Cheap contents insurance

Cheap contents insurance

How best to compare home insurance for tenants and renters

Almost half of renters DON'T have contents insurance. Yet if there was a burglary, flood or fire in your home, your landlord's insurance usually only covers damage to the building itself, not to your stuff – meaning you'd have to shell out for replacements. This guide  helps you find the right policy to suit you – at the cheapest price.

Do you own your home? See Cheap home insurance for combined building and contents cover.

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What is contents insurance?

Home contents insurance covers your belongings, whether you're renting or whether you own your home. It can be hard to know what's covered, but home contents insurance generally covers the items that would fall down if you turned your home upside down (for example, clothing, furniture, crockery and appliances). It can also cover the items you'd usually take with you when out of the home.

Note that it's different from home buildings insurance which protects the structure of your home and permanent fixtures and fittings, such as doors and other things attached to the home, and sanitary equipment (baths, basins, toilets and showers). It's your landlord's responsibility to buy buildings insurance.

What does contents insurance cover?

The contents part of your insurance protects you if any items in your room or home are damaged or stolen. Most decent contents insurance policies will cover:

  • Damage to your contents caused by storms, flooding, earthquakes, fire, lightning, explosions, theft, riots and vandalism
  • The cost of spoiled food if your freezer breaks down 
  • The replacement of cash stolen from your home
  • Legal liability protection if a visitor to your home is injured and it's deemed to be your fault

There are limits on how much you can claim for, so if you're concerned about fancy frozen food or you have cash hidden in your mattress, check your policy carefully.

What ISN'T covered by contents insurance?

There are a decent number of things you may expect to be covered by contents insurance, which aren't. The main exclusions are:

  • Damage due to wear and tear 
  • Acts of terrorism
  • If your home is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days (see unoccupied while away for more)
  • Accidental damage (see accidental damage for more)
  • Some burglaries, for example, if there's no sign of forced entry, insurers may turn down a claim
  • High-value items (for example, cycles, jewellery, gadgets) – you may need to pay extra to insure these separately
  • Items you take out of the home – you may need to pay extra to cover these
  • Home-based businesses – 'office' work is often covered, but if you have visitors or bring stock home you'll need separate cover

Eight tenants' contents insurance need-to-knows

Here are our top tips to help you get a policy that's right for you.

  • Let's be clear: tenants' contents insurance is NOT a specialist policy that's different from the one you take out if you're a homeowner (though homeowners usually combine their buildings and contents policies).

    So if you're a family renting out an entire house or flat – and with property prices so high, millions of families have no choice other than to rent – it's generally a straightforward process to pick a contents-only policy. Just follow our steps below.

  • If you're in a flat-share, there are two categories you could fall under when trying to arrange insurance:

    • You and your flatmates want to insure the whole flat (or house), or 
    • You just want to insure your room within a flat/house

    Not all insurers are happy to insure you if you're renting just a room in a house-share or flat-share, or if you're a non-family group on a joint policy when insuring a whole house, so you could find the number of insurers offering a quote is quite low.

    This is because sharing a rented home with non-family members usually boosts the risk of damage, theft or items going missing simply because the number of different people coming into your home is usually higher. As there's more risk, the cost of insurance is higher.

    If you're opting for a policy covering the whole flat-share, keep in mind:

    If you rent a room in a house with a group of friends, or with people you don't know, becoming a named person on a joint insurance policy can bring unwanted consequences because of so-called 'association'.

    In other words, if one of your housemates makes a claim, it will affect everyone else's premium at renewal. Plus, if you move out of the property, you'll likely have to declare any claim made on the previous joint policy on any new policy you take out over the next five years.

    If you're opting for room-only insurance, there are two key points to remember:

    • To be covered against theft, you need a lock on the door to your room, and to ensure the room is locked when you're not in the property. And even here, you'd only have cover if there was sign of forced entry to your room.

    • If your belongings are in the communal areas, again, do not expect these to be covered unless there is forced entry into the home.

  • Add up everything you own, including smaller items such as clothes, on a 'new-for-old' basis to get the amount you want to insure. (See our FAQ on new for old for more.)

    For contents insurance, underinsuring could lead to you getting less than the value of your items when you claim. An example may help here...

    You told the insurer your possessions were worth £10,000 when you actually have £20,000, thinking you'd never need to claim for them all in one go.

    You then needed to put in a claim for £5,000 of stuff after a burglary. The insurer may only pay out £2,500 if its claims handler deems you've underinsured your total contents amount.

  • If you're a student and your parents have home insurance, you may automatically be covered against theft or loss under your parents' policy under its 'temporarily removed from the home' section.

