Archive for October, 2013

How to insure the contents of your rented property


House prices remain beyond the reach of many people.  Mortgages are also harder to come by as banks tighten up on their lending criteria, so more people are renting instead of buying a home.

But renting comes with responsibilities.  Tenants obviously have to pay the rent and most of the bills, but many overlook contents insurance.

It isn’t compulsory to insure your belongings, but it is usually a good idea. You might not think you own many personal possessions, but their value can soon add up. Do you have a television, an iPod, a laptop computer, a DVD collection, a mobile phone? Also, how much would it cost to replace all of your stuff if it was stolen or damaged by fire?


What does tenants insurance cover?

Contents insurance for tenants typically covers your possessions against loss or damage by fire, smoke, lightning, theft, flood and escape of water and oil.  It does not only cover personal belongings, but also typically includes any furniture and electrical items such as washing machines and tumble dryers – even your bicycle.

However, different insurers offer different policies. Some, for example, will not insure your contents if you live in shared accommodation, such as a student house. Others might refuse to quote if you rent a property that is already furnished.

Don’t confuse contents with buildings insurance, which covers the structure of the building and is the responsibility of the landlord.

How much cover do I need?

It’s not always easy to work out how much it would cost to replace your home contents. Some insurers offer online calculators, but the best advice is simply to make a list of everything you own, room by room.

Try to keep the figure up to date and remember to contact your insurer if you buy a bigger ticket item, such as a flat screen television that could affect your contents cover.

If you own anything particularly valuable, you might have to give details on the policy. There will also most likely be a limit on any claim.


Is a basic policy adequate?

If you buy only basic contents insurance for tenants, it will usually be cheaper than a policy that offers wider cover.  But some added extras might well be worth the added premium.

You can extend your policy to cover your personal possessions when you take them out of your home –  for example, your mobile phone, iPod or camera. The extra cover shouldn’t be too expensive and will buy you peace of mind.

Most insurers will also agree to insure your own and your landlords contents against accidental damage – and the cover can be very useful. If you include accidental damage, your insurance would pay out if, for example, you spilt paint on the landlord’s carpet. You would not only save yourself the expense of a new carpet, but would also safeguard your deposit.

How can I save money on my tenants contents insurance?

The best way to save money is to shop around for a cheap quote. But always remember to compare like with like. A policy might be cheap because it does not offer adequate cover.


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10 classic student house arguments – and how to avoid them


Living in a student house can be one of university’s greatest pleasures – but there are arguments that will happen. Who knew that not doing the washing up or coming in late could cause such a stir?

Who gets the biggest room when moving in

There’s always one housemate who is convinced they have some kind of entitlement when it comes to nabbing the biggest room. Solutions:

  • Weight the rent, so the person with the biggest room pays more
  • Draw straws

The utter mess in the kitchen

You come home from a long day at uni and can’t get to the sink because of the sky high pile of pots and pans. Solutions:

  • Use the wash up as you are going along rule – nothing stays unwashed for over 30 minutes
  • Have a washing up/drying up/tidy kitchen rota
  • Put the dirty washing up in the bed of the person who refuses to do it

The housemate who always has their boyfriend/girlfriend over to stay

Their name is not on the lease, they definitely do not live at your house, but you see them more than some other housemates. And they’re always PDA-ing on the couch. Solutions:

  • Explain why it’s annoying. It’s not personal, you just want some space back
  • Suggest if they are going to stay over that much, then maybe they should contribute to rent/bills
  • Maliciously and coldheartedly plan to split them up

How to pay and split the bills

So the joint account seemed like a good idea until people’s money stopped going in and the direct debit ‘bounced’ (incurring a charge), and the electricity bill was forgotten about (another charge) which was surprisingly massive anyway, and someone’s in South America for three months and God knows what happened to the sixth housemate. Solutions:

  • Get everyone to put in more money than will be needed in the account as soon as loans are paid – then pay excess back (this is a good way of saving a little reserve cash too)
  • Becoming ‘self-sufficient’ – make your own electricity with a giant hamster wheel, and use candles and oil lamps for light

Taking too long in the bathroom

What are they doing in there? Solutions:

  • Have a kind word about the fact there’s only one bathroom
  • If you need to get ready at similar times frequently, alternate between who goes first
  • Next time they’re in the bath, bust the door open and jump in with them

When they stumble casually through the door at 3am, waking everybody up the night before a tutorial or exam


  • Make sure your housemates know if you have to be up early for something. Likewise let them know if you intend to be back pretty late
  • Invest in some ear plugs. We recommend the wax ones
  • Change the locks/board up the door every night at 11pm

Food stealing, ‘borrowing clothes’ etc

“It was just there so I took it…” Solutions:

  • Label your stuff so that it’s obvious what is yours
  • Mark out individual fridge shelf space and cupboard space
  • Agree that if someone is going to borrow something they must ask first
  • Buy a lock

Who can’t cook, who won’t cook?

Why is it always you left to cook? How come as soon as you start making something they jump on it? Solutions:

  • Draw up a cooking rota so you know whose turn it is
  • Don’t criticize people’s cooking standards. Try and help them improve

How one housemate has no regard for security

Is it really that difficult to shut a window or lock a door properly? You really don’t want your iPad to become someone else’s iPad. Solutions:

  • Explain that you are concerned; you just prefer to be on the safe side
  • Put a little sign on the door/windows as reminders before people leave

When there’s a suggestion of living with other people next year

So it’s a bit awkward talking about where you are going to live next year… Solutions:

  • Sit down and talk rationally about the situation, what works and what doesn’t. Actually have a ‘meeting’
  • Look at the pros and cons, understand everyone’s thinking and concerns
  • Get a one bedroom place and shun all human contact

Good luck, may your year be as argument-free as possible. We’re sure you’ll have a ball.

