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What You Need to Know About Renters Insurance

Whether you’re renting an apartment or a home, chances are you may not have thought about renters insurance.

Sure, insuring a home you buy makes sense  — but you’re renting. Isn’t insurance your landlord’s responsibility? Not entirely. While your landlord will maintain and insure the property, it’s up to you to insure the belongings inside it.

That’s where renters insurance comes in. For a pretty inexpensive monthly premium (on average, about $15/month), you can have peace of mind that your possessions are financially protected if vandalism or disaster strikes.

Over your lifetime, you may have several different homes. Each time you move, it’s essential that you protect your things with the best renters insurance you can find so any damages can be repaired and losses replaced.

What is renters insurance?

A renters insurance policy, also known as an HO-4, covers your losses in case of theft, fire or other damage. If plumbing breaks in your apartment and damages belongings in the apartment beneath yours, renters insurance could help pay for repairs and replacements.

It also offers liability coverage, which means your insurance company will pay legal fees and court awards in case of injury or damage due to negligence. For example, if someone gets injured in your rental home and sues, renters insurance could help cover those legal costs.

Standard policies also offer additional living expenses for situations where the rental property gets damaged and becomes uninhabitable, displacing you from your home.

Renters insurance is not legally required, but some landlords might require it if you want to rent from them. However, even if it’s not required and the chances of these things happening are slim, it’s still best to prepare for the worst so you can have peace of mind.

What does my renters insurance policy cover?

Policies can differ slightly from state to state, and offerings vary between insurance companies. But overall, renters insurance policies are pretty standard.

This is what most renters insurance policies include.

Personal belongings

Standard HO-4 policies protect your things against damage from the following listed disasters and incidents, called named perils.

  1. Fire or lightning
  2. Windstorm or hail
  3. Explosion
  4. Riot or civil commotion
  5. Damage caused by aircrafts
  6. Damage caused by vehicles
  7. Smoke
  8. Vandalism
  9. Theft
  10. Volcanic eruption
  11. Falling objects
  12. Weight of ice, snow or sleet
  13. Water damage caused by steam, heating, AC, sprinklers or an appliance
  14. Sudden and accidental tearing apart, cracking, burning or bulging of a hot water heating system, AC or sprinkler system
  15. Freezing of plumbing, AC, sprinkler system or appliance
  16. Damage caused by short-circuiting

Liability

Most policies offer personal liability protection — meaning the policy would help cover the legal costs and court payouts (up to the policy limit) should someone sue you or your family members for bodily harm or property damage.

Liability policy limits typically start at about $100,000. You are able to buy coverage with a higher liability limit. For example, a policy with $60,000 in property coverage, $300,000 liability protection and a $1,000 deductible costs an average of $266 each year.

On the other hand, raising your deductible $1,000 can save you $10 on your premium each month.

Liability protection can also pay for damage caused by your pet. Ask your agent about this.

Additional living expenses

Should damage make your home uninhabitable, your policy can help cover the costs of living elsewhere. Policies can cover hotel bills or temporary rental costs, meals and other expenses while you’re away from your home.

Miscellaneous

Most policies protect from some losses that you may have not given much thought to, but should still ask your agent about.

These other types of coverage can include:

  • Medical payments to others should they get hurt in your home.
  • Credit card and bank forgery in the event that someone breaks into your home and tries to use your stolen credit card or checks.
  • Other peoples’ property should their items get damaged or stolen while in your home.

What doesn’t renters insurance cover?

Like most standard property insurance policies, renters insurance doesn’t cover some types of damage.

Flooding, earthquakes and sinkholes

These natural disasters aren’t covered by renters insurance. For areas where these events often occur (if you live near a fault line or your rental is in a flood zone), think about taking out additional coverage. Ask your agent about the weather events common to your area, and plan accordingly.

Maintenance damage

Home insurance companies rule that it’s the policyholder’s responsibility to take precautionary steps to protect the rental from damage. So, policies will not cover incidents due to lack of maintenance or infestations like mold or termites.

Big-ticket valuables

Expensive belongings like art, jewelry and antiques may not be covered due to policy limits. All policies come with a coverage limit — some may be as low as $5,000. You can take out supplementary policies (called riders) to cover those valuables.

How much renters insurance coverage do I need?

To answer this question, you’ll need to make a list. Take out that pen and paper or find a list-making app and take an inventory of everything you own and every item’s value.

Take a picture or video of your rental and your most important belongings. Include any serial numbers for things like electronics and instruments. Also, think through the big-ticket items you’ll need additional coverage for. This is the time to insure that beautiful engagement ring.

Now, tally all of that up. If you can’t get a precise number, at least ballpark it. Your agent will need to know that number.

The valuation of your items will also impact whether you should go with an actual cash value policy (ACV) or a replacement cost value policy (RCV).

  • ACV: Under this type of policy, insurers will pay out the depreciated value of an item. The payout will likely be less than market value and it could cost you more money to replace the item. ACV policies often have lower premiums.
  • RCV: This type of policy pays to replace your lost or damaged belongings with a similar item at the current market value. The payout would be enough to replace your item.

What will my deductible be?

The cost of your deductible depends on the policy you choose.

A renters insurance deductible is the amount you will have to pay if you file a claim. The higher the deductible, the lower the monthly premium — but the more you’ll have to pay should the worst case scenario occur.

The most common amounts for a deductible are either $500 or $1,000, but some companies will let you choose a lower or higher deductible.

Think through your budget and your risk comfort level. How much of a monthly premium can you afford? Are you able to pay out of pocket if theft or damage actually happens?

The bottom line

Don’t wait to own a house before you insure your belongings. For a small premium, you can have peace of mind that your belongings are covered, you have liability protection and you have a safety net if accident or disaster makes your home uninhabitable.

Your landlord’s insurance only goes so far. Take steps to protect what you and your family value most.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does renters insurance cover moving?

No. Your renters insurance policy is designed to protect one property and the belongings inside of it. Most coverage is restricted to a single address, but some companies will allow you to purchase special insurance for your move.

What happens to renters insurance if you move?

When you move, you need to inform your insurance company so they can update your account. Your policy will be updated to reflect your new address, so your premium could be affected, going up or down depending on where you live. Your renters insurance policy will not likely cover your move, so you may need to purchase additional coverage to protect the actual transport of your belongings.

How do I update my renters insurance?

Most of the best renters insurance companies make it easy to update your renters insurance. Companies like Geico have excellent mobile tools, allowing you to change your address either through the app or on the website. USAA, on the other hand, requires that you call customer service at 1-800-531-USAA to change the address on your policy. You can only change your mailing address online.

How can I save on renters insurance?

One  reliable way to save would be to bundle your renters insurance with your auto insurance. Contact your auto insurance provider and see if there’s a discount!

But don’t just stop there. Shop around. You may be able to find cheap renters insurance from a different company than you’d first considered.

Whether you want to hire a broker to do the leg work for you or you feel internet savvy enough to do it yourself, get multiple renters insurance quotes. You have the power and the ability to find the best deal.


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