Cheap Contents Insurance for Tenants

Don't assume your landlord covers you

If you rent don't assume your landlord will cover your contents insurance. Nearly HALF of all tenants don't have it. If you're one of them, get it NOW – if not, you'd have to foot the bill if something happens.

This guide highlights why contents insurance is essential for renters and how to get the right policy to suit you at the cheapest price.

In this guide

Tenants only need contents, NOT buildings insurance

There are three main types of home insurance but renters ONLY need:

Home contents insurance, which covers your belongings. In a cheeky analogy, it's usually the items that will fall out if you turn your home upside down.

If you're renting you do NOT need:

Home buildings insurance which protects the structure, the fixtures and fittings (ie, kitchen units, fitted wardrobes and the like) in your home. Instead, it'll be your landlord's responsibility to cover this.

What is covered by contents insurance?

  • The contents part of your insurance protects you against damage and theft to your items in your room or home.

    Separately, the buildings part protects the structure of your home and permanent fixtures and fittings, such as doors and other things attached to the home, such as sanitary equipment (baths, basins, toilets and showers) and cover should be arranged by the landlord.

    Most decent home insurance policies will cover damage to your contents caused from storms, flooding, earthquakes, fire, lightning, explosions, theft, riots and vandalism. It would also usually cover the cost of spoiled food if your freezer breaks down and the replacement of cash stolen from your home.

    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.

    Contents policies also usually give you legal liability protection as the occupier and owner, of the home. This means that as part of the contents policy, the insurer will cover you and your legal costs if a visitor to your home is seriously injured and it's deemed to be your fault.

    A buildings policy will do the same if the structure injures a passer-by or visitor, or damages a neighbour's property but if the 'buildings' are owned by the landlord, it is his responsibility.

  • Don't expect to be covered for damage due to wear and tear and it certainly won't insure you against acts of terrorism.

    Your policy may also be invalid if your house is unoccupied for more than 30 consecutive days during the year (see unoccupied while away for more). There's also usually only limited cover for accidental damage (see accidental damage for more). Check the small print carefully before you buy.

    Not being in your home can also have consequences for your cover. If you are burgled and there's no sign of forced entry, insurers may also turn down any claim.

    Insurers won't protect everything in your home just because you've bought cover – look out for situations where you'll need to make special arrangements. If you've a stash of high value items, there may be a limit on the insurance.

    If you run a business from home, then that usually won't qualify for liability protection and any business-related contents may not be covered.

  • 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. Expensive purchases such as laptops and jewellery (including engagement rings) may not be covered if they were bought after your policy was taken out so it's always worth letting your insurers know as soon as you have purchased it.

    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 are specifically named on the policy, regardless of their value. After you buy something expensive, always check your policy carefully to ensure it's covered.

    Always keep hold of – and safeguard – receipts for valuable items like jewellery and big-ticket items such as specialist cameras or high-spec televisions. Insurers will usually want to see proof of purchase before paying out; a receipt, photograph, valuation certificate (for jewellery or antiques) or even 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.

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

    Many insurers offer this extra 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.

  • 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 little bit more but you can usually get insurance for items such as your handbag, digital camera, bicycle, smartphone and tablet 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 e.g. a laptop, tablet and smartwatch, then gadget insurance could be worth considering.

  • There are two main types of cover when it comes to replacing your goods. New-for-old entitles you to brand new stuff (or the requisite value) if your insurer agrees to replace your damaged or stolen goods. Or there's an indemnity policy, where you get the value of the goods at the time of the loss.

    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.

  • Each policy normally comes with a compulsory and a voluntary excess, if you have 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.

    The excess is outlined when you buy the policy. What you pay is entirely up to you. A higher excess will lower the cost of your premium, with the insurer paying less if you have to make a claim. But if you make a claim, you'll get less money back.

    When you set your excess, think carefully. If you can't afford to cover a large chunk of the cost if you need to claim, don't set a high voluntary excess, as you'll have to pay that as well as the compulsory excess.

  • 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, and the cost of any claims greater as any damage can be left undetected for weeks.

  • With more people operating micro-businesses from their homes or employee flexibility to work from home, don't automatically expect cover to be granted. Whether your working equipment will be covered varies from policy to policy. Some insurers will cover your computer or work phone automatically, others may not. It's important to check with your insurer and notify it if you work from home – it might drastically affect your policy and could even invalidate your cover. Any business stock or business visitors to the home are usually excluded under a normal policy, so always check to see if you need specialist cover.

