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Flat insurance for owners and renters

Who's responsible for making sure your flat is insured?

A couple looking up at the balcony of their flat

Freehold or leasehold; rented or flat sharing. Find out why flat insurance is different to house insurance.

Insuring a flat can be more tricky than insuring a house. When you own a house, you tend to own the whole building and garden. When you own or rent a flat, someone else often owns the building and garden. So, what type of insurance do you need for your flat?

Two types of insurance for your flat

There are two types of insurance for your flat: buildings insurance and contents insurance.

Buildings insurance covers the actual structure of the building against things like flood, fire, vandalism and theft. The structure includes the walls, footpaths, private garages and permanent fixtures and fittings.

Contents insurance covers you for damage to the contents of your flat. This includes soft furnishings, televisions, valuables and household goods that are ruined by flood, fire, vandalism or theft. You can also get additional insurance for accidental damage to your contents.

Buildings insurance for freehold flats

Whether you need buildings insurance or not for your flat depends on whether you own the freehold. Often, the landlord holds the freehold and will be responsible for insuring the building. If you own the freehold, or if you're part of a committee that owns the building, you are collectively responsible for the buildings insurance.

Insuring a building of flats is more complicated than insuring a single house. Aside from checking that the rebuild costs are covered and the insurance company will pay for alternative accommodation if all occupants need to move out after a fire or flood, you should also check that the insurance covers:

  • Communal areas, including communal gardens
  • Liability cover for accidents if someone visiting hurts themselves
  • Flats that stay unoccupied for any length of time
  • Additional refurbishment by flat owners
  • Employer's liability if you employ security staff for example

Buildings insurance for leasehold flats

If you own the leasehold on your flat, the landlord (the freeholder) is responsible for insuring the building. But before you buy the leasehold, you'll want to make sure the building is covered in case of disaster. Actually, your mortgage company will probably ask to see a copy of the insurance document to make sure it's adequate.

The cost of this insurance is likely to be included in the service charge you'll be asked to pay when you move in to your flat. This charge covers the costs of general maintenance of the building, gardens and communal areas, plus insurances and any staff wages.

If you own the leasehold on your flat, the landlord (the freeholder) is responsible for insuring the building.

Contents insurance for your flat

Now this is a bit less complicated! If you want to make sure the contents of your home are covered for things like flood, fire, vandalism or theft, you will need to take out contents insurance.

Regardless of whether you have a freehold or leasehold, or if you rent your flat, you need to insure your own possessions. Your landlord is not responsible for doing this. Although in some cases, for example student halls accommodation, the landlord may provide some contents insurance.

Flat sharing

If you share a flat, you can take out cover for the whole flat with your flatmates or cover for your possessions only. A joint policy is not always the best idea, as you'll need to make sure everyone pays on time and you'll have to change the policy details every time a flatmate moves out.

Be sure to tell your insurance company that you're sharing a flat. They need to know who else is in the flat and which valuables need to be insured. For example, you may need to insure your bicycle separately if you leave it in a communal hallway. If you stick to taking out your own insurance, it's much easier to work out how much insurance cover you'll need.

If you share a flat, you can take out cover for the whole flat with your flatmates or cover for your possessions only.

Accidental damage cover for your contents

Contents insurance will pay out if your carpet needs replacing because of a leaking pipe, but it won't pay out if it gets ruined because you spill a pot of paint on it. To claim for that, you need to take out accidental damage cover.

Extended accidental damage covers you for things like:

  • DIY accidents,
  • damage by children and pets,
  • spillages and stains.

Home emergency cover

When you live in a flat, it may not just be your carpet that's ruined by a leak. It could also damage the ceiling of the flat below.

Your home insurance will usually cover the damage done, but to make sure it's kept to a minimum, you can opt for home emergency cover. This type of insurance provides 24/7 emergency help and will pay for repairs up to a certain limit if your heating breaks down or your plumping springs a leak. Please note: you can only get home emergency cover if you've got our home buildings insurance.

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