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What is tenant insurance?

Tenant insurance is similar to home insurance, but it is for people who rent (rather than own) their home. Some people call it “renter's insurance.”

Your landlord will have their own insurance, but it does not extend to you or your things. Many landlords will require you to take out a tenant insurance policy as a condition of your lease.

Tenant insurance includes:

Contents coverage for your belongings, whether they're in your house, in your car or with you on your travels.

Living expenses coverage to help with hotel costs and expenses while affected or displaced from an insured loss.

Liability coverage should you be sued by someone who visits your home, or lives in another unit.

This protection could prove invaluable in the event of a disaster, and it is available for just a few dollars per month. If you pay rent, you should have a tenant insurance policy.

How much does tenant insurance cost?

Typically, tenant insurance costs about $200 a year, less than a dollar a day. Your premium is based on how much coverage you need (the value of your contents and the liability limit you choose), where you live, your claims history, your chosen deductible, and the type of building you live in. According to internal data, tenant insurance in Ontario costs an average of $210 a year, or $17.50 a month. Tenant insurance in Alberta averages just $168.70 a year, less than $15 a month.

Here is a list of the average tenant insurance price for several major cities in Ontario and Alberta:

City Average Tenant Insurance Cost
Barrie $209
Brampton $227
Burlington $199
Calgary $182
Cambridge $238
Edmonton $147
Hamilton $203
Kitchener $191
London $201
Markham $201
Mississauga $194
Oshawa $224
St. Catharines $227
Sudbury $328
Toronto $211
Vaughan $288
Windsor $299

What does tenant insurance cover?

Tenant insurance covers your possessions, living expenses and your personal liability.

According to Statistics Canada, about one third of Canadians rent their home, but only half of these renters have tenant insurance. By opting out, millions of Canadians are taking a on a huge financial risk.

How does tenant insurance protect my belongings?

Consider how much stuff you actually own and how much it would cost to replace it all. Replacing furniture, electronics, clothing and everything else in one go, is beyond the financial capability of most people. Even a less than total loss, like a burglary, can result in financial stress. A tenant insurance policy protects your belongings in the event of damage or theft.

Did you know your possessions are not only covered while in your home, but outside of your home too? That means if your new camera goes missing while you are on holiday, or your golf clubs are stolen from your car, tenant insurance will help.

When would I need insurance for living expenses?

If you're not able to live in your apartment while repairs are being made after an insured loss, your tenant insurance policy will help with expenses until you can to move back in. For example, hotel bills, restaurant meals, and moving costs may be covered, as they're expenses you wouldn't have to pay if you were at home.

What is liability coverage and why do I need it?

Personal liability lawsuits can have huge financial implications for those found responsible, often costing millions of dollars. Liability coverage as part of a tenant insurance policy could save you from financial ruin.

Imagine a kitchen fire, which then spreads to a common area, or a faucet left running, which floods the unit below. Whether it is due to carelessness or bad luck, these things happen, and if they happen to you, you will want help with the ensuing legal costs.

There's also the slip and fall risk. If a visitor wipes out in your unit and is hurt, you may be liable for the costs associated with their medical expenses, rehab efforts, and time away from work.

You can always increase your liability coverage if you want additional protection.

Tenant insurance claims

When should I file a tenant insurance claim?

If you are facing a serious loss, and it is covered in your policy, go ahead and make the claim. This financial protection is why you have insurance. If you are dealing with a minor issue and the cost to fix the problem is less than your deductible, keep insurance out of it.

If you do decide to make a claim following an insurable event, contact your insurance company as soon as you can. The window of opportunity to make a claim will close soon after the event as happened.

What documents do I need to file claim?

The documents you need depend on the type of claim you are making.

If you are submitting a claim for stolen possessions, the insurance company will request a copy of the police report, receipts for the lost items, and any other supporting evidence (for example, a photograph of the items in your unit, before they were stolen).

If you are submitting a claim for damaged possessions, insurance companies will request photos, and an explanation of how the damage happened.

For living expense reimbursement, like hotel costs and meals, keep all original receipts to support your submission.

If you are being sued for liability, send a copy of the lawsuit to your insurer as soon as you receive it. They are legally bound to represent you, based on the terms outlined in your policy.