What happens if I make a claim?

  • With the ever-increasing risk of flooding, and the arrival of Hurricane Ophelia, we can all do our bit to minimise any loss.

    If you've been affected by storms or flooding, see how to protect your home and make a claim on your insurance if hit.

    Here are some need-to-knows for starters...

    My property has been damaged. What should I do?

    If you've emergency damage, act quickly to sort it:

    • To report a possible gas leak, contact the National Grid on 0800 111 999.
    • If you've electrical problems, call your local electricity distributor, NOT your energy company (see a list of emergency contact numbers).
    • Report any sewage hazards to your local council.

    When it comes to making repairs, don't do anything unsafe yourself. The Association of British Insurers (ABI) says you should contact your insurer first – it should have a 24-hour claims line – and it should arrange for someone to do any work that's covered.

    But if you can't get through, or it won't be able to fix the problem quickly enough, arrange to have the damage fixed yourself by calling a qualified plumber, electrician or builder. Make sure you keep any receipts as these will form part of your claim.

    As long as you have adequate home insurance, you'll be covered for any damage. It also nearly always includes cover for alternative accommodation if you have no access to your property. Buildings insurance will cover the structure of your home as well as fixtures and fittings, while contents insurance will cover your possessions.

  • The ABI says customers should contact their insurers ASAP, so claims handlers can visit flooded properties to assess the damage.

    When claiming, you may have to pay towards repairs and replacements, known as an 'excess', so check your policy for full information.

    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 the damage to your home, contents or car, or film the footage. This may help provide proof.

    If your possessions have been badly damaged or washed away, any photographs of you with a particular item when undamaged, or held by friends or relatives, will demonstrate you owned it. Receipts, credit card bills or bank account statements that show your purchases can also be used as evidence.

    If your property's been flooded, it can take weeks, sometimes longer, for it to dry out, and you should only return to your home when it's safe to do so. Also, don't rush to redecorate. Your property needs to dry out properly and it'll need to be disinfected with antibacterial treatments.

    The restoration will start with the removal of debris and any sand, stones or soil etc carried in on the flood. Properties are then stripped out, which includes hacking off damaged plaster and woodwork.

    More information is available on how to protect your home and make a claim on your insurance.

Tenants' contents insurance: The 5 need-to-knows

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

  1. If you, your partner or family rent the home, simply buy standard contents insurance

    Let's be clear: tenants' contents insurance is NOT a specialist standalone policy that's different from the one you take out if you're a home owner. 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 policy, so see our steps below.

    It's only if you're an individual (or couple) renting a room in a house-share or flat-share that you'll need to check a few key extra conditions tailored to your circumstances, see our next point.

    Quick questions

    • Many flat-buyers (and, increasingly, those purchasing new-build properties) find they are a leaseholder rather than a freeholder. This means they only have the right to live the property, they don't actually own the building or land it's built on – that belongs instead 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. If you're a leaseholder, don't fall into the trap of thinking your landlord covers your contents insurance as well; you'll need to buy your own policy.

    • The idea is that, by becoming a named person on your landlord's policy, you can split the cost of insurance and save.

      MSE has heard some reports of people doing this but be aware that the cheap cost of individual contents policies – especially if you don't have many goods or clothing – can mean it's often not worth it. It's also worth pointing out that many people won't be comfortable with the idea of moving into a flat and then becoming a named person on a policy belonging to somebody, the landlord, you've only just met. For example, you need to be confident the landlord would make a claim when required, and give you the appropriate payout.

      Also, not all insurers will put lodgers on an existing policy. This is down to a bit of industry law known as 'insurable interest'. In a nutshell, it means if you haven't got a financial interest in the item you're paying to insure, then many insurers take the view that there's no insurable interest on behalf of the landlord – so you, as a lodger, wouldn't get a payout.

  2. If in a flat-share, you might have to work a bit harder to get cover

    If you're in a flat-share, there are usually two categories you would fall under when trying to arrange insurance – you either insure the whole flat (or house) with your flatmates or just a 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 numbers offering a quote lower than usual.

    Sharing a rented home with non-family members usually boosts the chances of damage, theft or items going missing simply because the numbers of different people entering and leaving the property is treated as a much higher risk especially with communal events, eg, a party or celebration – with a higher premium to pay.

    Because of this insurers will treat you as a greater risk.

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

    • To be covered against theft, you need make sure you have a lock on the door to your room. Also, make sure the door is locked when you are not at the home. No sign of forced entry is likely to have your claim declined.


