Finding insurance with a roommate

Written by the Square One team

Reviewed by Daniel Mirkovic

Updated June 18, 2024 | Published February 16, 2017

Tenant’s insurance is a cheap and easy way to protect your personal property and liability exposures. As two-thirds of Canadians currently rent their home, it’s important to understand the coverages and exclusions of your policy.

For tenants who share their home, the risks are increased simply because of the fact that more people are occupying the property. So, here’s everything you need to know about finding insurance with a roommate.


Thumbnail of the How To Find Insurance With A Roommate video

Why do you need insurance?

“Our landlord has insurance on the property.” Landlords purchase insurance for the structure, but not for your personal belongings or your personal liability. The landlord’s policy typically covers the building (including any garages or sheds), appliances, window coverings, or other items left in the home for your use, and liability in case someone is injured on the premises and sues. However, you will have no protection under this policy and will need to purchase your own coverage.

What will tenant insurance cover?

Some of the things a tenant’s policy will cover are:

  • Your personal property while at your home for almost any damage; fire, theft, windstorm, water damage, to name a few. In some cases, policies will also cover inland flood and earthquake.

  • Your personal property while temporarily away from home, for the same types of loss or damage. For example, if you’re travelling and your luggage is stolen, or you lose your camera, you should be covered by your tenant’s policy.

  • Your personal liability at home. If someone comes to visit and they injure themselves tripping over the snowboard you left by the front door, you could be facing a lawsuit. Your tenant’s policy will step up to cover the loss if you’re found negligent, as well as any legal fees.

  • Your personal liability away from home. If you’re skiing and you lose control, smashing into another skier, causing an injury, again your tenant’s insurance can step in to handle any resulting lawsuit.

Think you don’t need tenant insurance?

Think again…if neither you nor your roommate has a lot of personal belongings, then you may think you don’t need tenant insurance. However here are reasons why you still need insurance:

“Insurance is too expensive”

The cost of insurance varies depending on a number of factors, including the value of your possessions. You can reduce your monthly premium by increasing your deductible – you take on a bit of the risk, and pay a lower premium. When you think insurance is expensive, think about the cost of replacing your laptop and smartphone.

Costs to replace all your belongings

Electronics. Computers, iPhones, PS5s, Xboxes, and more. We all have them. Your tenant insurance policy can protect them.

When you start adding up what it would cost to replace your clothes, shoes, accessories, as well as the basics in your kitchen and bathroom, you’ll be surprised. Conduct a simple home inventory to get a rough idea of what your possessions are worth.

Most policies give you replacement cost coverage on contents. Even if you bought your couch at a garage sale, you might face having to buy a new one after a fire or a water loss. And nothing ever seems to be on sale when you need it. Maybe you don’t think your belongings are worth much, but when you add up the cost to replace all your old stuff with new, you may think differently. Even the cost to just replace your clothes and shoes could surprise you.

Not covered under your parents’ policy

“As students, we’re covered under our parents’ policies.” Some insurance policies limit the value of belongings covered for students living away from their parents’ home. And most companies require you to be financially dependent on your parents and only temporarily away from their home.

“Liability? Our friends won’t sue us”

If you decide to have a party and someone is seriously injured tripping over a stack of books on your stairs, then they just may decide to sue. Or if you’re playing a recreational sport and accidentally injure someone, then you could be held liable. We all like to believe that our friends would never sue us or accidents won’t happen, but are you willing to take that risk?

Landlords usually require it

Landlords usually require it. Often when you’re trying to rent a place, the landlord will insist that you have a tenant insurance policy in place.

Protect the home you rent

Damage to the unit you’re renting. If you accidentally fall asleep while you’re cooking dinner, you could be looking at significant smoke damage to the apartment. The landlord will be coming after you for the repair costs. A tenant insurance policy can cover you for smoke damage to the apartment you’re renting.

Own a car?