    The cover only applies while your goods are in your accommodation and as long as your parents' home is your main permanent address. Many policies allow this, so it's worth checking.

    And if you need cover for any mobiles or laptops, or items you normally wear or carry away from your home, your parents could – if they haven't already – also add the 'all-risks' or 'unspecified personal possessions' section to their policy. This specifically covers your stuff while it's out of your rented home.

    If your parents don't have cover, or it doesn't cover you, then check out our student contents insurance info

  • Contents insurance policies will usually give a certain level of accidental damage cover. Electrical goods may be insured for instance, but if you spill red wine on your rug, it's unlikely to be covered as standard.

    Many insurers offer a higher level of cover for an additional cost. If you're particularly clumsy, you should give it some thought. Read your terms and conditions carefully to see what you are and aren't covered for as standard.

    In addition, most policies don't cover contents outside the home as standard, but you can extend them so they do by buying what's called an 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' add-on to your contents policy.

    It'll cost a bit more but you can usually get insurance for items such as your handbag, smartphone or bike both outside the home and overseas. As a rule of thumb, if it's designed to be taken out of the home, it'll fall under this extension.

    As always, check your policy carefully. There may be limits to the cover and the items might have to be specifically mentioned in your policy documents. In many cases, such as for valuable bicycles worth £1,000 or more, you could be better off taking out a specialist bicycle insurance policy. Equally, if you carry a lot of valuable gadgets, such as a laptop, headphones and smartwatch, then gadget insurance could be worth considering.

  • Insurance companies will ask you for an estimated value of all your contents but individual pricey items, usually ranging from £1,000 to £2,000, have to be separately listed to be covered on many policies.

    Even for goods valued under £1,000, some of them may not be covered, especially if they are mobile phones, tablets or even bicycles. A number of providers insist these items be specifically named on the policy, regardless of their value.

    After you buy something expensive, always check your policy carefully to ensure it's covered – if you're not at renewal, you'll need to call your insurer and tell it (and it may charge you extra to add the new items).

    Always keep hold of – and safeguard – receipts for valuable items such as jewellery, specialist cameras and high-spec TVs. Insurers will usually want to see proof of purchase before paying out: a receipt, photograph, valuation certificate (for jewellery or antiques), or even a bank statement will suffice. This is also the case if adding such items to an 'all risks' or 'personal possessions' add-on to your contents policy.

  • The Association of British Insurers has said there's no need to change or update your cover if you're working from home because of the coronavirus pandemic. You also don't need to let your insurer know that you're working from home.

    However, this applies if you're doing clerical work – generally defined as working on a laptop and making phone calls.

    If you have a home-based business that means visitors come to your home, or you have stock you're storing at home, those won't be covered. If either of these applies, call and tell your insurer as you may need to pay a premium to have the visitors/stock covered, or you may need to get a  separate business insurance policy. 

  • Pay-monthly options are essentially high-interest loans.

    It's best to pay the full cost of the policy in one go when you take it out. Yet we know many can't afford this. If that's the case with you, see if you can get a 0% credit card for spending

    Use it to pay for the insurance, then ensure your monthly repayments are large enough to clear it within a year, before you take out your next annual policy.

    Ideally, try to save up (as well as clearing the debt on the card) so you're then able to pay for your insurance in one go when you're due to renew it. 

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How to find the cheapest renters' contents insurance

Here, getting the cheapest cover all depends on who you live with – for example, someone living with their family and someone sharing with flatmates or housemates they don't know will need to go down different routes. Select the tab closest to your situation...

Step 1: Use price comparison sites

Simple – as you're sharing the entire home with your spouse, partner or immediate family, a comparison site is the best way to start getting quotes. This is a quick and easy way to search for a policy that'll give you a decent benchmark for prices.

It's best to use all four sites, but if you don't have time, we've ranked them in order of the sites that most often return the cheapest quotes so you've the best chance of bagging the top deal.

Try comparison sites in this order

Site Official perk info & MSE's analysis
Try as many as you can, in this order...

Confused.com*


Official Perk info: ONE of.... £20 Halfords voucher | £20 Domino's voucher | £20 Lidl Plus coupon | 12 IMO 'triple foam' car washes.

Perk Analysis: The highest value is the car washes, if you'd use them all, as they can cost £5 each elsewhere so it's worth £60. 

See our full Confused perk analysis.


MoneySupermarket*
None.


Compare The Market*
Official Perk info: Meerkat movies and meals. A year's 2for1s on cinema tickets and meals at a on Tue/Wed nights.