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

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

    If you rent a room in a house either with a group of friends, or with unknowns when you first move to a new city, becoming a named person on a joint 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.

  3. Don't under-estimate what your contents are worth, otherwise your claim may be cut

    For contents insurance, under-insuring could lead to you getting less than the value of your items if you need when you claim. Add up everything, including smaller items such as clothes, on a 'new-for-old' basis. (See new for old for more.)

    For example, if you insure £10,000 of possessions when you actually have £20,000, and you need to make a claim, then you'll only have 50% of your contents protected.

  4. Students: check if your parents' policy covers you already

    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 if your parents' insurance includes it.

    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, which specifically covers your stuff while it's out of your rented home.

  5. Beware monthly repayments, they're really a loan

    Pay-monthly options are essentially high-interest loans. Either pay your premium in full, or if you can't afford to, use a credit card with a low APR (or better, a 0% credit card for spending, ensuring your repayments are large enough to clear it within a year).

How to find the cheapest contents insurance for you

Here, getting the cheapest cover all depends on who you live with – eg, someone living with their family and someone sharing with friends need to go down different routes. To find the right policy which suits your circumstances we have worked out which is the best route for you.

  • When ranking comparisons, we want to get you to use the best ones, as quickly as possible. We focus principally on price, as depending on who you are, you can get cheaper quotes on different screen scrapers. However, we also factor in 'softer' features to assess the quality of each.

    Ranking on price

    We analysed the prices of a large range of insurance quotes given by Compare The Market, Confused.com, Gocompare and MoneySupermarket.

    • Step 1. Check how many times each comparison site returned the cheapest or within 5% of the cheapest quote.
    • Step 2. Rank the comparison sites based on their 'score' in the first category.
    • Step 3. Assess how often each comparison gave a unique cheapest quote, ie, not just equal cheapest with a higher-scoring comparison.
    • Step 4. Alter the order to see if it's possible to increase the speed with which you access the cheapest quotes.

    Quality rating (out of 10)
    We use this as a tie-breaker, when combining two different combinations of comparisons gives similar results.

    If such a combo exists, we use the quality rating as a tie-breaker.

    The rating is based on a quarterly survey of other features of the comparisons, including their accuracy when compared with prices when you click through to the insurers. Other features assessed are:

    • Do the prices quoted change when you click through to insurers' websites?
    • Do other terms of the quote change when you click through to the insurers' websites?
    • Do your top quotes have the excess you asked for?
    • If you've requested no marketing follow-up, do you get one?
    • Is the price for any add-ons clearly stated?

    This is a newish process so we are intending to improve it as we go, and welcome all feedback.

Step 1. Use price comparison sites
 

Simple – as you are sharing the entire home with related members, such as 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.

Comparison sites zip your details to insurers' and brokers' websites, finding the cheapest deals.

So be aware they often feed your personal details to insurers. They don't all compare the same companies, so combine them. We've analysed the comparison sites and be aware that comparison sites make many assumptions so ensure you comply – and when clicking to insurers, check all the info's correct and the policy's suitable.

Simple edit function (at point of quotation)

Quotation shows the extras that come with it

Good overview of the policy cover

Great display of lock types

Check the big 'uns they miss...

Comparison sites let you compare insurers quickly, yet don't capture the entire market. Some insurers don't appear on comparison sites at all – and some deals are only available by going directly to an insurer's website.

You won't find big insurer Direct Line* on comparison sites. If you already have a Direct Line policy, give them a try as you could get a discount for having a policy with them.

Aviva* is another insurer worth considering that you won't find on comparison sites. Grab up to 20% off online when you buy contents cover.

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 groups, such as 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, subsidence or whose home is left unoccupied for long periods may struggle too.

In these situations, search on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website (or phone 0370 950 1790) about your individual circumstances – and they will list brokers in your local area who might 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.

Quick question
  • Improve your risk profile and increase your chances of getting the lowest possible quote.

    Make sure you have the right security – not only to your 'self-contained' room, but to the main entrance to your home. 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, theft only applies when there's violent and/or forced entry.

Step 3. Check your policy

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

Double-check the quotes

Click through to the insurance provider's own website to double-check the quotes are suitable. Some comparison sites make a few assumptions (that might not be right for you) to speed up searches.

Examine the policy's cover to try to tweak the price down

While checking whether it's suitable, it's worth playing with the policy details to see if you can finesse the price down. For example, look at the excess, and see if any affordable adjustment here can trim the cost.

