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Alternative accommodation insurance

Nobody wants to be left out in the cold – so do you know if your current home insurance policy includes cover for alternative accommodation?

Here’s what you need to know about alternative accommodation insurance and what it covers.

Nobody wants to be left out in the cold – so do you know if your current home insurance policy includes cover for alternative accommodation?

Here’s what you need to know about alternative accommodation insurance and what it covers.

Written by
Anna McEntee
Home, pet and travel insurance expert
Last Updated
12 APRIL 2024
7 min read
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What is alternative accommodation cover?

If your house is damaged by a fire or flood, there’s a reasonable chance you won’t be able to stay there while repairs are being carried out.

The good news is that most buildings insurance and contents policies include alternative accommodation cover, which could pay for temporary alternative accommodation while your home is being repaired.

There’s usually a maximum amount you can claim for alternative accommodation costs and some policies will be more generous than others. Check what limits might apply before you take out a buildings or contents policy.

What type of alternative accommodation could I be offered?

The aim of alternative accommodation cover is to provide you with ‘reasonable’ accommodation while your home is uninhabitable. That means you should be able to live your life as close to ‘normal’ as possible, and be local enough that you can get to work and the kids to school.

The type of accommodation you’re offered is also likely to depend on the nature of your claim. If you only need to be out of the house for a couple of days or weeks, then you might be put up in a hotel or B&B. Some policies may also allow you to stay with friends or family and pay a contribution towards expenses.

If your home needs major repairs and you’re likely to be out of your home for several months, you’ll probably be offered a rental property. It may not be an exact like-for-like home, but should be a suitable alternative.

Before you’re offered any accommodation, your insurance provider will usually assess your requirements – this should ensure the accommodation is the right size, has the facilities you need and is in a convenient location.

It’s important to note that you’ll have to agree suitable alternative accommodation with your provider. If you arrange your own accommodation and move in without getting approval from your insurance provider, it’s unlikely to foot the bill.

Does my landlord have to provide alternative accommodation?

Private landlords in the UK aren’t legally required to provide you with alternative accommodation if your rental home is uninhabitable. Your landlord is only required to arrange accommodation for you if it’s specifically written in your tenancy agreement.

However, many tenancy agreements will contain a provision whereby the tenant won’t have to pay rent while the rental property is uninhabitable. In this case, you could use the rent money for temporary accommodation until you can move back in again. But this isn’t a legal obligation – it’s the landlord’s choice whether to include this provision in the tenancy agreement or not.

If you rent a council house, your local authority should provide you with temporary accommodation if your home is uninhabitable.

What does alternative accommodation insurance cover?

Alternative accommodation insurance could pay out for the cost of temporary accommodation if your home is damaged to such an extent that it’s unsafe to live in.

Insured events typically covered by alternative accommodation insurance include:

Check your policy carefully too as each insurance provider will have their own definition of what constitutes ‘uninhabitable’. In most cases, you would expect it to cover the loss of:

  • Electricity or running water
  • Toilets or bathrooms
  • Kitchen
  • Heating, especially during the winter months
  • Flooring, if it’s been stripped out due to insurance-related works and you have young children
  • Bedrooms/sleeping areas

Whether or not your claim is paid could depend on your circumstances. For example, a property with damp or dust might only be considered unsafe if you or a member of your household has certain health problems, like asthma.

How much does alternative accommodation insurance cover?

This will depend on your policy. Some providers will offer you a maximum figure, while others will offer you a proportion of your total sum insured, such as 20%. For example, if you had £300,000 worth of cover, you could claim up to £60,000 for alternative accommodation.

What if I’m a landlord?

If you rent out a property and your tenancy agreement states that you’ll provide alternative accommodation for tenants, check if you have alternative accommodation cover as part of your landlord insurance.

This could cover the cost of providing alternative accommodation, as long as it’s for one of the reasons set out in the policy.

If it isn’t in your tenant’s contract and your rental property becomes uninhabitable as a result of fire or flood, your tenants will have to move out and find their own alternative accommodation.

