Insurance considerations when you live together but aren't married

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A young couple celebrating moving to their new home with a glass of wine. Image: Getty Images
A young couple celebrating moving to their new home with a glass of wine. Image: Getty Images

The economic downturn over the past year, coupled with the need to reduce expenses, has seen a rise in vacant properties across South Africa and an increase in cohabiting.  Taking the decision to move in with a housemate or your partner is a big step. It’s wise to consider the emotional, financial and insurance implications and have critical conversations upfront.

Marius Steyn, Personal Lines Underwriting Manager at Santam, and Marius Neethling, Manager Personal Lines Underwriting (Systems and Administration) at Santam, caution that there are a few considerations people need to think about when merging households.

“In the scenario where you move in with your partner, an insurer usually considers you the equivalent of a common-law husband and wife, depending on the seriousness of your relationship. That means you can take out a policy together. If you are moving in with a housemate, both parties will need their own separate insurance policies. In this case, you will have to insure your own belongings and communal living underwriting rules will apply. In both cases there are lots of logistics to tick off – like making sure the household contents are covered.”

READ MORE | 6 reasons you should consider buying a house now if you're renting 

Here, Steyn and Neethling chat through the checklist to tick off before cohabiting:

Make sure you’ve adequately covered the combined contents of your home:

Moving in together often results in a staggering amount of ‘stuff.’ Which means you and your partner or housemate will probably need to update the household contents insured amount. If your relationship is seen as serious (insurers look for things like how long you’ve been together, if you’ve co-purchased furniture, etc.), then an insurer will treat you the same as they would a married couple. This means you can take out a policy between you, with one person being the main policyholder and the other, the additional insured.

Some considerations:

  • Remember, the main policyholder will be paid out in the event of a claim. It’ll then be up to him/her to pay the additional insured. Insurers don’t get involved in these politics and are in no way responsible if the policyholder does not pay his/her partner or housemate. So, trust is important.
  • If you both have separate household contents policies with different insurers and are wondering which insurer to go with, don’t just pick the lowest premium price: consider the benefits and excesses – what you pay and what you receive in return.
  • Get your household contents evaluated (or do this yourselves using an online calculator) so you’re certain you’re adequately covered for the replacement value of all your combined items.
  • When your household contents are on the move between properties you should notify your insurer of the new address prior to the day you move. 
  • It’s in your interest to tell your insurer about all the security features at your new home. Generally there will be specific security requirements in order to qualify for burglary and theft cover.


If you happen to have a fight and temporarily move out…

It’s not commonly known, but, if you happen to argue and temporarily move out and take some of your household contents with you, these items will still be covered in your temporary abode, providing this is a private building – not a tent or caravan, for example. This only applies to a temporary situation though – if it’s a permanent split, then you’ll need your own new policy.

Remember, if you’re the additional insured, it’s up to the policyholder to pay you in the event of a claim, which could get difficult if you’re not together anymore

Vehicle insurance is also important:

Remember to add your partner as a regular driver on your policy if he or she uses your vehicle more frequently than you do.

If it really doesn’t work out...

If, sadly, the relationship comes to an end, then you should get your own policy as soon as possible, especially if you have one policy between you, but you’re not the main policyholder. Remember, if you’re the additional insured, it’s up to the policyholder to pay you in the event of a claim, which could get difficult if you’re not together anymore.

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