Flat insurance

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Do I need flat insurance?

As with home insurance in general, there are two areas to consider when it comes to flat insurance - contents insurance and buildings insurance.

Contents insurance protects against the loss, damage or theft of your belongings. However, with flat insurance, whether you need to take out buildings cover largely depends on whether you own the freehold for the flat or if it’s leasehold instead.

Buildings insurance for flats

Buildings insurance covers you against damage and loss to the structure of your flat, including private garages, exterior and interior walls, roofs and flooring. It also covers all the permanent fixtures and fittings of your flat against events like fire, flood, theft and vandalism.

If you take out buildings insurance on a flat because you own the freehold or a share of the freehold, you should check that the policy will cover the costs of rebuilding the property. Ideally, you should also find a policy that covers you and your household for alternative accommodation should your flat ever become uninhabitable due to events like fire and flood.

Contents insurance for flats

Regardless of whether you own the flat through freehold or leasehold, or are just renting it, contents insurance will protect your household goods and personal belongings against loss, damage or theft.

Contents insurance generally covers items that are not part of the fixtures and fittings of your flat, so it should cover your appliances, devices, jewellery, furniture and clothes.

What’s covered varies from policy to policy, but you should make sure your contents are at least insured for events like fire, flood, escape of water and burglary. With flats, damage can sometimes be caused by neighbouring properties – perhaps a water leak from the flat above you.

This is one reason why contents insurance for flats can work out a bit pricier versus contents insurance for houses. Our contents insurance calculator may be able to help give you a better idea of how much cover you'll need.

Some policies will also cover your belongings against accidental damage, or may let you add this type of cover on at an extra cost. Again, depending on the policy, you may get liability to third parties included, covering against claims of injury from someone who is hurt while visiting the property.

Your policy may also include liability to staff cover, insuring you against claims of injury from staff you may employ at your property.

Legal expense cover is among the other benefits sometimes included, which may also be offered as optional extras, giving you access to legal advice as well as covering legal fees you may incur that relate to your property.

Home emergency cover is another benefit that sometimes gets included – it can pay the cost of calling out tradesmen in a household emergency.

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Contents insurance for shared flats

Getting contents insurance for flat shares is a little more complicated. If you share a flat, contents insurance can be more expensive and not as easy to find. One concern for insurers is that an old tenant may still have the keys, while burglars are also known to target shared accommodation.

All of this adds to the insurance risks, and some insurers just don’t want to know. Others who do offer cover may only cover theft where there is evidence of forced entry, so they won’t pay out if you have light-fingered flatmates.

Again, others will offer protection. By shopping around, you should still find a good choice of insurers who will give you the cover you need.

You may be able to take out contents insurance for the entire flat with your flatmates, but an individual policy should be easier to manage in terms of paying the premiums and dealing with changes in personal circumstances. With an individual policy, it’s also more straightforward to work out how much cover you need.

What is freeholder insurance?

If you own the freehold or a share of the freehold for your flat, then you’ll need to take out buildings cover.

  • Owning the freehold to your flat means you have total, outright ownership of the apartment, with all the responsibility this brings.
  • Share of freehold means you share the responsibility for the building with other flat owners. Either way, you’ll need buildings insurance for flats where you own any sort of freehold on the property.

Mortgage providers will insist on buildings insurance if you’re buying the freehold to a flat. If you don’t take out buildings insurance then the structure of your flat won’t be insured against hazards like fire and flood.

Can I take out buildings insurance for flats with leasehold?

If you own your flat through a leasehold rather than as a freehold, then you won’t need to take out buildings insurance. This is because responsibility for buildings insurance falls on whoever owns the freehold to the property.

Where a leasehold arrangement for a flat is in place, you’ll often find that you pay toward the cost of insurance for the building as part of your service and management charge. This fee generally also includes the cost of general maintenance for communal areas, including cleaning.

When you buy a flat on leasehold, your solicitor or mortgage company will likely ask for evidence that the freeholder has buildings insurance in place. Most people who own a flat in the UK do so through a leasehold structure rather than owning the freehold themselves.

Will I need buildings insurance if I rent a flat?

Buildings insurance is the responsibility of whoever owns the freehold to the property. So if you’re renting a flat you definitely don’t need to take out buildings insurance. However, it’s certainly worth getting contents insurance to protect your belongings.

Do I need flat insurance if I'm a landlord?

If you’re a landlord and rent out a flat, you should get a policy to cover against the risks linked to your rental property. Landlord insurance can cover against any unexpected costs or disputes that arise between you and your tenants.

If you own the freehold to the property then you should take out both landlord buildings and contents insurance. Should you be renting out a flat for which you own the leasehold, then you won’t normally need to take out buildings insurance as this is the responsibility of whoever owns the freehold to the building.

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What our home insurance expert says:

If you’re looking to save money on your flat insurance, my top tip is to compare quotes. Don’t auto renew or jump at the first option, check the policy details to make sure you have the cover you need for your flat. That way if you need to make claim you won’t be left out of pocket.
Jessica Willock home insurance expert signature

Jessica Willock

Home insurance product manager