Allow Tenants to Have Buildings Insurance

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In April, this year myself and my partner had a house fire in the council house that we live in. This was caused by accident and we accept responsibility for the fire. However, as tenants we have no way of having buildings insurance to cover ourselves.

Therefore, we are having to pay the full amount of repairs which is estimated by our local council, Reading Borough Council, at roughly £5000. Most of the damage was to the walls, ceilings and kitchen rather than the contents in the property.

Contents insurance covers the things that you would take with you if you were to move, such as sofas, televisions and beds. Buildings insurance covers the fixtures and fittings, which includes kitchen units and bathrooms.

As it stands, it is the landlords responsibility to have buildings insurance for their properties. Though, it is not a requirement for them to have buildings insurance and as stated by the charity Shelter when we contacted them: “in housing law there is nothing to force the council to pay for the damage”.

That isn’t what we’re trying to have changed, as we accept this is not the fault of Reading Borough Council. However, we were previously advised by someone at the council that the property does have building insurance. (There is some uncertainty regarding whether Reading Borough Council has buildings insurance or not now, following a statement from the press office to say they have "cash to deal with disasters" but that they do not "take out buildings insurance".)

Nevertheless, as tenants we are not able to properly insure the building should something like this happen. It would be the same if the property flooded or anything else happened that was deemed to not be the fault of the council, the tenants would have to pay the repair costs.

We spoke with Direct Line, a major UK insurer, to confirm whether or not we'd have been covered if we'd have been able to have buildings insurance. They have confirmed we would have been covered and able to make a claim as "a naked flame is fire whether it was accidental or not".

We’re calling for a change, to allow tenants to take out building insurance to protect themselves should the unthinkable happen. There are so many people living in council houses and renting from landlords who can only protect their contents, but should something like this happen there is a high chance they will have to pay the full cost of repairs – something which building insurance covers.

Currently we’re living in temporary accommodation which we were placed in by Reading Borough Council and are very grateful for this. The repairs are ongoing but from what we understand they are almost complete and we should be able to start planning to move back soon.

UK Government. Theresa May, the Prime minster of the United Kingdom. Alok Sharma, the MP for Reading West and Minister of State for Housing and Planning. Jeremy Corbyn, the leader of the Labour party. We’re calling on you to make changes to the way insurance works for tenants, to allow us to properly cover ourselves in these situations and not be left with eye-watering repair costs of nearly £5000.

 

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