Live in shared accommodation? Make sure you choose the right contents insurance

what type of insurance do you need in a house share?

They say that sharing is caring. And that’s true up to a point. But when you live in shared accommodation, you probably don’t want your housemates to help themselves to your stuff. And you really don’t want to risk losing your prized possessions if they get lost, stolen or damaged.

That’s why you need the right contents insurance in place. Don’t assume that your belongings will be covered by the landlord through their landlord/building insurance.

Just like the different types of shared accommodation available, there are different types of contents insurance.

Whether you’re a student, professional, live-in staff such as an au pair, or a lodger or tenant, we’ll help you choose the insurance you need.

What level of contents insurance do you need?

It’s well worth shopping around for contents insurance as there are lots of variants available.

FACT: The average tenant insures between £40,000-£50,000 of contents as standard.

1. Standard contents insurance. This covers your personal items against theft, vandalism, fire, flooding and natural dangers like earthquakes. Choose to cover just the items in your room, or get cover for items kept anywhere in the property.

*If you opt for ‘room only’, your door must have a lock and your belongings won’t be covered if you lose or damage them when you’re away from your room.*

2. Personal possessions insurance. If you want your items to be covered at home and when you’re out and about, you may want to add personal possessions cover to your contents insurance. There are two categories of personal possessions:

Unspecified items. Cover for individual items worth up to £1,000, that you usually take out with you. For example, your watch, phone, tablet, camera or jewellery.

High risk items. These items are worth over £1,000 each and typically include jewellery, artwork, electricals, musical instruments and sports equipment.

3. Extended cover under an existing policy. If you’re moving out of your parents’ home, they may be able to extend their home insurance to cover your belongings. It may even be included in their policy for free, so it’s definitely worth investigating.

4. University halls of residence cover. Heading to university soon? Exciting times! Chances are, your university will provide halls of residence cover, but make sure you check the level they provide is enough for your possessions.

Particularly accident prone? It could be worth adding accident cover to your policy. There are two options available:

  • Basic accidental cover – this will pay for replacement video and audio items such as TVs, tablets and laptops.
  • Full accidental damage cover – insurance against things like carpet stains and burns, or paint spills.

Which items are covered by contents insurance policy?

Lots of household goods are covered as standard, but you may be surprised to know that you can insure almost anything and everything in your home.

From the ordinary…

  • Electrical goods – TVs, laptops, tablets and games consoles
  • Entertainment - Vinyl, CDs, books and DVDs
  • Kitchen items - food processor, microwave, kettle, toaster, plates and pots and pans
  • Furniture - beds, wardrobes, tables and chairs

…to the not-so-ordinary…

  • Frozen food
  • Cash (do you keep a rainy day fund under your mattress? It’s surprising how many people do!)
  • Carpets, rugs and curtains
  • Garden items and equipment

And the downright just, well… weird. We’ll reveal more on this a bit later.

Have you thought about adding any optional extras?

Garden cover – this includes items such as furniture, plants, garden toys and gardening equipment. Some policies even cover landscaping if your garden is vandalised.
Bicycle cover – well worth getting if you have one or more bikes worth over £1,000. If you don’t want to add bike cover as an extra, but you have a fairly pricey set of wheels, make sure you value them correctly in your contents policy so that if you make a claim, you’ll get it replaced with something of a similar value.
Sports equipment – again, if you own valuable sports equipment, consider getting it covered against loss, theft or damage. Your sports clothing can be insured too.
Musical instruments – the majority of contents insurance providers will insure individual items up to around £1,500. If your instrument is worth more, tell your insurer as it may be better to insure it separately. Especially if you regularly take it out to gigs, performances or lessons.

Did you know you can get download insurance?

It’s true. If you like to download music or films to your phone, tablet or laptop, download insurance is available as an add-on. If you lose your device, you won’t lose your downloads.
** You DO need to have up-to-date security to ensure your insurance is valid.**

What if the property you’re in gets damaged or you can’t live in it?

Always check your policy wording carefully, but your contents insurance should cover you against this unlikely, but not impossible, eventuality. Typically, your rent will be covered along with the cost of your temporary alternative accommodation. And your possessions. Obviously.

Do you have to insure the contents owned by your landlord?

No. Landlords should have their own insurance. This will cover the building itself, along with any of the fixtures, fittings and belongings they provide.

How do you make a claim on your contents insurance?

The number one tip to remember when calling your insurer to make a claim is to have all the information you need at hand. By this, we mean your policy reference number which will be on the policy wording document you received when you took out your insurance.

Step 1. If your claim involves a crime, call the police first. They will give you an incident number which you must keep safe.

