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Tenants’ possessions and contents insurance

This article will explain how tenants’ possessions are regarded in landlord and tenant law; what rights do you have in regards to your personal possessions and whether the landlord has any responsibility or accountability when you sustain a material loss. This article will also explain what contents insurance is and give you extended information on how to choose the proper insurance and which features are important.

Fast facts

  • Your landlord is usually not responsible for any material loss resulting in damage to your possessions in the rented property.
  • They are responsible if they have personally damaged your belongings or if an act of willful negligence has caused a major breakdown in the property.
  • Contents insurance is the financial product that you purchase in order to ensure the contents of your household regardless if you’re renting or owning the property.
  • Contents insurance works by having you pay a premium for insuring things like appliances, electronics, furniture and your wardrobe against damage, accidents, breakdowns, storms and theft.
  • Different policies include different features and thus choosing the correct policy and provide can become complex.
  • It’s important that you compare rates and conduct proper research regarding the insurance products you purchase.
  • Defaqto offers independent reviews and scoring for every kind of financial products including contents insurance.
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Landlords’ responsibilities

One of the benefits to renting is that your rent pays for the repair and maintenance of your home. Landlords provide a number of critical services in addition to the property you occupy. In fact, landlords are responsible for your wellbeing while living in their property.

Your landlord is responsible for:

  • Keeping your property in good working order
  • Removing all health hazards and ensuring the property is safe to use
  • Responding to problems and emergency situations
  • Ensuring there are basic services and utilities available
  • Ensuring there is reasonable heating and access to hot water in the property
  • From 1st April 2018, ensuring the property is energy efficient at the minimum standard – EPC rating of E
  • Providing alternative accommodation or rent compensation at times when the property is not fit for living

If you have any problem with the property whatsoever, the first person* to contact is always your landlord or the managing agent, if any. Your tenancy agreement will provide more information and specifics about reporting problems.

*Your landlord may be a company, housing association or the local council. You should have the contact details of the responsible department where you can call for help.

The landlord is responsible for the property and every appliances and furniture rented out with it. If there is a flood, fire or any other accident that does damage to the property, the landlord is required to repair everything within a reasonable time and restore the original condition and features of the property.

However, they are not responsible for your own belongings.

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Damage to your possessions

Tenants’ possessions in the property are almost entirely a responsibility of the tenant. Clothes, appliances, furniture, gadgets, computers, decoration and other personal belongings – anything you moved in the property is yours to take care of.

Landlords cannot be held liable for damage to personal belongings due to malfunctions, provided the property was safe to use and in good condition prior to the problem.

For example, if a pipe bursts and causes a flood, thus, water damage to the kitchen cabinets and your laptop, your landlord would be responsible to repair the plumbing and eventually repair the kitchen cabinets, but not your laptop.

Since the damage is not intentional and is not a result of obvious negligence, the landlord would not be liable to pay.

If the damage is a result from bad repairs from unqualified workers or the landlord, then you may be eligible to claim compensation through the small claims court. It’s always recommended to contact your landlord first and seek a peaceful resolution to the problem.

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Contents insurance

When your personal belongings are damaged in an accident or stolen, you can recoup the cost of their repair or replacement if you have contents insurance.

Contents’ insurance is a finance product specifically for protecting your personal possessions. Everything you move in and out of а rental property is your “content” which you can insure for a monthly premium. In the event of damage or total loss due to any accident – natural disaster or theft – you will be able to claim your insurance policy and restore your goods.

Good content insurance policies will typically allow you to claim up to £50,000 if you’ve lost everything you own. However, there are many kinds of policies and features, making contents insurance rather complex and choosing the right product for your need – rather difficult.

There is a fine balance act between what premium you pay monthly and how much cover you get if you need to make a claim. You may need to calculate accurately how much would it cost you to replace everything you own.

If you make a mistake, it can lead to a really bad experience – you may discover that your insurance provider will not pay out what you expected to get. On the other hand, you can find yourself paying too much premium for a cover that you don’t need.

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Types of contents insurance

There are several ways contents insurance works. The amount of premium you need to pay will depend on the amount of cover you need to insure all your stuff and the extra features that tailor the policy to your possessions.

