Do I Need Tenant Insurance?

antoine fruchard Antoine Fruchard  updated on July 23, 2020

If you rent your home, you might think you don’t need to bother about insurance, because your landlord should have you covered.

But if you have a fire or flood, or someone pinches your stuff, you could find out the hard way that it doesn’t work like that. Want to stay safe?

You’ll need tenants contents insurance. It won’t cost a bomb but it will protect your stuff. Find out what it is and how to get it – without paying over the odds.

What is tenants’ insurance?

Tenants’ insurance – technically, home contents insurance for tenants – covers theft of, or damage to, your own possessions while you’re renting a home.

It doesn’t cover the building or fixtures like the central heating, plumbing or wiring. It also won’t cover any furniture or equipment provided by the landlord. But it will cover your stuff – your own furniture, your TV, your clothes, books and DVDs, for instance – against theft, and against damage by fire, flood, burst pipes, and so on.

Do I need tenant insurance?

There’s no law that says you have to get tenant insurance. It’s up to you. But if you own things that are worth a fair amount of money, you’ll need a renter’s insurance to cover your own possessions.

Your landlord may have a buildings only policy that doesn’t cover anything other than the walls and roof. Even if they have contents cover, that will only cover things that they own, such as for instance the fitted carpets or kitchen equipment.

It’s worth checking out what cover your landlord has, though, as it might cover emergency accommodation for you in a crisis, and it might also cover accidental damage.

What does tenant insurance cover?

Tenant insurance covers your own possessions against theft, vandalism, loss or damage. You’ll be covered for damage from storms, fires, water damage, burst pipes, or subsidence. 

  • Depending on your policy, you might also be covered for accidental damage.
  •  It also usually covers public liability. Suppose the lettings agent visits your house and falls over something you’d left on the floor – you’re covered for any claim if they are injured.

Contents insurance for renters might also cover: 

  • a place to stay if your property is uninhabitable after a flood or fire, and
  • chilled/frozen food if there’s a power cut or the fridge/freezer breaks down.

You should check whether the policy covers “new for old”, or whether it’s an ‘indemnity’ policy that only pays what items are worth now, subtracting an amount for wear and tear depending on how long you’ve owned them.

What is not covered by a tenants’ insurance policy?

While home contents insurance for tenants covers many things, it does have a number of exclusions.

  • It won’t cover wear and tear. If your old TV stops working, it won’t pay out. On the other hand, if your TV is ruined by water falling on it from a burst pipe in the flat upstairs, you’re covered.
  • It won’t cover wear and tear. If your old TV stops working, it won’t pay out. On the other hand, if your TV is ruined by water falling on it from a burst pipe in the flat upstairs, you’re covered.
  • It won’t cover you if you leave the property unoccupied for a long time – usually, 30 days (so your regular holidays should be okay).
  • It may not cover high value items – there may be a limit for each single item, and things like mobile phones, tablets, and bikes may need to be specified on your policy as well.
  • It won’t cover unforced entry, if a burglar found the door open or if someone managed to talk their way into your home.
  • It may not provide cover for possessions that you take with you outside your home, though ‘all risks’ or ‘personal possessions’ cover can often be added as an extra.
  • You probably won’t be covered for business use.
  • If you make a claim, you’ll need to meet some amount of the cost yourself – this amount is known as the ‘excess’ and varies by policy.

Does the building need to be covered too by tenant insurance?

No, you don’t need to insure the building. Home insurance for tenants only covers contents. The building belongs to your landlord, who is responsible for any necessary repairs. That includes certain fixtures and fittings – sinks, baths, toilets, plumbing, gas pipes, electrical work, and central heating. Basically, if you can’t move it, the landlord’s responsible. Check out our guide about landlord insurance.

Most landlords have their own insurance, though there is no legal obligation for them to have a policy in place.

However, some tenancy agreements require the tenant to pay for the buildings insurance.

How much does tenants insurance cost?

Tenants insurance can cost around £60-90 a year but exactly how much you’ll have to pay depends on several factors:

  • where you live (prices are higher in London and other big cities, significantly less in other areas),
  • the value of your possessions,
  • your claims history, and
  • any optional extras you add.

Insurers may also take into account factors such as the job you do.

Better home security will reduce your premium, for instance if you have window locks, an alarm system and a fitted smoke alarm, or a neighbourhood watch scheme active in the area. But a lot of this will be down to your landlord.

You can also reduce your tenants insurance cost a little by choosing to pay a higher excess. Because insurers won’t have to pay out quite so much, they offer lower premiums if you’re willing to take that risk.

What are the best tenants insurance policies?

The best policy for you will depend on your particular needs and circumstances. And you’ll need to get a tenant insurance quote to find out exactly how much you’ll pay.

But we’ve found some reputable insurers that provide tenants contents insurance. All these policies include freezer cover and cover for money and (with a couple of exceptions) credit cards, and all give ‘new for old’ cover. That’s important, because you don’t want to be left out of pocket if you have a four year old TV and only get paid half what it would cost to buy a new one!