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The dangers of damp


The warm and dry summer is now a distant memory and as we go into winter, the problems with damp will emerge. Our guest article from Timothy Waitt, solicitor and partner at Andrew Gold, looks at a recent case where the landlord was fined extra for not taking a complaint about condensation and damp seriously, and provides 3 useful tips.

Also, in a recently published complaint from the Property Ombudsman an award was made against a letting agent for failing to respond to or deal promptly with requests for repair work, including not dealing with the matter of damp. The award was “for avoidable aggravation, distress and inconvenience caused by the Agent’s on-going poor communications and their failure to deal with the complaint properly.”

 “Jennine Morally is a Lambeth Council tenant. When she moved in to her flat during 2009  it was damp and mouldy. She told the Council, but it denied responsibility and said it was condensation.

A year later the damp and mould was worse, so Ms Morally sued the Council. The ‘condensation’ was in fact a leak through the bathroom ceiling from the flat above, also owned and managed by Lambeth. In 2012, Ms Morally was paid compensation and repairs were carried out.

Unfortunately, by this stage the tenant’s five-year-old son had developed asthma. A personal injury claim was started on his behalf, which is still ongoing.

No improvement
Fast forward another year to 2013 and the bathroom was still damp – not dripping, just damp – and redecorations were ruined. Expert inspection of the flat above showed that the tiling around the bath was falling off the walls and causing the leak into Ms Morally’s flat.

A way to get fast repairs and some compensation is to bring a prosecution under section 82 of the Environmental Protection Act 1990.

The Environmental Protection Act
The act covers ‘statutory nuisances’, which means premises which are ‘prejudicial to health’, such as being damp and mouldy, infested with pests or with potentially dangerous electrics or inadequate heating. The act also covers common law nuisance, such as a leak from the flat above. Ms Morally gave 21 days’ formal warning of the prosecution to the Council. Lambeth replastered and repainted the bathroom ceiling, but did not bother to fix the leak. Criminal proceedings were started on 3 July.

The only defence for these cases is that the problem is not the landlords’ responsibility. In court on 2 August, the judge awarded Ms Morally £500 compensation, which only covers the time since service of the warning notice. Given that the problem was a damp bathroom ceiling – no mould and no dripping at this time – it was an excellent award. Repairs are awaited.

The court can increase compensation and reduce any fine due to the landlord at its discretion. Indeed we asked the court to do so in this case. The judge clearly decided that extra compensation could not be justified but the fine was increased ‘for punitive effect’. The fine of £1,335 shows how seriously the court viewed the offence. The maximum fine is £5,000.

Lessons to be learned

  • Don’t just dismiss damp and mould as condensation. It might be a costly mistake as Lambeth found in this case.
  • Ignoring condensation, damp and mould and blaming the problem on the tenant may not solve the problem; it may come back and bite landlords with a criminal conviction.
  • Get proper advice at an early stage – the cause may be the tenant’s behaviour, but it might be something more serious.

This article by Timothy Waitt, partner of Anthony Gold Solicitors, originally appeared in “Inside Housing”.

At last an agreement on arranging flood insurance


The future of arranging flood insurance has become clearer following agreement between the insurance industry and the Government after protracted negotiations.

The new agreement will cap flood insurance premiums, linking them to Council tax bands or property values so that people will know the maximum they will have to pay.

Serious flooding can happen at any time. In England, nearly 1 in 6 properties are at risk of flooding, which has made insurance difficult to arrange. The new scheme (“Flood Re”) will provide a fund to offer people at high flood risk, who might otherwise struggle, to get affordable flood insurance with cover at a set price. Insurers will put into the fund those high flood risk homes they feel unable to insure themselves, with the premium to cover the flood risk part of the household premium capped.

Policyholders will not notice any difference as they will continue to be insured by their usual insurer. The cap will be based on Council Tax bands, starting at no more than £210 per annum in Bands A and B, rising to £540 pa in Band G. The capped premiums will go into the fund to help pay flood claims. So if you are at flood risk you know that the cost of your flood insurance will be limited. Band H properties are not protected under the scheme.

To help fund this, all home insurers will collectively be subject to a levy. On average this works out at £10.50 a year on all home insurance policies. Homeowners already pay this, as some cross-subsidy has always existed between lower and higher flood risks.

Whilst working to develop this scheme ahead of a Summer 2015 launch, members of the Association of British Insurers (ABI) will voluntarily continue to meet their commitments to their existing customers under the old “Statement of Principles” agreement. This means they will continue to offer cover to existing customers where flood risk is not ‘significant’ according to the Environment Agency, or where the Government has announced plans to reduce flood risk below ‘significant’  within five years. The premium and excess will reflect the insurer’s understanding of the flood risk.

Homes built after 1 January 2009 will not be covered (as applied under the old Flood Insurance “Statement of Principles”) – this is to avoid incentivising unwise building in flood risk areas.

In addition, to help keep flood insurance affordable in the long-term, Defra will continue to invest in flood defences and has provided a six-year long-term commitment to provide £370 million of capital investment in 2015/16 rising with inflation until 2020/21.

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