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Information written by Holly Bennett , Rhiannon Philps Last updated on 17 June 2022.

What is landlord insurance?

Landlord insurance, or buy-to-let insurance, is a type of insurance for a property you own and rent out to tenants. It can protect landlords from many of the risks involved in renting out a property and can include a range of different types of cover, including buildings and contents insurance, liability insurance, and more.

This type of protection helps cover the cost if your rental property and belongings in the rental property are damaged after a covered event, such as a fire or a storm, while public liability can cover any compensation costs if tenants or visitors are injured on your property and you are found liable.

What sets landlord insurance apart from standard home insurance is the fact that cover is geared towards potential issues with a property you let. These include protection if tenants don’t pay the rent, and cover for accidental or malicious damage.

Some features are add-ons that you pay extra for, while others are included as standard. As policies vary, make sure you’re clear on what you’ll be covered for before buying your insurance.

Types of landlord insurance

Landlord insurance is available for both residential and commercial properties. Whatever kind of property you want to insure, there are a number of different types of cover you could take out.

Buildings insurance

Buildings insurance covers the bricks and mortar and permanent fixtures and fittings. It can also potentially include driveways, gates and other permanent structures within the boundary of your property. The cover amount should be what it would cost to rebuild the property from scratch, which isn’t the same as the market value.

Contents insurance

Contents insurance is for your belongings in the rental property, such as kitchenware, electricals and furniture, carpets, rugs and curtains. The cover amount should be enough to replace all your belongings there. Bear in mind that this would only cover contents belonging to you, not your tenants.

Property owners’ liability insurance

Property owners’ liability insurance, or public liability insurance, covers you if tenants or other third parties are injured while on your property and makes a claim for damages.

Optional extras

Many insurers will allow you to add extras to your policy if they are not already included in the standard cover. Other cover options that may be included in your policy or that you can add on may include:

  • accidental or intentional damage caused by tenants
  • loss of rent if nobody can live there because the property is uninhabitable
  • rent guarantee insurance to cover any loss of earnings if tenants don’t pay rent that’s due
  • emergency cover to pay for any call-out fees and labour costs for fixing urgent issues, such as a boiler breakdown or pest infestation
  • employer’s liability insurance, if you employ someone to work on your property, such as a cleaner or gardener (excluding contractors employed by someone else or self-employed workers)
  • lost keys and broken locks
  • legal costs for dealing with issues such as a breach of tenancy

What does landlord insurance cover?

You will usually be covered for damage after these unexpected events as standard on a landlord insurance policy:

  • flooding
  • escape of water
  • storms and earthquakes
  • subsidence
  • fire
  • theft
  • vandalism and malicious damage

You are likely to have a level of public liability cover as standard, which helps protect you from the cost of claims if someone is injured in your property.

The cost of accommodation for your tenants if their home becomes unsafe to live in, up to a maximum amount, may also be included.

Usually there is a maximum amount you can make a claim for, which the insurer should set out in the policy documents. However, this can vary depending on the type of damage or loss.

Landlord insurance can also cover you for limited periods when the rental property has nobody living in it, such as when you’re between tenants. It’s usually a longer period of time than standard home insurance, typically between 45 and 90 days.

Always check how many days in a row your policy allows. If you leave it empty for longer than that and don’t let your insurer know, it could invalidate your cover.

If your property will be vacant beyond the maximum days specified, you may need to take out separate unoccupied property insurance for that period.

What landlord insurance doesn’t usually cover

It’s important to know that landlord insurance won’t cover every kind of damage. For example, you won’t usually be able to make a claim on a standard landlord insurance policy for the following issues:

  • Damage as a result of botched repairs or neglecting to fix an issue, such as blocked gutters. Insurers expect you to keep your part of the deal and maintain your property to a decent level.
  • Wear and tear or gradual damage, or items that are at the end of their useful life. Insurance is for unexpected and sudden events, not damage over time.
  • Accidental damage, for example, if your tenants or their guests knock something over or make a dent in the wall by mistake, unless you have this as an add-on.
  • Damage caused by a tenant’s pets. Not even accidental damage cover is likely to include this, though pet damage cover may be available for some policies.
  • Damage after pest infestations is usually only included if you have home emergency cover.
  • Damage to anything that belongs to your tenants. They will need their own renters contents insurance to cover their own possessions.

