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. Sometimes, if you're renting your flat, this is called tenants insurance.
Whether you need buildings insurance or not, 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:
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.
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 or tenants 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.
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.
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:
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