FAQ - Frequently asked questions about tenant insurance

What isn't covered by tenant insurance?

Some items may be subject to exclusions or maximum limits, and if you want them covered you'll have to add a floater or rider to the policy. Jewelry for example is covered, but up to a limit. Most tenant insurance policies have limits on certain items, and jewelry is one of them.

This means that the maximum the insurer will pay is limited to the amount specified in the policy. Although the maximum will vary, a $5,000 limit is not uncommon. The same may be true for really expensive bikes, or if you own a lot of expensive electronics. Read your policy carefully to determine your exact coverage.

What is the difference between home insurance and tenant insurance? 

Tenants insurance covers your personal belongings (contents) and protects you from liability, while home insurance covers the physical structure of the home in addition to contents and liability.

Homeowners obviously want to protect the house itself, but this isn't necessary for tenants because you are renting and not an owner of the property. If something were to happen to the structure (for example, severe weather damaged the building), property insurance would covered the insured damages. 

Is renter's insurance the same as tenant insurance? 

Yes. These terms are used interchangeably, but they are the same type of coverage. You may also see it listed as contents insurance, tenants insurance, renters insurance, renter insurance and so on. All of these terms describe the same thing, but some companies prefer to use one term over another. 

Why doesn't my landlord's insurance protect me? 

Your landlord will have property insurance on the physical structure of the building, but this will not protect anything in it. If there is a fire that starts three units down and your belongings are destroyed, for example, your landlord's property insurance would cover the structure of the unit and your contents insurance would cover your personal contents in your unit. 

As the renter, liability inside the home shifts to you in the majority of cases. If someone is injured at your house, for example they trip over something on the floor, then your insurance can help protect you from liability. An exception might be if the landlord has failed to ensure your apartment is up to code. In this case, they might be responsible for the liability. 

Also, your renter's insurance can cover you in instances where you or your property causes damage to the building. For example, if your bathtub overflows causing damage to the unit below you, or something heavy significantly damages the flooring. These are reviewed on a case by case basis, but renter's insurance can make all the difference in these situations and save you from having to pay for damages out of pocket.

Do I need tenant insurance if I'm living in a dorm room at college?

Not necessarily. If you were living at home and were already covered under your parents' home insurance, then coverage likely carries over to your dorm room. However, many students opt to get renter's insurance even when in a dorm room, especially in cases where they have expensive technology or equipment that would be costly to replace. In this case, it's best to get your parents to check with their existing home insurance provider to find out if you're already, or adequately, protected. 

Is tenant insurance mandatory?

It is not mandatory to obtain tenants insurance from a legal perspective, but many landlords and property owners require proof of insurance in order to rent the property out to you. This is to ensure you and your unit are adequately protected. It is not illegal for them to ask this of you. 

Does tenants liability insurance protect my dog?

Under the liability component of many insurance policies, pets such as dogs are considered your property. This means that if your dog bites someone and the person sues you for damages, for example, then your liability insurance can protect you. Pets are only covered under the liability component of a renter's insurance policy. 

However, not all insurance policies offer this coverage, there may be limits or exclusions on certain breeds and species, or you may be required to inform your insurer about your dog/pet ahead of time in order to be covered under your tenants insurance policy. We recommend double checking with your insurer to ensure you're protected. 

How can I save money on my tenant insurance?

Did you know that if you bundle your tenant insurance policy with your auto insurance company you may qualify for a multi-line discount? It's not just available to people with a home insurance or condo insurance policy. The discount can range from anywhere from five to 15 per cent off of one, or even both of your policies.

More ways to save include:

  • Increase your deductible: this is the amount you are required to pay in the event of a claim. Increasing from $500 to $1,000 reduces your monthly expenses (just make sure you can afford the higher amount).
  • Ask about discounts: There are lots of discounts available for renters including university and alumni discounts, professional association discounts and more. Ask what savings you might be qualified for. 
  • Get enough coverage: Make sure you get adequate contents coverage. Most policies start at $25,000, but if the value of your belongings is more than this (and for many of us it is) you'll want to make sure you have enough to cover your belongings in the event of a claim, thus saving you money on replacement costs. 
  • Shop around: The easiest and best way to save. Compare tenant insurance quotes to see how much you can save today.