Step 2. Call your insurer’s claim line to make your claim. They will ask for your policy reference number.

Step 3. Report exactly what’s missing or been damaged. Ideally you’ll have proof that you owned the items you’re claiming for – ie. via receipts or photos, but it’s not the end of the world if you don’t.

Step 4. You should receive a lump sum to cover the costs of your claim within approximately one month (minus the excess) on your policy.

Tips to keep your receipts safe 

It isn't difficult to keep your receipts for larger purchases safe, it just needs to become part of your regular shopping routine.
You can either go down the traditional route and keep paper receipts or file them online.
If you’re a traditionalist, simply dedicate somewhere in your home to keeping your receipts and make sure you put them there as soon as you buy your item. You may have a filing cabinet, a box, a drawer... it doesn’t matter where or what it is, you just need to use it.

If you’d rather keep your receipts online, you can create a receipt folder in your email account and keep them all there, or you can set up an ‘online wallet’.

Never heard of an online wallet? It's just a software or web service that keeps all your shopping information in one place. Not only do they make it easier to shop online (they often pre-populate your details in the purchase process), but they file your receipts too, so you don’t have to consciously do anything to keep them safe.

Hungry for more on this? Tech Republic’s blog introduces five of the best apps for managing receipts.

Whats the difference between contents (or tenants) insurance and landlord insurance?

Contents insurance covers your belongings, whereas home insurance covers your belongings as well as the bricks and mortar in your home. Hence as a renter or lodger, you don’t need full home insurance.
If your accommodation is part or fully furnished by a landlord, you may want to look at tenant’s liability insurance. This provides a financial backup in case you damage, lose or break any of the landlord's furniture or belongings.

Types of landlord insurance and where to get it

Landlord insurance protects property owners against damage, accidents or theft from their properties if they rent them out. There’s no legal obligation to take out landlord insurance, but if the property has a mortgage, the mortgage lender may insist on getting landlord insurance before allowing the landlord to take on tenants.

Reading this as a landlord?

Once you’ve decided to get landlord’s insurance, you need to double check exactly which variant you need. Here are your options:

  • Landlord building insurance
  • Landlord contents insurance
  • Property owners liability insurance
  • Rental protection insurance
  • Unoccupied property cover

Landlord building insurance: this is pretty much essential if you own the freehold of the property. This covers you against damage to the property itself and will protect you against everything from fires and floods to vandalism.
Landlord contents insurance: if you’re renting your property furnished, this could be a good investment too. Your tenants should have their own insurance for their personal possessions, but this won’t cover the items you provide – i.e. sofas, beds, kitchen utensils…
Property owners liability insurance: not an option that instantly springs to mind, but this will provide cover for any legal defence costs if a tenant blames you for an accident they have at your property. Legal fees can be notoriously costly so it’s worth considering.
Rental protection insurance: another option which may seem a little extreme, but it might pay off if you get unlucky and have nightmare tenants or your property gets damaged by a severe flood or fire. This will provide you with a guaranteed rental income whilst the property is made liveable again.
Unoccupied property cover: get this for a guaranteed rental income between tenants.

Once you’ve narrowed down the landlord you’d like, where is the best place to get it?

You can’t go wrong with one of the comparison sites. Moneysupermarket consistently comes out on top as ‘best all round insurance site’, but Go Compare and are safe bets too.

If you’d rather go to a specialist landlord insurer, here’s the top 10 landlord insurance providers, as sourced by ‘

  1. Alan Boswell – Landlords Property Owners
  2. Direct Line for Business – Landlord Insurance
  3. Simple Landlords Insurance – Landlords Insurance
  4. More Than Business – Landlords Insurance
  5. Saga – Landlord Insurance
  6. AXA Business Insurance – Commercial and Residential Landlords Insurance
  7. Home & Legacy – Ultra Landlord
  8. Let Alliance – Landlords Let Residential
  9. LV= – Landlord Insurance
  10. Aviva – Residential Property Owners

Compare home insurance claim experiences on the Claimscore review page now.

Last but not least, we can’t leave you without delivering on our promise to reveal some of the weirdest, most wonderful things that people get insured. Here goes!

5 weird but wonderful things people insure

1. Body parts
2. The Zombie Apocalypse
3. Life-sized models of dinosaurs
4. Winning the Lottery (It’s for businesses, in case a workforce syndicate wins)
5. A 12ft long… Cigar

For more ‘must-know' advice around protecting your valuables, try our guide to keeping your possessions safe below.

READ NEXT: Personal possessions insurance: why, when and what do you need?


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