tenant liability insurance is that if you accidently break anything belonging to the landlord, especially if it is expensive, the insurance will pay for it.

Tenant liability insurance can also be useful in avoiding deposit disputes. Landlords can hold back some or all of the deposit when you leave the property. Deposits are held in a deposit protection scheme and one of them, called mydeposits, carried out some research in May 2020 around the reasons for deposit disputes.

The most common reason is to pay for cleaning the property (26% of disputes). However, 1 in 5 disputes (20%) are because of damage in the property.

Bear in mind there is usually an excess to pay on the tenant liability insurance, so if the excess is £100 you must pay the first £100 of any claim and the insurance company will pay the rest. 

You should also be aware that most claims have to be made within 30 days of the accidental damage occurring.

Shared house contents insurance

If you rent a property with other people you can get room contents insurance which will cover your own possessions. 

With some policies you will be covered against theft or damage outside of your home including abroad or you may be able to add this on.

Make a list of your possessions and add up how much they are worth so you can give the insurance company an idea of how much you want to be covered. 

If items are valued over a certain amount of money you should list them separately stating the value of each individual item. The amount will depend on the insurer but could be, for example, £350.

If you overestimate the value of your belongings, you may pay over the odds for your insurance. On the other hand, if you underestimate, your premium may be lower but when it comes to claiming you might not receive the full value of your possessions.

Legal expenses cover might also be included on your policy which will pay your legal costs if disputes arise between housemates or your landlord.

Some insurers will insist you have a lock on your bedroom but not all. However, it is a good idea to have a lock on your door, especially if you don’t know your house mates before you move in. Your housemates might be trustworthy but what about their friends? Theft is often not covered if there is no sign of a break in.

Check whether your policy applies to your bedroom only or whether it includes communal areas. If you leave your laptop in the kitchen and it goes missing, will it be covered?

Shared house contents insurance for students

Students living in a shared house or flat may be covered by parents’ home insurance so check that out first. Also find out whether the cover is for theft or damage in your home only or if it extends to outside the home.

There is specialist insurance catering for students so it is worth looking into that.

How to make an insurance claim

If you want to make a claim on your home insurance for tenants, inform your insurance company as soon as possible and describe what has happened.

If the claim is due to theft, you must inform the police and get a crime number. Don’t touch any evidence until the police arrive as they may conduct a forensic investigation such as checking for fingerprints.

Make a list of what has been stolen and take photos or a video of any evidence.

Don’t throw away any damaged items until the insurance company says so, unless for health reasons such as rotting food – take photos.

Most insurance policies provide cover on a new for old basis but the insurer will decide whether to do this or repair the item or offer money for it.

It pays to shop around

Whether you decide to take out contents insurance for renters or tenancy liability insurance or both, you should shop around for the best deal to suit your circumstances. Prices and cover can vary among insurance companies. Make sure you read your policy document carefully to check what you are covered for and what is excluded.

28 October 2020