AXA, one of the UK’s largest insurance companies, warns that while the buy-to-let market thrives, hundreds of thousands of landlords are leaving themselves and their tenants exposed through lack of protection and little financial back up should the worst happen.
Data from AXA Business Insurance suggests that among the total population of residential landlords in the UK around one in four have the wrong or no insurance and that around three quarters of these have bought regular household insurance instead of a commercial policy, leaving themselves vulnerable to having any claims turned down.
AXA believes that a large percentage of those with the wrong insurance are “accidental landlords” – those who did not originally buy with the intention of renting out their property, or who are forced to continue renting out because they cannot sell at present.
Research among a sample of those who had bought the wrong insurance revealed that one in five had been previously living at the address themselves and simply renewed the existing home insurance cover when they moved out, believing it to be adequate.
Meanwhile, 43 per cent were unaware of the existence of landlord cover, 28 per cent thought landlord and residential cover were the same and 11 per cent thought the landlord option was too expensive so bought a residential policy instead.
Nearly three quarters of these landlords (73 per cent) have less than £1,000 set aside for emergencies while 18 per cent have nothing saved, leaving them financially exposed should their insurer turn a claim down because the wrong insurance is in place. One in twenty are likely to claim in any given year.
But it seems that it’s not just the insurance that is being neglected. The research also exposed other areas where landlords are leaving themselves and their tenants unprotected:
only half (53 per cent) have a tenancy agreement
27 per cent have a current inventory
54 per cent have a deposit (less than half of which are kept in a protected scheme)
Darrell Sansom, managing director at AXA Business Insurance says: “While many of these people may well have never intended to become landlords and possibly it is something they would rather not have to think about, the consequences of not sorting out some of the basic admin and putting some core protection in place could make it a much bigger headache for them than it already is.
“As an industry, insurers need to take some responsibility to ensure that the right questions are asked when customers are buying insurance. And consumers need to be made aware of the pitfalls of buying the wrong cover.
“Someone else living in your property can present a very different insurance risk than you living there yourself – insurance products are designed and priced to match these risks so it’s important you get the right one.”
The phenomenon of the “accidental landlord” market has grown rapidly over recent years as the economy has depressed the housing market. AXA believes that around 70% of residential landlords rent just one property and that up to a third of these are “accidental landlords” who can’t sell their property or who “inherited” rather than planned the ownership of the property.