» COMPARE: Home insurance

Do you need landlord insurance?

There is no law stating you must have buildings or contents insurance for a rental property, though it may be considered sensible to have some protection.

However, bear in mind that if you have a mortgage for the rental, your mortgage lender will generally insist that you have buy-to-let buildings insurance.

If you do take out cover, it needs to be valid for what you’re using the property for. This means you couldn’t just take out standard home insurance instead of specialist landlord cover as it won’t cover the additional risks that come with being a landlord.

You don’t necessarily have to have both buildings and contents insurance for your rental. For example, if the property is unfurnished and you have no belongings in it, you may decide to just have buildings insurance for the structure, fixtures and fittings.

But given that freestanding white goods, such as fridges, and carpets and curtains in the property, count as contents, you may consider cover to protect you from the cost of replacing them.

If you own your property leasehold – in a block of flats, for example – it is likely that your property may have buildings insurance arranged by the freeholder and paid for through your service charges, but it is always worth making sure this is the case.

If you rent out a commercial property, such as shops and offices, you’ll need commercial property cover.

How much does landlord insurance cost?

Landlord insurance may cost more to insure than a residential property you live in due to the extra risks that come with a rental property. So you may pay more than you pay for your own home insurance policy.

Having said that, this may not be the case for a landlord who, say, only needs minimal contents cover for their leasehold flat rental, due to having the buildings insurance as part of their service charges, while their main residence is a listed building with high-value belongings.

Some of the factors that can affect the cost of your premiums include:

  • the property’s postcode
  • how you choose to pay (annually or by instalments)
  • your claims history
  • how many properties the policy covers
  • the type of tenants you rent to (employed, self employed, etc)
  • the level of cover you choose
  • any voluntary excess you agree to pay
  • how much it would cost to rebuild the property
  • building type (listed building, new build, etc)

The easiest way to find out the likely cost of landlord insurance that takes your specific circumstances and cover needs into account is to get a quote.

How can I get landlord insurance?

To get a landlord insurance quote, you will need to give the insurer a range of information, including:

  • your name, address, and other personal details
  • the type of property you want to insure
  • the number of properties you want to insure
  • details about the property you want to insure, including its age and size
  • the type of tenants in the property
  • any previous claims
  • the level of cover you want

You don’t have to take the first policy you see, or the quote your current insurer offers you at renewal if you already have a policy. To get competitive landlord insurance quotes, you could compare a number of policies and prices for the cover you need.

You can get quotes from a number of insurers using Quotezone’s comparison tool. Just fill in a few details and it will search the market across many lenders. You can then choose from deals matched to you. You can also approach insurers directly or use a broker.

Landlord Insurance FAQs

Is it a legal requirement for a landlord to have insurance?

No, landlord insurance isn’t compulsory, and there’s no law to say you have to have it. But it may be something to consider because without this cover in place, you would be faced with the cost of repairs and replacements if the worst happened.

Without liability cover, you could also face compensation costs from claims made against you if visitors or tenants are injured in the property. Landlord insurance also helps you maintain your responsibilities towards your tenants, as it can cover the cost of temporary accommodation or repairs in an emergency.

Even though landlord insurance isn’t legally required, there are a few things to be aware of, though:

  • If you have a mortgage on your buy to let, it’s likely you will need to take out landlord buildings insurance as a condition of your mortgage agreement.
  • If you have a standard mortgage, you must tell your lender before you let out your home, or it could be seen as mortgage fraud.
  • If you have standard home insurance on a rental property you don’t live in, rather than landlord insurance, your policy won’t usually be valid. This means if you make a claim, your insurer may not pay out.

How can I get cheaper landlord insurance quotes?

While the premium you pay is based on many factors, you may be offered lower premiums if the following applies:

  • You’ve made few or no recent claims on a landlord insurance policy.
  • You agree to pay a higher voluntary excess.
  • You take out a combined buildings and contents insurance policy, rather than two separate policies.
  • You only choose the add-ons you need and don’t get a higher level of cover than necessary.
  • You have good security in place at the property, such as an intruder alarm.