MSE Perk Analysis: For those who'd use it, and go to the flicks and restaurants this perk can be worth £100s. However instead you could grab other perks as for this you can use our trick to get Meerkat movies and meals for £1 for a year.

See our full Compare The Market perk analysis.
Then, to boost chances of finding a cheap quote further, try...
Gocompare – a big comparison site which currently gives £250 'free' excess cover with every purchase.
Quotezone* – it's another comparison site, and you get access to Rewards+ within 60 days after buying a policy.
Direct Line* – an insurer, rather than a comparison, but you won't find its quotes on any comparisons, so it's worth trying in case it's cheaper for you

Step 2: Struggling to get cheap cover? Go to a broker

If you're having trouble getting cover, seeing a broker will be your next port of call. An insurance broker is an expert on insurance, who knows the market and can give you advice on getting the right cover for your needs.

Some people, including those with a chequered financial past – such as bankruptcy or county court judgments – can find it difficult to find cheap insurance cover as they are considered too high a risk.

Those in areas prone to flooding or subsidence, or those whose homes are left unoccupied for long periods, may struggle too.

In these situations, you can search on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website (or phone 0370 950 1790) for help with your individual circumstances. It will list brokers in your area who may be able to help.

It's also worth trying Home Protect* and Intelligent Insurance*. These specialist providers work with a number of insurance companies that can help to arrange cover for those who have trouble getting it.

Step 3: Check the policy carefully before buying

Always double-check the policy terms. Once you've found the cheapest quote to suit you and your wallet from the comparison sites or by going direct, make two important checks:

  • Double-check the quote. Click through to the insurance provider's own website to double-check the policy is suitable. Some comparison sites make a few assumptions (which might not be right for you) to speed up searches.

  • Examine the policy's cover to try to shave some off the price. While checking whether it's suitable, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can drop the price further. For example, look at the excess, and see if any affordable adjustment here can trim the cost.

Step 4: See if you can get cashback on your cheapest quote

If you're a cashback site user, you'll know that if you get your home insurance via them it gets a 'lead fee' for sending you to the insurer. Once it gets paid the fee by the insurer, it then it shares it with you.

This can beat going to the comparison sites above, but do check your quote isn't more than going to a comparison site, and it's best to think of the cashback as a bonus, rather than 100% guaranteed as sometimes it doesn't track or isn't paid out. These are the two routes to try...

  • Route 1: Use cashback site comparisons:  There's a version of Confused's comparison on cashback sites Topcashback* and Quidco*, where you'll get £33 and £28 respectively if you buy a policy through them (you don't get the standard Confused perks, as this is a rebranded version of the comparison) but do keep an eye on the quotes you get as you may not get exactly the same prices as you will from Confused.com's comparison. 

    The easiest way to do it is to look at the quotes you get, then take off £33 from  Topcashback's cheapest, and £28 from Quidco's, and see which works out cheapest for you.

  • Route 2: Find your cheapest insurer then go via cashback site. Once you know your cheapest insurer, try checking what cashback you'll get via going to it direct via Quidco* and Topcashback*.

    Yet here be extra careful not to let the cashback tail wag the dog. Choose the right insurer first, then look for cashback. Don't look for the biggest cashback then choose the insurer.

    Again, make sure you check the price you're getting through this route is the same as the prices you found from the comparisons you'd already done. If it's more expensive, see if the cashback offsets the rise. If not, go with the quotes you got above.

Our Top Cashback Sites guide has full information on how these sites work. 

Step 1: Use price comparison sites

Comparison sites zip your details to insurers' and brokers' websites, finding the cheapest. So be aware that they often feed your personal details to insurers.

We've analysed the comparison sites to find out which is likely to give the cheapest quotes for room-only cover. They don't all compare the same sites, so combine them...

Before you start... All the comparison sites should ask you questions about who you live with, meaning the quotes you get back should be for policies that will cover you. However, before you purchase, check the T&Cs for any specifics, for example, whether you'd only be covered if you've got a lock on the door to your room.

illustration

Try comparison sites in this order

Site Official perk info & MSE's analysis
Try as many as you can, in this order...


MoneySupermarket*
None.


Compare The Market*
Official Perk info: Meerkat movies and meals. A year's 2for1s on cinema tickets and meals at a on Tue/Wed nights.

MSE Perk Analysis: For those who'd use it, and go to the flicks and restaurants this perk can be worth £100s. However instead you could grab other perks as for this you can use our trick to get Meerkat movies and meals for £1 for a year.

See our full Compare The Market perk analysis.

Confused.com*
Official Perk info: ONE of.... £20 Halfords voucher | £20 Domino's voucher | £20 Lidl Plus coupon | 12 IMO 'triple foam' car washes.