Step 4. Get cashback too

Once you know which your cheapest provider is, you need to check you're not missing out on any cashback deals. If your second or third cheapest quotes weren't much more expensive, see if cashback's available for them too, and find the overall winner.

It's important to be aware that the cashback is coming from the comparison site, not the insurer, so getting the cashback relies on its ability to pay.

Things you need to know before getting cashback...

Step 1. Use price comparison sites

If you just want insurance for your room, comparison sites can work for you. However, take note of the important warning before committing to buy as specific conditions are likely to be put in place.

IMPORTANT WARNING. In a flat/house-share and hunting for contents insurance? All the comparison sites should have asked you the right questions about who you live with, meaning the result should cover you. However, before you get a policy make sure you check the T&Cs for any specific stipulations, eg, it'd only cover you if you've got a lock on the door to your room.

Simple edit function (at point of quotation)

Add-on extras displayed at time of quote

Good overview of the policy cover

Great display of lock types

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 groups, such as 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, subsidence or whose home is left unoccupied for long periods may struggle too.

In these situations, search on the British Insurance Brokers' Association website (or phone 0370 950 1790) about your individual circumstances – and they will list brokers in your local area who might 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.

Quick question
  • Improve your risk profile and increase your chances of getting the lowest possible quote.

    Make sure you have the right security – not only to your 'self-contained' room, but to the main entrance to your home. 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, theft only applies when there's violent and/or forced entry.

Step 3. Check your policy

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

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

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

Step 4. Get cashback too

Once you know which your cheapest provider is, you need to check you're not missing out on any cashback deals. If your second or third cheapest quotes weren't much more expensive, see if cashback's available for them too, and find the overall winner.

It's important to be aware that the cashback is coming from the comparison site, not the insurer, so getting the cashback relies on its ability to pay.

Things you need to know before getting cashback...

Step 1. Go to a broker

If you want to get a joint policy with a number of names on it, your best option would be to speak to a broker who can give you the advice you need. 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.

The British Insurance Brokers' Association website (or phone 0370 950 1790) lists brokers in your local area who might 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.

IMPORTANT WARNING. Choosing to take the joint policy route means you must understand the potential risks of all names on a policy. By renting a room in a house either with a group of friends – or with unknowns when you first move to a new city – you become a named person on a joint policy which can bring unwanted consequences because of so-called 'association'.

So 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 this worries you, you could consider everyone getting their own individual contents policy just for their own room – see Option 2: Need room-only cover in flat-share for more.

Quick question

  • Improve your risk profile and increase your chances of getting the lowest possible quote.

    Make sure you have the right security – not only to your 'self-contained' room, but to the main entrance to your home. 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, theft only applies when there's violent and/or forced entry.

Step 2. Check your policy

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

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

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

Step 3. Get cashback too

Once you know which your cheapest provider is, you need to check you're not missing out on any cashback deals. If your second or third cheapest quotes weren't much more expensive, see if cashback's available for them too, and find the overall winner.

It's important to be aware that the cashback is coming from the comparison site, not the insurer, so getting the cashback relies on its ability to pay.

Things you need to know before getting cashback...

The choice in this situation is to either get added to your landlord's policy – by becoming a named person on your landlord's policy, you can split the cost of insurance and save – or have your own policy.

If you choose to go it alone and have your own room-only policy – follow Option 2: Need room-only cover in flat-share. Remember, your contents won't be covered in communal areas unless there is forced entry in to the home.

IMPORTANT WARNING. If you find the savings are worth it and choose to let your landlord arrange cover, it's worth pointing out that you need to be confident the landlord would make a claim when required, and give you the appropriate payout (or excessively up your rent to cover the insurance).

Also, not all insurers will put lodgers on an existing policy. This is down to a bit of industry law known as 'insurable interest'. In a nutshell, it means if you haven't got a financial interest in the item you're paying to insure, then many insurers take the view that there's no insurable interest on behalf of the landlord – so you, as a lodger, wouldn't get a payout.

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 two simple steps...

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

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:

Free tool if you're having a problem

This tool helps you draft your complaint and manage it too. It's totally free, and offered by a firm called Resolver which we like so much we work with to help people get complaints justice.

If the complaint isn't resolved, Resolver will escalate it to the free Financial Ombudsman Service.

Important: If your issue is about a voucher or incentive that was part of an MSE Blagged deal, instead just let us know by emailing voucherhelp@moneysavingexpert.com as that's usually quicker.

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