However, most of these policies don’t cover accidental damage. Accidental damage costs quite a lot more. We’ve included two accidental damage policies so you can see the difference: 

ProviderCostDetails
logo admiral 2£56.30£50,000 covered
aa life insurance£70.85£40,000 covered
logo sheilas wheels£73.34£20,000 covered; doesn’t include credit cards
logo churchill 2£76.16£50,000 covered; doesn’t include credit cards
logo lv£76.41£25,000 covered
logo hastings direct 2£78.48£50,000 covered
logo legal and general pet£88.10£150,000 cover: doesn’t cover credit cards
logo sainsburys pet 1£96.26£75,00 cover
logo admiral 2£116.57
  • Platinium cover
  • Covers accidental damage
  • £150,000 covered
logo churchill 2£132.16
  • Churchill Plus cover Covers accidental damage
  • £100,000 covered
Table – Tenants insurance UK

* Quotes are based on criteria: Central London one bedroom flat, single occupant, £250 voluntary excess

How much cover do I need with tenants’ insurance?

When you buy home contents insurance for tenants, you need to be adequately covered for the value of your possessions. If you’re underinsured, when you make a claim, your insurer might only pay out part of your claim.

For instance if your insurer believes you’ve only insured half the value of your contents, it might pay out just half what you’ve claimed.

Sometimes insurers will suggest a typical amount for the size of property you live in. however, it’s better to know what you’ve got. Take some time to look around and note down what you own:

  • any valuables like a laptop, watches, jewellery;
  • your clothes and accessories;
  • kitchen equipment, crockery and cutlery;
  • furniture and decorative items like rugs, cushions or framed posters;
  • your bike, if you have one;
  • books and CDs, kids’ toys, any hobby materials you may have.

It might add up to more than you think; the average value of contents is £35,000 according to the Association of British Insurers, and is as much as £55,000 for a family house. If the worst happens you’ll want to know you can replace everything you need to.

Remember though that renters’ insurance costs go up as you increase the value of contents insured. So don’t buy a policy that covers £50,000 if all you need is £15,000 of cover – you’ll be wasting your money.

Do I need tenant insurance if I share a flat?

It may be more difficult to find insurance for your contents if you share a house or flat.

You have two options;

  • a common policy for all the sharers, or
  • a policy you take out, alone, that covers your contents in your own room.

You do need to tell the insurer that you’re sharing, and they’ll want to know that you have a lock on the door of your room.

Even with a common policy, shares may be covered for damage or theft only if items are taken from their own rooms, not from the common area, and there may be more exclusions than with a regular tenants insurance policy.

One thing you should be aware of if you take out a common policy for the whole flat is ‘association’. If one of the people you’re sharing with makes a claim, it will affect your insurance too, and put your premiums up. You need to declare claims to insurers for five years, so even if you move out and get your own place in a couple of years, it could still end up costing you money.

If you are a student, you’ll generally need a policy specifically intended for students, not a general tenants insurance policy.

What is tenants’ liability insurance?

This insurance covers you if something happens that would cause the loss of your deposit – if you accidentally damage the landlord’s fixtures and fittings.

For instance, it would cover stained carpets, cigarette burns on a worktop, or a broken washing machine. However, it won’t cover wear and tear. (And your landlord shouldn’t try to take wear and tear out of your deposit, either.)

The cheapest way to get tenant’s liability cover is to add it on to your tenants home insurance. It might just cost £5-10 as an optional extra.

Otherwise you’ll need to purchase a separate policy which can cost more.

What are the best tenants liability insurance?

We think the best tenants liability insurance is included in your tenants home contents insurance policy. But you need to check your policy for details.

Most big insurance companies won’t let you buy it separately. But a number of smaller specialist insurers provide separate tenancy liability insurance policies, most of which will cover you for £5,000 to £10,000 as standard.

InsurerCost per year
cover 4 insurance logo£30
urban jungle logo£40
rentguard logo£80
let alliance logo£90
intasure logo£100
homelet logo£102
Tenant insurance UK – tenants’ liability insurance

Is tenant insurance mandatory in UK?

No, neither tenants contents insurance nor tenants liability insurance is a legal requirement in the UK.

However, some landlords will ask you to take out liability insurance when you rent from them. They’re quite entitled to do this. Particularly if you rent your home furnished, it protects both you and them if things get damaged accidentally.

Is my landlord’s insurance covering me?

Your landlord’s insurance will only cover the fabric of the building, and any contents the landlord has provided. It won’t cover your own stuff. You’ll need your own insurance for that.

How can I claim on my tenants insurance? 

To make a claim on your tenant’s contents insurance, you’ll need to get in touch with your insurer. That might be by phone, or using the insurer’s customer portal.

You’ll need to know what has been damaged or stolen. If a theft or vandalism  is involved you should always call the police before you do anything else. In any case, you’ll need a police Crime Reference Number to give your insurer. 

You should also have receipts for high value items.