If you’re about to move into rented accommodation, it’s important to understand your rights as a tenant, and that includes your insurance.
To keep you up to date and in the loop, we’ve put together a comprehensive guide of everything you need to know about tenant insurance.
Some of your basic tenancy rights are established as a matter of law and can be read on the official website’s guide to private renting. These cover basic entitlements, including the right to:
- The property being safe and kept in a good state of repair.
- The return of the appropriate amount of deposit when your tenancy ends, and the safeguarding of that deposit by an approved Tenancy Deposit Protection
- Know the identity of your landlord.
- Live in the property undisturbed.
- Copies of the accommodation’s Energy Performance Certificate and annual gas safety
- A written copy of your tenancy agreement if it’s a fixed term tenancy that lasts longer than three years.
The tenancy agreement
Whatever form your tenancy agreement takes, of which there are countless possibilities, all of the above rights are implied terms and won’t necessarily be defined in your contract.
Other terms, however, may be expressed in the tenancy agreement. These include the respective obligations and responsibilities of landlords and tenants regarding insurance.
It’s important that you understand the conditions of your tenancy agreement and, where appropriate, negotiate to amend any that you’re unhappy or uncomfortable with.
The details can vary widely from one tenancy agreement to another, so it’s always vital to read it carefully.
Insurance and tenants
There’s a broad range of possibilities and variations when it comes to the insurance that you or your landlord need to pay.
These various types are often illustrated in online model tenancy agreements. For example, the Law Depot website presents the following options in its own version:
- Landlord contents insurance – this covers any contents owned by the landlord, such as furnishings. Typically the landlord pays for this
- Let property insurance, also known as landlord insurance. This covers damage to the structure and fabric of the building, as well as fixtures and fittings such as the kitchen and bathroom. Essentially, anything that wouldn’t fall out of the house were you turn it upside down is regarded as a fixture of fitting. Let property insurance is typically the landlord’s responsibility, and having appropriate cover may well be an obligation of their mortgage agreement
- Alternative accommodation cover. This typically provides you with other rental options should the property become inhabitable due to an insured event such as fire damage. Many landlord insurance policies typically include this cover as standard but you may wish to check with your landlord. Otherwise, if he or she hasn’t got this cover and something happens to the property, they’ll have to pay for alternative accommodation for you
- Personal injury insurance covers any injuries sustained while on the property. Otherwise known as liability insurance, it’s almost always the landlord’s responsibility
- Tenant’s contents insurance. While not generally a legal requirement, property and possessions owned by you, the tenant, will need to be covered by contents insurance that’s arranged and paid for by you
Your landlord may opt to have domestic emergency insurance, too, which covers the cost of parts and labour (up to set limits) if something goes wrong in the property – such as the central heating breaking down or a pipe bursting etc.
Tenant’s contents insurance
Tenant’s contents insurance is typically the most common insurance you as a tenant may require – and perhaps the most important type of cover to consider when renting a property.
Typically it covers your:
- electrical goods (including gadgets, appliances and any electronics)
- furniture and all soft furnishings
If you rent a furnished property, or you have fixtures and fittings included in your unfurnished property, such as white goods, curtains or carpets, it is usually the landlord’s responsibility to insure them with their landlord’s insurance policy.
Do you really need contents insurance for your rented property?
While you may think that your possessions aren’t valuable, and that you don’t need tenant’s contents insurance, it’s always worth considering worst case scenarios. If the property suffered fire or flood damage, for example, your items would likely be damaged.
How much would it cost you to replace all your clothing, gadgets, furnishings etc.? Could you comfortably afford to replace them all out of your own pocket? If not, you may wish to consider contents insurance.
Get the most appropriate content’s insurance
Before you decide on a contents insurance policy, always check:
- The excess you would be required to pay. This is the first part of any successful claim that you will be financially liable for. Compulsory excesses start at around £100, and if you opt to pay a voluntary excess on top (for example, £50, making your total liability £150), you may see a small reduction in the cost of your contents insurance
- If you have to specify high value items. If you have more valuable items that you wish to cover then you may be required, by the insurance company, to list the items separately as single, high value items. Or you may be required to take out a specialist high value contents insurance policy. It depends on the insurer you choose
- What sort of cover you have for your items. For example, are money and credit cards covered away from home? If you have a pedal bike, will it be covered, etc.?
One of the most common failings when arranging any kind of contents insurance, for both owner-occupiers and tenants alike, is underinsuring. This means the total sum insured is insufficient to cover the repair or placement of lost or damaged items.
To avoid this, prepare a detailed inventory of all your belongings by going from room to room. Remember to take into account any belongings you keep outside too. If in doubt, overvalue rather than undervalue.
Notify your car insurance provider
Finally, although your contents insurance does not cover your car, it is important to remember to update your motor insurance by notifying your insurer of the change of address to your newly rented accommodation.
Also, don’t forget to inform them whether there is any change in where your vehicle is parked – if your new address has off-street parking, for example, you might qualify for a discount on your car insurance premiums.
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