Bedroom-rated contents insurance

This is the most straightforward type of contents insurance. The amount of premium is calculated by the number of bedrooms in your home. You don’t have to sit down with a calculator to figure out how much all your stuff is worth.

Typically, a bedroom-rated policy will provide between £40,000 and £50,000, which is enough for most households. It might even be over insuring, if you don’t have a lot of high-value items.

On the other hand, if you have expensive gadgets, home-entertainment sets or priceless artwork, the cover might not be enough to pay for everything in the event of total loss.

So, bedroom-rated is the simplest and easiest contents insurance, but depending on your possessions, it might be a bit too expensive or not provide sufficient cover.

Sum-insured contents insurance

This type of contents insurance gives you the possibility to tailor the policy to your exact needs. You can optimise the monthly premium and cover to get the most economic policy that covers everything you have. But, you will also need to spend a fair amount of time and effort to dial down on the details.

You will need to make a detailed list of your belongings and then use purchase receipts and online product prices to figure out what it would cost you to replace each one if they were destroyed completely. It’s always good to round up to a little higher figure to make sure you have enough cover. You can then use the final sum as your policy cover and insure your contents for that.

If you have items that exceed the single article limit (read more below), you will need to provide those in a separate list to your insurer and make sure they are covered as well.

Unlimited sum-insured contents insurance

Even sum-insured policies will have some upper limit placed by the insurance company. Unlimited sum-insured policies have no upper limit, so you can claim as much as you need to fully replace your contents regardless how it costs.

This option is for luxury properties, high-end interior, furniture, private collections, etc. where the cost to replace is upwards of £100,000.

Even unlimited policies are subjected to some rules like single article limits and specific exclusions. Make sure to confirm that all of your valuables are covered. The premium of unlimited sum-insured policies is the highest, so choose carefully before you purchase.

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Single item limit

Single item limit or single article limit is the upper limit to what the insurer will pay for every single item.

Each policy and insurance company can set their own limits, so make sure to check specifically for this. However, as a standard, most policies will give you up to £1,500 for any piece of your belongings – the sofa, fridge, your laptop, or an antique clock.

As long all your items are within the single item limit, you don’t need to do anything else to make sure you’re covered.

However, if you have an expensive golden watch or a unique painting which is more expensive, you must make a separate list and talk to your insurance company about each item specifically to make sure they will be included and covered.

You will have to provide a very accurate value assessment, so be prepared to answer such questions.

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Common features in contents insurance policies

Below is a table with common features that can be found in contents insurance policies. Your insurer might offer them as part of the default policy, or they may be extras which you can add for an increase in price.

You may want or not want to pay for these features, so check what is included and determine if the policy is right for you. Dialling into these options will further customise your contents insurance policy, helping you get a better product.

Feature Description
Accidental damage This option will provide protection against any one-off accident in the house. For example, a burst pipe in the flat above can easily cause a huge leak over your television set.
Matching sets and suites Where part of an expensive set is ruined beyond repair, this option will allow you to claim for the cost of the entire set.
Personal possessions Personal possession are things you take with you when you leave – your purse, jewellery, wallet, mobile phone and your laptop. This option will insure your personal possessions against theft and accidents while you’re out of home.

An additional premium may be paid to insure your phone when you accidentally drop it or get it wet. Your bicycle can also be insured against theft when you cycle to work or to school.

Valuables Under valuables are listed all expensive things in your home: collector items, high-end gadgets and jewellery.  They are considered high-risk items and if you have too many, your policy price will rise. You need to check these items against the single item limit. Any items more expensive than the single item limit needs to be negotiated with the insurer.
Money in the home In the event of a burglary, this option will cover cash and currency you keep at home. It will have some limit so make sure you know what it is and don’t keep more money in cash than your insurer will pay out if it gets stolen.
Outbuildings, sheds and garages If you live in a house, the garage, garden shed and any other outbuildings will be covered under this feature. If you’re a crafty person and keep a lot of tools in the shed, or like to work on your car a lot and have a bunch of spare parts in the garage, those might be worth thousands of pounds.

You want them covered and this is the featured you want to look out for. Make sure that it’s enough and all your things are included in the policy.

