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Insurance for unmarried, engaged, or cohabitating couples

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

If you’re newly engaged or moving in with your partner: congratulations! Among the many details you are probably dealing with, insurance may not be at the top of the list. But your insurance needs have changed with the move, and you’ll want to address that so you are not left financially at-risk in the event of an accident or other issue that impacts your coverage. 

Insurance is always a confusing topic, and it becomes a bit more complex when two unmarried people share a home. Let’s take a look at some of the ramifications of a cohabitation move.

Can you add someone to your insurance if you’re not married?

Handling insurance when you have two people who are not related by blood or marriage brings up a lot of “it depends” answers to the question of: can you add someone to your insurance if you’re not married? 

The first thing to know is that there’s no single standard that all insurers abide by. Each company has its own solution on how to handle insurance for unmarried partners living in one shared space.

One of the factors taken into consideration is who technically owns the property. Insurance for a jointly-owned home or condo will be different than that for each of the participants if only one of them is the owner.

Renters Insurance

If one of the partners owns the property is the sole person listed on the title, you’ll need to check with your insurance agent to see how they want to handle the second person. In the event your provider is unwilling or able to add the second occupant to the homeowners policy, renters insurance may be the next best option.  

Remember that in addition to the property itself, each of you owns items of value. Items owned by the person whose name is not on the title probably won’t be covered if there is damage to an item they own, and they are not named on the policy. 

In that case, the second person might be best served by taking out a renters insurance policy on his or her belongings. For example, let’s look at a couple we’ll call Joe and Mary. After dating for several years, they decide that Joe will sell his house and move into Mary’s condo. Since Mary’s name is the only one on the condo title, only her possessions are covered by the insurance policy. 

If an electric storm blows out Joe’s expensive electronics, their insurer could argue that they weren’t covered because these were items Joe brought to their home and owned. But if Joe has a separate renters policy, he can make a claim to his own insurance and will be paid for the loss.

If Joe and Mary are only renting the condo, they would each want to have a renters insurance policy covering their own belongings. If they married, they could combine that into one policy, but if they are just cohabiting, they are generally better off with separate policies.

Keep in mind that this is not universally true, which is why the first thing you should do when you move in together is talk to your insurance agent. Insurers have been slowly changing their rules over the past decade, due to the increased number of unmarried couples who live together. Mary’s insurer may be willing to re-work her policy to include Joe, or they may be able to shop around and find an insurance company that will cover them both. 

Joint Homeowners Insurance

If you own your home jointly with your partner, it may be easier to add the second person to the homeowners policy, even if you’re not married. Again, this is something that has changed recently, and you may have to shop around to find a company that will work with you. A joint or merged homeowners policy should cover the property itself and the belongings of anyone who lives there. 

So if Joe and Mary both own the condo and are listed on the title, they should be able to find an insurer who will provide a policy covering both of them. 

If Joe and Mary split up however, they will need to address two issues: removing Joe from the condo’s title, and re-working the insurance policy so that Mary is no longer paying for a policy that covers more than one person living in the condo. Because of this, joint ownership and policies should only be considered by couples who are committed to staying together for the long term.

Umbrella Policy

An umbrella policy is additional coverage you can add to your insurance to provide resources above what your policy’s limits are. This can apply to any sort of insurance, from homeowners to car or boat. An umbrella policy costs extra, but it provides additional reimbursement in the case of an expensive claim, and can give you added peace of mind.

It’s easy to underestimate how much insurance you will need when you are merging two households, so an umbrella policy is a good option to consider. If Joe and Mary have a joint umbrella policy and a neighbor sustains an injury while visiting for example, the umbrella policy typically pays for anything over the couple’s liability coverage limits.

Umbrella coverage isn’t necessary, so if you’re just starting out and money is scarce, you may want to pass on it. But if you are an established or older couple, it could come in handy in the event of a costly emergency.

The takeaway

Cohabiting with another person may cause insurance complications — but they’re solvable.

  • Insurance companies are changing the way they deal with unmarried, cohabitating couples.
  • By shopping around, it’s possible to find policies that will cover two people in one home who aren’t married.
  • If only one name is on the title, the second person may benefit from renters insurance.
  • Joint homeowner insurance works best when both names are on the title.
  • An umbrella policy can provide added security and peace of mind.

Cohabiting without getting married used to make it hard to obtain insurance, but providers are changing the way they do business as more couples move in together. If one person in a couple owns the property, the second one may need to purchase a renters policy to protect their belongings. Otherwise, it’s possible to purchase a joint policy if both names are on the title, and an umbrella policy can provide added peace of mind.

Mary Van Keuren

After 30 years as a writer and editor in academia, Mary now writes full-time for the insurance and finance industries. Her work has appeared on Reviews.com, TheSimpleDollar.com and Bankrate.com, as well as other consumer-focused websites.

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