Find out which type of home insurance you may need as a council tenant.
Home insurance comes in two parts: buildings insurance and contents insurance.
Buildings insurance covers the structure of your home, plus its fixtures and fittings, if they’re damaged or destroyed by unexpected and disastrous events like fires and floods.
Contents insurance is designed to protect your household possessions and pay to repair or replace them if they’re stolen, lost, damaged or destroyed.
It’s the responsibility of the council to provide buildings insurance for the homes they rent out. So, as a council tenant, you don’t need to worry about that part of home insurance. Buildings cover is usually factored into your rental costs.
It’s important to know that the council won’t insure your possessions.
To protect your belongings from theft or damage that’s the result of things like fire, flood and vandalism, you need to take out your own contents insurance policy.
It’s there to cover things like your furniture, carpets, curtains, electrical items, pictures and clothing; everything you’d take if you move home.
You can add accidental damage to your home contents policy, too. It will protect you against all sorts of mishaps - like spilling something over the sofa or hammering into a water pipe while doing DIY.
In many cases, councils offer their tenants schemes where they can purchase affordable specialist home contents insurance through them.
The insurance usually offers low minimum sums insured, starting from about £5,000. And there’s often no excess to pay on any claim.
Policies like this can normally be paid for weekly, fortnightly or in monthly instalments and, in some cases, can be added to your rent.
Check the policy carefully before buying. It might not necessarily be the cheapest for your circumstances. You should also ensure that the sum insured is enough to cover the replacement of all your possessions if you were to lose everything in a fire or flood.
Compare contents insurance with other providers and get alternative quotes to choose the cover that best suits your needs.
It’s not compulsory to have contents insurance. But you should think about whether you’d be able to replace your possessions if something was to happen to them.
What if your TV, laptop, games console and clothes were stolen in a burglary? Or if the entire contents of your ground floor were ruined in a flood? Could you afford to start again if you lost everything in a fire?
Contents insurance can help protect you in these scenarios, so you’re not left out of pocket.
In many cases, ‘new for old cover’ means you’ll be reimbursed for the amount it would cost to buy the product new.
You’ll need to let your insurer have an estimate of the value of your belongings, so you get the right level of cover to protect all your possessions.
That means walking around your home, making a list of all that you own in it, and estimating how much each item costs. You need to include everything from carpets and curtains to clothes and jewellery, as well as all your tech and appliances, plus things you keep in the shed or garage.
Our home contents insurance calculator can help you add up everything.
Like all home contents policies, what you pay will depend on several factors.
Things like where you live will have a bearing. If your home is in an area that experiences high levels of burglaries, then you can expect higher premiums because of this extra risk.
The size of your home also has an impact on price - the more bedrooms you have, the more you can expect to pay.
Plus, the price of your premiums will also depend on the value of your contents and possessions.
If you buy your council house, you usually purchase the freehold, which means you own the fabric of the building and the land on which it’s built. Buildings insurance will therefore be your responsibility to buy.
If you take out a mortgage to buy your council house, it will be a condition of your provider that you have buildings insurance in place.
When you buy a council flat or maisonette, you’ll usually be purchasing it on a leasehold basis. The bricks and mortar of the building will still be owned by the council. They’ll be responsible for upkeep of the building and for providing buildings insurance - a proportion of which will usually be recharged to you as part of an annual service charge.
If a tradesperson from the council comes into your home and causes damage, like hammering a nail into a water pipe which causes a flood, then the council would be responsible for the cost of replacing anything that was ruined, like your carpet.
As long as you can prove that the damage was directly caused by the council, then you have a claim against them.
If it can’t be proven that the damage to your belongings was the fault of the council, then your home contents policy should cover you for most events and for mishaps if you have accidental damage on your policy.
In rare cases, councils set aside contingency money to repair damages instead of taking out buildings insurance.
They may also ask tenants to sign a contract accepting that they’ll pay for ‘deliberate or negligent damage.’
This could mean tenants would be liable for costs if damage was their fault.
An alternative solution may be to take out tenants’ liability insurance, designed to protect you in case you accidentally damage your landlord’s property.