Theft from your car. Your apartment could be as secure as Fort Knox, but it’s possible that something can get stolen from your car. This will not be covered under your auto insurance but can be covered on a renter’s insurance policy.

Protect property in storage

If you’ve got things in storage (maybe you’re waiting for a new home to be built, or maybe your sports equipment won’t fit in your new basement suite), you can get storage insurance on your tenant insurance policy. Some policies may include it automatically.

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Individual or shared?

So, you understand the importance of getting tenant insurance. But if you have a roommate, then you may have a decision to make; some insurance providers allow roommates to share a policy and therefore split the premium between them. At Square One, roommates must purchase separate policies. Here’s why:

Complications with losses

If you take out one policy in both of your names, then any claim that your roommate makes will affect your loss history. Let’s say she takes her dog out for a walk and it bites someone. This can result in a huge liability suit. The effect of this claim could cause a problem for you once you’re no longer sharing and are looking to get a policy on your own. Depending on the number of claims your roommate made, and the dollar amount of those claims, you could face a higher premium going forward, even though you’ve never had a loss yourself. Even worse, you could be denied insurance if the loss history is bad enough.

Complications with claims payment

If you have to put in a claim yourself, then the payment will be made out to both of you. That means you’re going to need your roommate’s signature before you can cash a claims cheque for your lost camera. And if some of your property is damaged, as well as some of your roommate’s, you’ll need to know how much each of you will receive out of the claims settlement. Difficult enough if the two of you are still on friendly terms, but what if things have cooled between you? Or worse, your roommate has moved out?

Changes in roommates

If your roommate moves out, whether he wanted to, or you asked him to because you couldn’t stand living in the same place for another minute, then you will have to track him down to get a signature allowing the insurance company to take his name off of the policy. Otherwise, any future claims would still be payable to both of you. You may not even be able to cancel the policy without getting your old roommate’s signature.

Splitting costs may not be fair

A 50/50 split on the premium may not be fair. If you’re moving into your friend’s apartment, then she may already have a living room suite, tv, kitchen suite, and so on. All you’re bringing in is your bedroom furniture and your clothes. You may both have to sit down and complete individual personal property inventory forms to determine the replacement cost of all of your belongings.

Access home inventory templates below:

Then calculate the percentage you should each pay towards the insurance premium. You’ll then need to decide if you’re going to pay it all up front, or if you want to go on monthly payments. If one tenant moves out, that could leave you holding the bag and paying the full premium yourself. Or worse, you may have to refund his prorated share of the insurance. Be sure to cover this in your roommate agreement.

You may not have enough coverage

If you had your own tenant’s policy for $30,000, and you then add your roommate’s name to the policy, then you’ll likely have to increase the amount in order to properly cover all of the property belonging to both of you.

If there are more than 2 or 3 of you sharing a place, then it’s highly unlikely that any insurance company will want to issue a policy in that many names. You may each have to take out your own policies whether you like it or not. And many insurance companies are not comfortable taking on this type of risk even if you do want to purchase individual policies.

Buying separate policies not only offers superior protection, but, with Square One, also allows you to tailor your policy more exactly to your needs. It should be noted, however, that spouses or relatives may automatically be covered under your policy as they are not considered roommates by your insurance provider.

Square One currently offers tenant insurance in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba, Ontario, and Quebec.

Watch the full video

Want to learn more? Visit our Renter resource centre for more tips and information about life as a renter. Or, get an online quote in under 5 minutes and find out how affordable personalized home insurance can be.

About the expert: Daniel Mirkovic

A co-founder of Square One with 25 years of experience in the insurance industry, Daniel was previously vice president of the insurance and travel divisions at the British Columbia Automobile Association. Daniel has a bachelor of commerce and a Master of Business Administration (MBA) from the Sauder School of Business at the University of British Columbia. He holds a Canadian Accredited Insurance Broker (CAIB) designation and a general insurance license level 3 in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba and Ontario.


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