What is flat insurance?
Flat insurance offers the same cover as standard home insurance.
It's made up of two parts: buildings and contents.
Buildings insurance protects the structure of your property, including any fixtures and fittings, while contents insurance covers your possessions.
If you live in a flat, you’ll usually only need home insurance that covers your contents. Whether you own or rent the flat will dictate whether you need buildings insurance or not.
- Flat insurance offers the same cover as standard home insurance.
- If you’re a flat owner it’s likely you’re a leaseholder, which means you’re unlikely to be responsible for taking out buildings insurance.
- If you own the freehold for your flat, or a share of the freehold, then buildings insurance is your responsibility or joint responsibility along with the other freeholders.
- Contents insurance is optional. Just be aware that without it, you’ll have to cover the cost yourself if your possessions are stolen or damaged.
Do I need home insurance for my flat?
If you’re a flat owner it’s likely you’re a leaseholder, which means you’re unlikely to be responsible for taking out buildings insurance – it will be up to the freeholder to arrange it. You and your fellow leaseholders will usually pay towards it as part of your service charges.
If you own the freehold for your flat, or a share of the freehold, then buildings insurance is your responsibility or joint responsibility along with the other freeholders.
Your mortgage lender will insist on you having buildings insurance if you have a mortgage on your flat, but contents insurance is up to you. It solely protects your possessions, so it’s not compulsory.
Just be aware that without it, you’ll have to cover the cost yourself if your possessions are stolen or damaged.
|Living situation||Type of insurance|
|You rent a flat||Contents insurance only|
|You rent a flat and share with other people||Contents insurance only|
|You're a leaseholder||Contents insurance only. The freeholder of the block will usually have buildings insurance. But you may need to pay a share of the buildings insurance if the lease requires it - seek legal advice if you’re unsure whether you’re responsible for any of the building’s structure|
|You ’re a freehold flat owner, or own a share of the free hold||Buildings and contents insurance|
What risks does flat insurance provide cover against?
Buildings and contents insurance for flats covers you for the same risks that insurance policies for other types of homes do.
Contents insurance for flats
Contents insurance covers loss of your possessions to things like burglary, fire and flooding.
It covers personal items that aren’t fixed to your flat, such as home appliances and other electrical equipment, clothes, jewellery and furniture.
A good contents policy should include cover for fire, theft and other dangers, but you’ll probably have to pay an additional fee for accidental damage and cover for possessions away from home, as they’re usually sold as optional extras.
Buildings insurance for flats
Buildings insurance will cover the structure of your flat, including your walls, floors and any permanent fixtures and fittings, like your bathroom suite.
Although you may not have to arrange your own buildings cover as a leaseholder, you’ll usually contribute towards the cost of the policy through your service charge.
If you own the freehold or a share of the freehold, then it's up to you and those who own the other shares of the freehold to arrange cover for the building.
Check your policy wording for how it covers:
- Communal areas and gardens
- Public liability claims
- Flats that are left unoccupied for more than 30 days
- Home refurbishments by flat owners
If you aren’t sure who’s responsible for insuring the building’s structure, you should seek legal advice.
Insurance for flat landlords
If you own a flat that you rent out to tenants, you’ll need to take out landlord insurance.
This type of insurance provides buildings cover to protect against loss from things like fire and weather damage, plus any contents owned by you in the flat. But it can also protect landlords from financial losses associated with renting out a property, like loss of rent and legal expenses cover.
What policy extras should I think about?