Cheaper landlord insurance isn’t always the best insurance, though. The cover needs to be right for you, or it isn’t doing its job. You may also consider that you don’t want to take the risk of being underinsured or choosing a low excess when you can’t afford a smaller payout.

By shopping around for quotes, you can compare competitive prices for the cover you need.

Who pays for building insurance: the landlord or the tenant?

The landlord is responsible for taking out buildings insurance on a rental. The landlord pays the premiums, not the tenant.

If you’re a landlord and it’s a leasehold property, the responsibility for taking out cover for the building is with the freeholder, though check that they have cover and read what is and isn’t included. If it’s a block of flats, you may need buildings insurance for your flat’s permanent fixtures and fittings, such as built-in kitchens, if the main freeholder insurance policy doesn’t include these.

Is landlord insurance tax deductible?

Yes. Insurance on a rental property that is only used for that purpose is an allowable expense, so you can currently claim it back.

Tax relief may also apply when you replace items after wear and tear in a part- or fully-furnished property. So while you can’t make a claim for damage over time on your insurance policy, you may be able to deduct the cost of replacing certain domestic items, such as beds and fridges, from your rental property income. You can find out more about up to date tax relief for landlords on the government website.

Is landlord insurance the same as building insurance?

Landlord insurance is an umbrella term for cover that can include buildings insurance, contents insurance and liability cover. Buildings insurance on a rental property is just one type of landlord insurance.

What does landlord contents insurance cover?

Landlord contents insurance provides cover for any of your belongings that are in the rental property. So if you’re renting out a property part-furnished or fully-furnished, that might mean any wardrobes, tables, white goods, sofas and beds that belong to you will be covered. It also includes curtains and carpets. Standard cover would pay out, up to a maximum amount, if they are damaged, destroyed or stolen.

More comprehensive cover can include if tenants cause damage to your home or belongings by accident or intentionally. General wear and tear and when belongings come to the end of their useful life aren’t covered by landlord insurance.

Do I need contents insurance as a landlord?

Like buildings insurance, there is no law that says you must have contents insurance. But even if your property is unfurnished, you may consider protecting your carpets, curtains and white goods with cover. You may also find some extras, such as home emergency cover and accidental damage cover could potentially be useful.

Your contents insurance won’t cover your tenants’ belongings, though. They will need to take out their own renters insurance to protect their own things.

Can I get landlord insurance on a residential mortgage?

No, landlord insurance will only be valid if you are allowed to let out your property. You can’t let out a property on a residential mortgage (unless you have permission from your mortgage lender in the form of a consent to let), which means any landlord insurance on the property is likely to be invalid if you don’t have that permission.

If you had the wrong kind of mortgage and tried to claim on your landlord insurance, the insurer is unlikely to pay out.

Can I get landlord insurance for an unoccupied property?

Unoccupied properties can appear riskier to insurers, as there’s more chance of problems with the property being left to worsen without anyone there to report them.

Standard landlord insurance policies will often still cover your property for a limited number of days when it is empty, such as if you’re between tenants. You may need to contact your insurer if it is unoccupied and again when tenants move in again.

If your property is empty for longer than the specified period, your cover may also be more limited, or, in some cases, the insurer may not cover you at all. If you do have cover, you may need to meet certain requirements, such as switching off the mains and regularly visiting the property.

If you know a property of yours will be empty for a long period of time, you could choose to take out specialist unoccupied property insurance.

What optional add-on features should I consider?

It depends on what’s important to you, what would bring you peace of mind and what you can afford. That may mean you consider rent guarantee insurance to cover the cost of unpaid rent, emergency call-out cover, accidental damage cover, or legal expenses if you have problems with your tenants and need to take them to court.

Before you pay for extras, check what’s already included in the standard policy so you don’t get more cover than you need.

About the author:

Holly champions clear, jargon-free writing. She’s been creating finance content for leading organisations for over 10 years. Read more

Rhiannon is a financial writer for NerdWallet, with a particular interest in personal finance and insurance guides for consumers. Read more