Imagine you come home from work after a long day only to find that a pipe has burst in the basement apartment you’re renting and there’s water everywhere, your furniture is waterlogged, and all your stuff is soaked.
If you’re like a lot of other people in Canada who rent — and nearly one-third do — then you might assume that your stuff is covered by your landlord’s home insurance, and you wouldn’t be alone.
But the truth is that a landlord’s insurance doesn’t cover tenants or their possessions, and that’s why it’s a good idea to buy tenant insurance when you rent a home or apartment.
In case you’ve never heard of tenant insurance or don’t really know what it is, this guide will tell you everything you need, from what it will cost to where to get it and what kind of coverage it provides. Tenant insurance in Canada isn’t mandatory, but it is a good idea, and today you’ll find out why.
What is tenant insurance?
Tenant insurance, which is also known as renter’s insurance, is a special type of insurance that’s specifically for Canadians who rent their home, whether that’s an apartment, townhouse, condo, house, basement apartment, or even just a room. Tenant insurance is similar to home insurance in that it protects your belongings and protects you from liability, but it also allows for living expenses if you make a claim.
What does tenant insurance cover?
Tenant insurance has three main components: contents, liability, and additional living expenses.
The content portion of the coverage means the insurance company will pay to replace or repair your personal belongings in case of damage. That includes things like clothes, furniture, electronics, and other household items that are lost or damaged by things like:
- Water damage due to plumbing issues
The point of liability insurance is to protect you in case somebody sues you. When it comes to the liability portion of tenant insurance, this would most commonly apply to situations where a person visiting you gets hurt in your home. If that person were to sue you, the tenant insurance would cover any damages or legal fees you had to pay, typically up to $1 million.
Additional living expenses
Say you make a claim because the pipe burst and you have to move out temporarily while the water damage is addressed. In that case, the additional living expenses part of your tenant insurance would cover things like a hotel stay, groceries, and other living expenses incurred during the time that repairs or renovations were happening in your home.
What doesn’t tenant insurance cover?
Tenant insurance doesn’t cover the building or the home itself. Your landlord will have their own home insurance for that. Similarly, tenant insurance doesn’t automatically protect you in case of a flood from an external source (like heavy rain or an overflowing river), and most policies will require an overland water rider if you want this type of protection.
While tenant insurance does protect your personal belongings, there are limits on special items like jewelry, expensive clothing, and the like. If you have a lot of expensive jewelry, you can pay a higher premium to get additional coverage.
Finally, tenant insurance won’t cover you if you sublet your home to somebody else, and that includes renting it out short-term through sites like Airbnb.
Actual cash value vs. replacement costs
There are two types of reimbursement calculations insurance companies use when claims are made, and you’ll have to decide what kind of policy you want.
The first is actual cash value, and these have cheaper premiums. With actual cash value policies, the insurance company will pay the depreciated value of your items. For example, if you paid $2,000 for your television 5 years ago, the insurance company might determine that it’s only worth $700 today, so they’ll make a settlement offer for $700.
The other type is replacement cost, and these generally have higher premiums. With this type, the insurance company will pay what it actually costs to replace what you’ve lost. With the television example, a replacement cost policy might pay out $1,500, or whatever it costs you to buy a comparable television to the one you lost.
All risk vs named perils plans
When shopping around for tenant insurance, one choice you’ll have is between an all-risk policy and a named peril policy. All-risk insurance tends to have higher premiums because the policy covers everything, as long as something isn’t listed as an exclusion. By contrast, named peril insurance has cheaper premiums, but only things listed in the policy will be covered.
As an example, let’s say your named peril tenant insurance specifically lists damage from theft and vandalism, but not from water damage. In that case, you won’t be covered when that pipe bursts and damages all your stuff because water damage wasn’t named on the policy. On the other hand, an all-risk policy would cover you, as long as water damage wasn’t listed as an exclusion.
How much does tenant insurance cost across Canada?