Certain types of protection don’t always come as standard with flat insurance but can be added to your policy for an extra cost. You may want to consider:
- Accidental damage - Damage to your possessions or property that’s the result of an accident, such as spilling paint over your carpet, or a ball being kicked through your window
- Personal belongings away from home - Protects belongings that you take out of the flat. For example, losing your mobile phone on a day out or leaving your laptop in a cafe
- Home emergency cover - This will pay out for certain types of emergency work to restore vital services and prevent further damage to your flat if a catastrophe like a burst pipe or boiler breakdown happens
- Legal expenses cover - Helps pay for the cost of taking a case to court, like a personal injury or a property dispute. It can also cover the cost of defending a legal action against you or your family - say, if someone was injured when they tripped over a carpet in your flat and wants to sue
- Matching items cover - If you damage something that’s part of a set, for example a chair from a three-piece suite, this cover will pay the cost of replacing the whole matching set if the damaged item can’t be exactly replaced or repaired
- Bicycle cover - This covers accidental loss or damage to pedal or electrically-powered bikes up to a set maximum amount
How much does flat insurance cost?
Your home insurance premium is calculated based on a variety of factors, including the value of your possessions, the rebuild cost of your home, your postcode and more.
According to our data, combined buildings and contents insurance costs around £180 a year.
Individual policies are almost always cheaper, but they may not give you the coverage you need.
You should always find out policies are available, what cover you need and what you can afford before purchasing a policy.
*The average price paid annually for home insurance purchased in June 2023 by type of cover. For buildings and contents insurance, it was £180. For buildings insurance only, it was £141. For contents insurance only, it was £66.
Does insurance cost more for high-rise blocks of flats?
After the Grenfell Tower fire tragedy in 2017, buildings insurance premiums increased dramatically for many leaseholders of medium and high-rise blocks clad in combustible materials or with other fire-risk issues.
At the government’s request, the Financial Conduct Authority (FCA) carried out a review and in September 2022 set out a range of recommendations to give leaseholders greater protection from high prices in the buildings insurance market.
The package of recommendations includes creating a cross-industry risk-sharing pool to limit the risk to individual insurers posed by covering buildings affected by flammable cladding or other material fire safety risks. By sharing and reducing risk, insurers should be able to reduce the price of insurance for these buildings.
How to find cheaper flat insurance quotes
There are a few ways to cut the cost of insuring your flat:
- Pay for what you need - Check what’s covered by communal policies and your freeholder’s insurance before you buy.
- Don't auto-renew - Comparing quotes can save you money.
- Pay annually - Paying in a lump sum means you won’t have to pay interest on monthly instalments.
Frequently asked questions
It depends on the policy. But in most cases, a buildings insurance policy will cover communal areas such as hallways, gardens and car parks against damage. Policies will also generally cover fixtures and fittings in these areas. But be sure to check.
If you're renting a property, you’ll only need contents insurance - it's up to the landlord to protect their investment with buildings cover.
There are a few complications if you're renting a room in a shared flat.
For a start, it can be hard to get everyone to agree to taking out a policy. Not everyone sees home insurance as essential.
There's also the danger that your flatmates' actions could invalidate your cover. For example, if they leave the door unlocked or a window open and that's how a thief gets in.
Some insurers won’t cover shared flats, or will have exclusions in the policy, especially if bedrooms don't have their own locks.
You should still be able to find flat insurance easily enough, but your choice of provider might be limited, which can mean higher premiums.
But you must always make it clear to insurers what the living arrangements in your shared flat are or you risk invalidating your policy.
A water leak in a block of flats can get complicated - the damage caused might be covered by several different policies within the same building.
That can make it hard to establish whose responsibility it is to deal with the problem.
Ceri McMillan, our home insurance expert says, “If you’re in a leasehold flat, the main pipes will probably be the responsibility of the freeholder.
“Check your tenancy agreement if you’re renting as your landlord might be responsible for them.”
Properties that are part commercial and part residential can be tricky to insure. Many insurers don’t offer cover for both, so you’ll need a separate business insurance and home insurance policy for each.
If you don’t own the business premises, but simply lease the flat, getting contents insurance should be much easier.
Premiums tend to be more expensive for a flat above a commercial property that’s a security risk or at increased risk of fire damage – for instance a takeaway or restaurant.