Contents insurance is there to make sure that, should your possessions be damaged or stolen, you’re not left counting the cost.

However, this financial cover can be confusing and if you’re not careful, you could end up with an unsuitable policy that means you’re either paying more than you need to or you don’t have sufficient protection. If contents insurance leaves you scratching your head, this guide should help.

What does it cover - and do you need it?

Broadly speaking, contents insurance protects the possessions you would take with you into your new house. For example, it covers clothes, jewellery, toys, ornaments and soft furnishings such as bedding and cushions, as well as electricals like TVs, DVD players and stereos. It also covers any of your own furnishings that you may have in your rental property.

There's no requirement for you to have this cover in place, but it's important to consider how much it'd cost you to replace these possessions yourself. No matter how careful you are, there's always a risk that your home contents will be damaged or stolen. Unless you're confident that you could afford to replace these items, it might be worth investing in suitable cover. As well as helping to safeguard your finances, insurance can give you greater peace of mind. It means you won't have to worry that you'll be left out of pocket if something goes wrong.

Understanding your policy excess

If you take out contents insurance, you'll encounter something called your policy excess. This is the amount of money you'll need to pay if you ever make a claim. For example, if your policy excess is set at £100 and you have to make a claim for £2,000, your insurer will pay £1,900, and you'll be expected to cover the rest.

What's tenancy liability cover?

As a tenant, you'll have slightly different insurance needs to those of a property owner. For example, if you damage your landlord's furnishings, fixtures or fittings, they may require you to cover the cost of any repairs. In fact, this might be specified in your tenancy agreement. This is where tenancy liability cover comes into play. It ensures that if you do cause any accidental damage, you won't have to fork out for repairs or replacements yourself. HomeLet's Tenancy Liability Insurance gives cover of up to £10,000 for accidental damage to your landlord's furniture or fixtures and fittings that you're liable for under your tenancy agreement. Having protection like this in place can help you to feel more relaxed in your rental home.

Beyond the basics: adapting your policy to suit your needs

Contents insurance isn't a case of one size fits all. These policies can differ markedly in terms of their add-ons and exclusions, so it's important to spend some time ensuring that the product you choose meets your needs. Our Tenants Content Insurance automatically includes a range of policy features, including tenancy liability; accidental damage to TVs, audio equipment, DVDs, videos and personal computer equipment; pedal bikes kept within the boundaries of your property; and contents stored in outbuildings or garages. On top of your basic policy, you might want to take advantage of special add-ons that increase your level of cover.

Perhaps you'd benefit from an extension to your accidental damage protection to include more of your household contents, including your mobile phones. You might also want additional personal belongings cover that protects your possessions even when you take them out of your home. If you cycle a lot, it's worth thinking about getting a pedal cycle extension, which covers your bikes when they're outside the boundaries of your property. Then there's personal legal protection to consider. This can provide you with legal cover to protect yourself against common legal issues without a fear that you'll rack up big solicitors' bills.

Common contents insurance mistakes

It's easy to make mistakes when it comes to contents cover. To help you avoid any financial faux pas, here are a few of the most common errors.

Not keeping your cover up-to-date: Once you've purchased your policy, you might think you can forget about your insurance for the duration of your contract. However, it's important to realise that you may need to update your policy if your circumstances or possessions change. Failing to do this could result in you invalidating your insurance or finding you have insufficient cover.

For example, if you purchase valuables such as jewellery or electronics above the single item limit on your policy, you may need to amend your cover. Similarly, if you make a series of purchases, you might have to raise the total sum insured to reflect your new setup.

Failing to pay full attention to the terms and conditions: Many of us are guilty of not reading the small print in contracts, but when you're getting home insurance, it's crucial that you spend some time familiarising yourself with the finer details. This will help you to avoid unwelcome surprises further down the line. Pay particular attention to details like the security measures you're expected to have in place in your home, the exclusions that apply and how many consecutive days your home can remain unoccupied before your policy is invalidated.

Not holding onto the relevant receipts: To ensure any claims you need to make on your contents cover can be processed quickly and smoothly, it's important to keep clear, accurate and up-to-date records of your possessions. By storing all the relevant receipts and other proofs of purchase in a safe place, you can be sure you'll have access to them if and when they're needed. This is especially important for higher value items.

On hand to help

We hope this guide clears up any confusion surrounding tenants' content insurance. If you'd like to find out more about this topic or you want to talk to us about the cover we offer, don't hesitate to get in touch. Our experts are available to answer any questions you might have.