Loss of rent insurance can cover this lost income until your property is habitable again. This can also apply to holiday home owners who are unable to rent out their property.

Check your policy details carefully to make sure you have the right level of landlord insurance.

What if I’m a tenant?

Whether you’re provided with alternative accommodation will depend on your rental agreement. If it’s not included, you’ll have to find somewhere else yourself.

Your landlord shouldn’t charge you rent for somewhere that’s uninhabitable – but check your tenancy agreement to see what it says.

Get advice from Citizen’s Advice or housing advice charity Shelter if your landlord won’t agree to suspend or reduce your rent payments

If you’re a council or housing association tenant, you should be offered somewhere else to stay.

What about my pets and possessions?

If you can’t take your pets to your temporary accommodation, your insurance provider might pay for kennel or cattery fees.

Some insurance providers will also cover storage costs for your belongings if there isn’t enough room for them in your temporary accommodation.

How to make an alternative accommodation claim

If your home is damaged as the result of an insured event, you can claim on your home insurance.

  1. Check that your policy covers alternative accommodation.
  2. Contact your home insurance provider. They may send a loss adjuster to assess the damage, what repairs are needed and whether or not your home is fit to live in. 
  3. If you still have essentials such as running water and electricity, and it’s safe to live in your home while repairs are carried out, your insurance provider may advise there’s no need for you to move out.
  4. If your provider decides your home is uninhabitable and you need to move out, they should accept your claim for alternative accommodation costs.

What is a disturbance allowance?

A disturbance allowance is compensation for the reasonable extra costs you might have to pay out by choosing to remain in your home, or living in the type of accommodation you’ve been re-housed in.

For example, you might spend more money on food because you’ve been placed in a hotel or B&B that doesn’t have cooking facilities.

Typical reasonable additional expenses that might be considered are:

  • Food
  • Laundry fees
  • Travel expenses
  • Pet accommodation
  • Council tax.

How long will alternative accommodation be paid for?

Alternative accommodation will usually pay out until your own home is habitable and safe for you and your family to move back in.

Some policies have a maximum amount they’ll pay out. If you reach this limit, you may need to pay for the alternative accommodation yourself or move back home before the repair work is finished.

This is why it’s important to check the terms of your cover to prevent any surprises further down the line.

What else should I consider about alternative accommodation cover?

Your insurance provider will need to approve or, in some cases, choose the accommodation you’ll be staying in. They may also employ the tradespeople to carry out the necessary repairs to your damaged property.

Moving into alternative accommodation or carrying out repair work without telling your insurance provider could invalidate your claim.

If you can cope with the repair work, you might want to stay in your home in any rooms that are habitable. If you need portable facilities installed, like a portable kitchen or bathroom, the cost could be covered by your insurance.

This isn’t an option that suits everyone, but if it’s feasible and you feel it’s better than uprooting everyone, it could be worth considering. But you’ll need to discuss your options with your insurance provider.

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This content has been created for general information purposes. Make sure you have the right level of home insurance by checking your policy documentation for details.

Frequently asked questions

Does contents insurance cover alternative accommodation?

Check your contents insurance policy to see if alternative accommodation costs are covered. You could be covered up to a specific amount or a percentage of your contents insured. 

For example, if the policy states it will pay out 20% of the maximum claim limit and your contents are insured for £50,000, the most you could claim would be £10,000.

Some providers will cover the cost of storing the contents of your home while it’s being repaired.

Is my home covered while I’m in alternative accommodation?

It depends how long you’re in alternative accommodation. Most standard home insurance policies only cover empty properties for up to 30-60 days, depending on the policy.

If the damage to your home is severe and major repair work is needed, you might need to be in alternative accommodation for longer than this. If this is the case, you may need to take out unoccupied property insurance to cover your home while repairs are completed. Talk to your insurance provider to see what options are available.

Anna McEntee - Insurance expert

Anna’s all about delivering fantastic insurance products at a great price. Value is the most important thing for Anna, as she cuts through the jargon and finds what’s most important and worth your hard-earned money.

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