Contents in the garden If you have other possessions of worth in the garden, for example, an outdoor grill, or exercise equipment, you want to look out for this feature. Garden furniture may be a different extra, or it may be included in this one. Check the policy to make sure everything you’ve got is covered. Plants and shrubs are probably not be covered.
Loss or theft of keys When you lose a key to your home, or worse if it gets stolen, you want to change the locks at home immediately. Some insurers may require all sets of keys to be lost before the claim is approved. An additional premium may be needed to have locksmith services on demand 24/7.
Business equipment If you do business at home, or if you keep any work-related equipment, you will need to cover them additionally. As a renter, you need special permission to do any business from the property. This will likely require you to have business insurance anyway, so you may already be covered. You need to check and make sure you have what you need. Also, if you’re conducting business at home, you may want to look at indemnity insurance.
Fridge and freezer contents If you keep food stock in large quantities at home, have several freezers and food storage facilities, you will need to ensure the food in a separate tab. The appliances will be covered automatically under the single item cover, but the food will not be, unless you get this feature.
Emergency repairs helpline This feature ensures that there is some number where you can call at any time if you need urgent help at home. As a tenant, you will rely on your landlord for repairs, so it may be their number you need to call. Or it may be the agent’s number, if there is one. You will need to get permission to do your own repairs. However, for urgent repairs, your landlord may appreciate a timely intervention. If you want to get this cover, consult your landlord first and make sure you have permission to use the emergency services in the property.
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Policy excess

Policy excess is very important. Many customers expect that by paying their monthly premium, they will get 100% coverage on any damage or loss they may sustain.

That is not the case. In fact, every contents insurance policy will have something called a policy excess. This is a specified sum that you will have to pay towards the repair bill.

For example, if your excess is £500 and you to claim £1,000, you will need to pay one half and the insurer will pay the other.

If you want to claim £10,000, you will still need to pay £500 and the insurer will pay the rest – £9,500.

Most of the time, the insurance company will allow you to choose the amount of excess you want to pay. Typically, you will be offered a reduction to the premium for agreeing to pay a higher excess.

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Liability cover

Personal liability or personal indemnity cover is a policy option that will cover damage that YOU DO to the property or any items let with it.

Typically, your tenancy deposit serves this same purpose. Having this option in your policy will ensure that your landlord will not need to claim any part of your deposit, meaning you get it in full automatically.

In the recent years, a new deposit free renting system got introduced by a few emerging companies. Essentially, these companies offer to provide tenant liability, charging tenants a premium, if the landlord agrees to not take any deposit.

Similarly, insurance companies now offer personal, or in this case, tenant liability insurance as part of your content insurance policy.

For extra premium, you can make sure that accidental damage to the property or any other claim against you will be covered by your insurance policy.

If you don’t need this option, make sure you’re not paying for it as part of your insurance package.

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Defaqto ratings

With the abundance of insurance companies available and the different types of insurance products and even the variety of contents insurance policies available on the market, choosing the right product is difficult even for the savvy consumers.

Defaqto makes choosing easily by analysing and rating more than 41,000 insurance products and more than 250 finance brands.

Defaqto employes their own finance experts and conducts their own market research, comparing finance products against core criteria and assigning a rating of one to five. Only companies that fit a minimum standard are given 4 and 5 stars, so we recommend to not go any lower.

When considering to purchase any financial product, i.e. contents insurance, we recommend checking their Defaqto rating. The ratings are updated every 1st of February for every product in the catalogue.

Disclaimer: This article is provided as a guide. Any information should be used for research purposes and not as the base for taking legal action. The Tenants' Voice does not provide legal advice and our content does not constitute a client-solicitor relationship.

We advise all tenants to act respectfully with their landlords and letting agents and seek a peaceful resolution to problems with their rented property. For more information, explore the articles in our HMO category.

The Tenants' Voice works in conjunction with Deposit Recovery Claims to assist tenants.

If you experience problems with your tenancy deposit, have disrepair in your rented property or suspect that your landlord should have a licence to rent your property but does not have one then you can receive a free consultation by calling our advice service: Call Tenant Assist on 0333 344 3788.

For more ways to reach us, please visit our contacts page.