If you rent either a room or a whole property in private or social housing you might be unsure about whether you need to bother with insurance.
Spoiler: you probably do, so here’s a quick run-through of whether you need building insurance, contents insurance or both.
Building vs contents insurance
The clue is in the name. Buildings insurance covers you for the structure of your home, while contents insurance covers you for what’s inside.
If you’re renting a whole property from a landlord (whether that is your local council, a housing association or a private landlord) you won’t need buildings insurance as you don’t own the property.
However, you probably will need contents insurance to protect your personal possessions. Your landlord might have contents insurance too, but it’s likely it will only cover the items they own (for example carpets or furniture).
What does contents insurance cover me for?
All your personal belongings — in other words anything not physically attached to the building — will usually be covered for loss or damage.
This generally includes:
- electrical goods.
However, it will also include less obvious things like towels, bedding, plates and kitchen utensils. Think of it as cover for absolutely anything you’d need to buy again if your home was destroyed in a fire or flood.
Different policies offer different levels of cover but generally you’ll be covered against theft, fire and flood.
Different types of contents insurance cover
Insurance polices are often long and confusing documents and it can be hard to know what ‘optional’ cover you should and shouldn’t take out.
If you’re struggling, it’s always worth picking up the phone and speaking to a potential insurer. Ask them about bits of the policy you don’t understand.
Try not to let them upsell you though — always have a proper think about what you actually need.
‘Accidental damage cover’ is usually optional so don’t assume it’s included in your policy.
‘Personal possessions cover’ is also an optional extra. This will cover items you take outside your home, including:
- mobile phones.
Single items with an individual value of more than £1,500 (eg, a high-end laptop) as well as bicycles will usually cost extra to insure.
If you have expensive items, try to keep your receipt(s) so you can easily prove they existed if you ever need to make a claim.
It’s important to fully understand the terms and conditions of your policy and any exclusions (things that aren’t covered) so that you know what you can and cannot claim for.
Do I need insurance if I’m just renting a room?
If you’re a lodger (renting a room with a live-in landlord) or living in a houseshare or flatshare with non-family members you will probably need contents insurance for your personal possessions.
Unfortunately, in both scenarios because of the likelihood of more people going in and out of the property, insurers will treat you as a greater risk and your insurance will probably be more expensive.
If you flat or houseshare you might be able to persuade the people you live with to get a joint contents insurance policy for the whole property.
If you do this, bear in mind if anyone who lives in the property makes a claim on the insurance it could have an impact on your credit score.
If you choose to get room-only contents insurance or you’re a lodger, most insurers will require you to have a lock on the bedroom door if you want to be covered.
How can I get cheap contents insurance?
First make sure you only buy the cover you need. You’ll need to tot up the value of your contents so that your insurance covers you for replacing items at today’s prices.
Here’s our handy contents value calculator and more tips on getting the right cover.
Also make sure you know what is included in your policy.
Using a comparison site such as Moneysupermarket or GoCompare can be a good way to find cheap insurance that fits your needs. But remember they’re just showing you prices, not choosing the best product, so you don’t have to pick the top suggested result.
Follow our golden rules for using comparison sites to buy insurance.
Finally, make a note in your calendar of the date when your insurance covers ends. Your insurer will send you a price quote for the following year but don’t assume loyalty will pay.
Make sure you check you’re still getting the best deal and haggle or switch insurer if not.
Read more about home insurance switching.