Perk Analysis: The highest value is the car washes, if you'd use them all, as they can cost £5 each elsewhere so it's worth £60. 

See our full Confused perk analysis.
Then, to boost chances of finding a cheap quote further, try...
Gocompare – a big comparison site which currently gives £250 'free' excess cover with every purchase.
Quotezone* – it's another comparison site, and you get access to Rewards+ within 60 days after buying a policy.
Direct Line* – an insurer, rather than a comparison, but you won't find its quotes on any comparisons, so it's worth trying in case it's cheaper for you

Step 2: Struggling to get cheap cover? Go to a broker

If you're having trouble getting cover, seeing a broker will be your next port of call. An insurance broker is an expert on insurance, who knows the market and can give you advice on getting the right cover for your needs.

Some people, including those with a chequered financial past – such as bankruptcy or county court judgments – can find it difficult to find cheap insurance cover as they are considered too high a risk.

Those in areas prone to flooding or subsidence, or those whose homes are left unoccupied for long periods, may struggle too.

In these situations, you can search on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website (or phone 0370 950 1790) for help with your individual circumstances. It will list brokers in your area who may be able to help.

It's also worth trying Home Protect* and Intelligent Insurance*. These specialist providers work with a number of insurance companies that can help to arrange cover for those who have trouble getting it.

Step 3: Check the policy carefully before buying

Always double-check the policy terms. Once you've found the cheapest quote to suit you and your wallet from the comparison sites or by going direct, make two important checks:

  • Double-check the quote. Click through to the insurance provider's own website to double-check the policy is suitable. Some comparison sites make a few assumptions (which might not be right for you) to speed up searches.

  • Examine the policy's cover to try to shave some off the price. While checking whether it's suitable, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can drop the price further. For example, look at the excess, and see if any affordable adjustment here can trim the cost.

Step 4: See if you can get cashback on top of the cheapest quote

Once you know which your cheapest provider is, check you're not missing out on any cashback deals.

Note that there is no guarantee the quote will be the same going through a cashback site as it is going through a comparison site, so make sure you check the cost carefully. And it's important to be aware the cashback comes from the cashback site, not the insurer.

Here are three important things you need to know before getting cashback...

  • Never count the cash as yours until it's in your bank account. Cashback is never 100% guaranteed. There can be issues with tracking and allocating the payment. Many cashback sites are small firms with limited backing, and you've no protection if anything happens to them.

  • Withdraw the cashback as soon as you're allowed. Money held in your cashback site account has no protection at all if that company goes bust. Always withdraw it as soon as you're able to.

  • Clear your cookies or the cashback may not track. While it shouldn't be a problem, if you've used comparison sites before, there's a minor risk that the cashback may not track due to cookies on your computer – so it's good practice to clear those first (read about cookies).

If you're new to cashback sites, make sure you read our Top cashback sites guide for pros and cons before using them.

Step 1: Go to a broker

If you want to get a joint policy with a number of names on it, your best option is an insurance broker. These insurance experts know the market and can give you advice on getting the right cover for your needs.

The British Insurance Brokers' Association website (or phone 0370 950 1790) lists brokers in your area who may be able to help.

It's also worth trying Home Protect* and Intelligent Insurance*. They are specialist providers working with a number of insurance companies that can help to arrange cover for those who have trouble getting it.

Step 2: Check the policy carefully before buying

Always double-check the policy terms. Once you've found the cheapest quote to suit you and your wallet, make two important checks:

  • Double-check the quote. Click through to the insurance provider's own website to double-check the policy is suitable. Some comparison sites make a few assumptions (which might not be right for you) to speed up searches.

  • Examine the policy's cover to try to shave some off the price. While checking whether it's suitable, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can drop the price further. For example, look at the excess, and see if any affordable adjustment here can trim the cost.

The choice in this situation is to get added to your landlord's policy or to have your own policy.

If you choose to go it alone and have your own room-only policy, head to I need room-only cover in a homeshare. Remember, your contents won't be covered in communal areas unless there is forced entry into the home.

IMPORTANT. If it's cheaper (or a lot less hassle) to opt to be added to your landlord's policy, there are a few things to be aware of:

  • The landlord would need to make the claim – do you trust them to do so if it's just your stuff stolen/damaged (as it would affect their no-claims bonus)?
  • Would they give you the resulting cash from a claim?
  • Does the landlord plan to excessively up your rent to cover the insurance?