In general, you can get tenant insurance for less than $1 per day. There are lots of factors that can impact your premiums, including what province you live in. Depending on where in the country you live, you can expect to pay:
|British Columbia||As low as $20 per month|
|Alberta||An average of $25 per month|
|Saskatchewan||As low as $12 per month|
|Manitoba||As low as $20 per month|
|Ontario||An average of $21 per month|
|Quebec||As low as $15 per month|
|New Brunswick||As low as $15 per month|
|Nova Scotia||$15 to $30 per month|
|Prince Edward Island||As low as $12 per month|
What other factors impact the cost of tenant insurance?
Tenant insurance rates will also vary based on the specific town or city in which you live, as well as a number of other factors, such as:
- Type of dwelling, such as an apartment, home, or basement apartment
- How much coverage you want
- Amount of your deductible
- Age of the home
- Insurance provider
- Your personal insurance and claims history
Aren’t I covered by my landlord’s home insurance or my roommate’s tenant insurance?
Your landlord will have home insurance that protects the house and their own belongings, but that doesn’t extend to you or any other tenants living on the premises. Similarly, if you have a roommate who has tenant insurance, you’re not covered by their insurance either, unless you’ve been specifically named on the policy. In fact, it doesn’t matter if you’re related to the other tenant or in a relationship with that person — if you’re not listed on the policy, then you’re not covered.
How do I choose the right policy?
As with any insurance policy, there are lots of things to consider when buying tenant insurance. For one thing, you should shop around with different providers to see who offers the best rates and the most comprehensive policies.
When you’re shopping for tenant insurance, make sure you choose a policy that protects all your possessions. For example, if you have special jewelry or family heirlooms you want protected, you might need additional coverage.
Furthermore, make sure the deductible is something reasonable that you can afford. If you have a $5,000 deductible but can’t afford to pay it, then the policy isn’t right for you.
It’s also a good idea to talk to different brokers, because they’ll walk you through your options, give you quotes about premiums, and help you decide on a policy that works for you. A broker will also help you pick between all risk and named peril insurance, and help you decide between cash value or replacement cost reimbursement.
You don’t have to buy tenant insurance if you’re a renter in Canada, but having it could save you hundreds or even thousands of dollars in the long run. If anything were to happen in your rental unit, like damage to your stuff or somebody getting hurt, tenant insurance will protect you and pay to replace or repair your things.
Tenant insurance isn’t expensive, and for around $20 a month, you can have peace of mind knowing you and your possessions are safe from damage, theft, and lawsuits. You can get tenant insurance from just about any insurance provider, so it’s a good idea to talk to one or more brokers about policy options, premiums, and more.
Does tenant insurance cover pet damage?
No. But if your dog injured a guest in your house, you would likely be covered by the liability portion of the tenant insurance. Check with your specific policy, because some breeds are excluded from this.
Does tenant insurance cover bed bugs?
No, nor does it typically cover damage from any other type of bug infestation.
How can I lower my tenant insurance premiums?
You can often lower your premiums by reducing the amount of coverage, increasing your deductible, paying annually rather than monthly, bundling your tenant insurance with another policy (eg. car insurance), sharing a policy with other roommates, installing smoke and carbon monoxide detectors, keeping a claim-free insurance history, and even installing a security system.
Is tenant insurance mandatory in Canada?
No province in Canada requires renters to purchase tenant insurance. However, some landlords may require it as part of the rental agreement.
Should I get tenant insurance?
Although tenant insurance isn’t required, it is recommended because it protects your belongings, protects you in case somebody gets hurt in your house, and will cover costs if you have to move out while repairs are happening.
Where do I get tenant insurance?
Tenant insurance is available through most insurance companies and some banks.
What’s a deductible?
When you make an insurance claim, the deductible is the amount you’ll have to pay before the insurance company will cover the rest of the claim. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and make a $1,200 claim, then you’ll have to pay the $500 before the insurance company will reimburse you for the remaining $700.
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Over to you
We’re interested to know – do you have tenant insurance? How much do you pay and what company are you with? Share your story in the comments below and let other renters know what you think about whether tenant insurance is worth it.