So it’s time to insure your buy-to-let or rental property? Remember, specialist landlords insurance is going to cover you for more than an ordinary home insurance policy. But it doesn’t mean it has to cost you the earth, it may even cost you less.

Get the right policy for you, your tenants and your property by following these 18 simple steps:

1. Read the policy

The secret to getting the right cover, and to getting your claims accepted hassle-free, is to know exactly what you need (you know what your property is at risk from better than anyone else) and ensure that the policy you are considering covers you for those essential requirements. Read the details of your policy before you buy it as not all insurance policies are equal.

2. Investigate the cost of insurance

Take insurance costs into account when you’re evaluating the profitability of a property before you buy it, and factor it in from the start.

3. Don’t just auto-renew

If you just automatically renew your insurance each year, you’re not checking your cover or making sure you’ve got what you need.

4. Don’t accept a hike in price

Your policy shouldn’t go up that much each year, unless you’ve had a claim or there’s been significant changes in your property, tenant type, or cover requirements. It might be time to look around to see what else is out there.

5. Compare like with like

Don’t just buy on the price - you could be missing out on essential elements for you, your tenants or your property.

6. Cheaper doesn’t always mean better

Check what cover you’re getting for your money. And remember some insurance costs are taxable allowances.

7. Look for the reviews

Find out what other people are saying. Look for independent customer reviews from organisations like Feefo, and the Defaqto rating – a five star system used to evaluate the quality of financial services products.

8. Know your stuff

Know your strategy, your area, and your properties - and insure accordingly. Tailor your policies to cover your requirements, and remember that one size doesn’t fit all.

9. Consider extras

Consider taking out extra insurance to reduce your excess payment and cover for things like accidental and deliberate damage. They could pay off.

10. Update your BSI

Make sure your rebuild cost (Building Sum Insured figure) is up to date and accurate. Use the BCIS calculator online. It’s especially important to check if you’ve had recent renovation work done.

11. Get tenant references

Don’t skimp on the references from your tenants. Focus on identity, history, and affordability. Use an external referencing agency or letting agent if you need to.

12. Tailor your tenancy agreements

You set the rules, so use these to help protect your property and make sure everyone knows exactly where they stand from the outset. Most insurers insist you have an Assured Shorthold Tenancy Agreement in place with your tenants.

13. Conduct regular inspections

Ensure your tenants are taking care of your buy to let investment. We recommend going in between 2 and 4 times a year. Blame us if you’re nervous about inspecting – tell your tenants it’s the fault of your big bad insurer. We don’t mind.

14. Make friends with your neighbours

They can tell you what’s going on at your property when you’re not there, and it’s in their interest to do so.

15. Prepare unoccupied properties

If your property is going to be unoccupied, prepare it properly. Drain the heating system, cover the furniture, and set the alarm. And remember to let your insurer know to ensure unoccupancy doesn’t invalidate your policy.

16. Build your own team

Build your own team of experts who know you and your property – people you trust. Your insurer can provide contractors but there’s no substitute for local, personal relationships. Just make sure you ring your insurer first to approve the supplier.

17. Get a portfolio quote

If you’ve got more than three properties, getting a portfolio quote could save you hassle, and money.

18. Stay in touch

Let your insurer know as soon as something changes at your property, such as change of tenant type, or as soon as something goes wrong.