Even if you have a trusting relationship with your landlord, it's worth knowing not all insurers will put lodgers on an existing policy. It's down to an archaic bit of industry law, but it can mean this won't be an option for you. Ask your landlord to check with their insurer.

illustration

How to make a claim on your contents insurance

Claiming on your insurance should be straightforward, and needn't be daunting. If you've read and understand the terms and excesses on your policy, you shouldn't be in for any nasty shocks. But in the event you need to claim, take the following steps...

  • If it's a theft, notify the police. If something's stolen from the property, you'll need to get a crime reference number to make a claim. Report the incident to the police as soon as you can to make sure your claim doesn't hit the skids.

  • If you've emergency damage, act quickly to sort it. 
    1) To report a possible gas leak, contact the National Grid on 0800 111 999.
    2) If you've electrical problems, call your local electricity distributor, NOT your energy company (see a list of emergency contact numbers).
    3) Report any sewage hazards to your council.
    4) When it comes to making repairs, speak to the landlord first, and don't do anything unsafe yourself. The Association of British Insurers says your insurer should have a 24-hour claims line, if you need to contact it.

  • And then submit your claim – as soon as possible. Contact your insurer as soon as you can to avoid any administrative hold-ups; if it's a complex claim, it may take a while to be processed, so the sooner you start, the better. 

    When claiming, you'll usually have to pay something towards repairs and replacements, known as an 'excess'. You'll need to provide details of the circumstances surrounding anything that's been lost or damaged, plus any evidence of that. Take photographs of any damage – this may help provide proof.

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How to complain about your insurance provider

The insurance industry doesn't have the best customer-service reputation and while a provider may be good for some, it can be hell for others.

Common problems include claims not being paid out on time or at all, unfair charges, or exclusions being hidden in small print. It's always worth trying to call your provider first, but, if not, then…

Tenants' contents insurance FAQs

  • Can I get cheaper insurance if I make my home more secure?

    If you become less of a risk, you increase your chances of getting cheaper contents insurance.

    One way to do this is to make sure your home is secure, whether that's by upgrading the lock on the main door to your home, or fitting a lock to your 'self-contained' room, or both.

    Without an approved lock, it's difficult to find a policy giving you theft cover. So know your locks.

    Keep all your contents in your locked room. Anything left in a communal area is unlikely to be insured against theft. Remember, cover for theft only applies when there's violent and/or forced entry.

  • Will my old goods be replaced with new ones if I have to claim?

    There are two main types of cover when it comes to replacing your goods. New-for-old entitles you to brand new stuff (or cash to the same value) if your insurer agrees to replace your damaged or stolen goods.

    Other policies will cover you for the value of the goods at the time of the loss – these are usually known as indemnity policies.

    An indemnity policy may be cheaper, but you only get a minor payout if you need to claim. So new-for-old is the best way to go. When you calculate the cost of your contents, factor in the value of your items as if they're new.

  • Do I have to pay an excess if I make a claim?

    Each policy normally comes with a compulsory excess, plus a voluntary excess if you've selected one. A compulsory excess does what it says on the tin. If you make a claim, it's the amount you pay towards the cost. If your TV was stolen and you made a claim for £500, and had a compulsory excess of £50 – a typical sum – you'd get £450.

    If you have a £50 voluntary excess and a £50 compulsory excess, you'd only get £400 for the same claim.

    The provider will tell you how much the compulsory excess is when you buy the policy.

    What you then choose as a voluntary excess on top (if any) is entirely up to you. A higher voluntary excess will lower the cost of your annual or monthly premium, as the insurer pays less if you have to make a claim. 

    Think carefully. If you can't afford to cover a large chunk of the cost if you need to claim, opt for a lower voluntary excess.

  • I'm going away on holiday, am I still covered?

    Almost all insurers restrict the number of days you can leave your home unoccupied for while still covering you – usually 30 days.

    Leaving it empty for long periods makes it more at risk of burglary. In addition, if there's a leak into your flat or home and you're not there for months to be able to get it sorted, then more of your stuff is likely to be damaged and the claim amount a lot higher.

  • I'm a leasehold homeowner, not a tenant. Do I need to take out buildings and contents insurance?

    Many flat-buyers (and, increasingly, those purchasing new-build properties) find they are a leaseholder rather than a freeholder.

    This means as a leaseholder they only have the right to live in the property – they don't actually own the building or land it's built on. That belongs to a separate landlord or property management company.

    In this case, it's almost always a landlord's responsibility to insure the buildings part of your home – its structure, cost of rebuild etc in the event of a disaster – but NOT your contents (do check, though).

    If you're a leaseholder, don't fall into the trap of thinking your landlord covers your contents insurance as well; you WILL need to buy your own policy.

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