Why Renter’s Insurance Makes Good Sense

Sep 20, 2019
renters insurance

If you rent your house or apartment, it can seem odd and even a bit off putting to have your landlord insist that you provide proof of a renter’s insurance policy. After all, it’s the landlord’s responsibility to maintain an insurance policy for the property—so why should you be required to carry a separate policy? The most basic answer is that a growing number of landlords are requiring tenants to purchase renter’s insurance in an effort to mitigate lawsuits and minimize responsibilities from a major loss event. At the same time; however, it may be gratifying to learn that a standard renter’s insurance policy provides a comprehensive range of benefits and little-known perks for renters themselves. Regardless of whether your lease stipulates that you maintain a renter’s insurance policy, you’ll likely find that it is well worth the investment given these facts:

Renter’s insurance is highly affordable: While homeowner’s insurance premiums might easily run you well over one hundred dollars per month, a basic renter’s insurance policy typically costs just a fraction of this. According to ValuePenguin, a renter’s insurance policy in California averages $17.25 per month/$207 per year in 2019.  And The Street puts the national average cost for renter’s insurance at approximately $20 per month in 2019.

Renter’s insurance will cover your personal belongings—your landlord’s insurance policy won’t: People often mistakenly assume that a landlord’s insurance policy will cover their personal possessions in the event of a major loss resulting from an incident such as theft, vandalism, fire or natural disaster. But in reality, a landlord’s policy only covers losses to the structure and grounds themselves, not their tenants’ possessions. Without a renter’s insurance policy in place, replacing your essential items could prove to be highly problematic after a catastrophic event.

You may own more than you think: As Investopedia explains, people tend to underestimate the value of their belongings, with the average renter owning about $20,000 worth of personal possessions. If this seems high to you, you might consider what it might cost you to replace all of your clothing, electronics, furniture, appliances, books, jewelry, etc. A basic renter’s policy might provide up to $40,000 worth of personal property coverage, but it’s important to review your policy for limitations or exclusions, and to recognize that most insurance providers will cap payments for specific categories of items, such as jewelry or electronics. If you own high-priced items like bicycles, musical instruments, expensive jewelry or fine art, it can be a good idea to add what’s referred to as a “rider” or “floater” to your policy. For instance, an engagement ring alone could easily exceed a category limit for something like “jewelry and furs.” But as The Muse points out, an additional personal articles policy that will cost you just a few extra dollars per month could ensure that this item is covered.

Renter’s insurance provides you with liability protection: Not only does a typical renter’s insurance policy cover your personal property in the event of a major loss, but it also protects you if someone is injured in your rented apartment or home, or if you, your pet, or family member who lives with you accidentally injures someone. As The Penny Hoarder explains, your policy can compensate the injured party for their medical bills and other related expenses, and will help cover your legal defense if necessary. For example, you could be liable if your dog bites the neighbor and he must seek medical attention, or if a guest is injured at a party you host. According to Investopedia, most renter’s insurance policies provide a minimum of $100,000 of liability coverage and between $1,000 and $5,000 for medical-payments coverage (medical payments regardless of fault).

Even a basic policy covers a wide range of perils: There is quite an extensive list of disasters and loss events that are covered by standard renter’s insurance policies. Some of these include: smoke, fire, lightning, theft, vandalism, malicious mischief, riot or civic commotion, damage from aircraft, volcanic eruptions, explosions, power surges and other events out of your control. What basic policies won’t cover are losses from floods, mudslides, earthquakes, nuclear hazards and possibly wind damage in hurricane-prone areas. Your renter’s insurance policy also won’t cover intentional acts that cause bodily harm, and in many cases, mishaps resulting from your own negligence.

You’re covered even outside of your home: Under most basic policies, your renter’s insurance provides liability protection as well as coverage for your personal belongings that extends beyond your physical house or apartment. As Forbes explains, this includes situations like having your laptop stolen from a coffee shop, or your camera stolen from your Airbnb while traveling abroad. According to U.S. News & World Report, underwriters sometimes refer to this benefit as worldwide coverage.

Renter’s insurance can cover your temporary living expenses: If a covered event causes your home to become uninhabitable, most policies will help cover costs for you to seek temporary accommodations elsewhere. Typically, this will also include the cost of food and other expenses. Just keep in mind that many policies place a time limit or total dollar cap on reimbursements for temporary living expenses.

Pointers for purchasing renter’s insurance: The cost of a renter’s insurance policy is influenced by various factors, such as where you live, the amount of coverage you want, your personal claims’ history, your credit score and more. If you live in an area of high crime or one that is prone to natural disasters, you might pay more than someone in the next town or neighborhood, all other factors being equal. That said, it pays to follow these steps when shopping around for policies:

  • Consider bundling your renter’s insurance with other policies (e.g. your auto insurance) for a multiple-policy discount.
  • Take video or photos of your personal belongings for your records and easy recall.
  • Find out what your policy’s deductibles are, and clarify its exclusions and policy limits. Purchase additional coverage if necessary for your high-value items.
  • Make sure you know whether your policy covers replacement costs for your possessions or just the actual cost value (depreciated value at the time of the loss). Get a clear understanding of their differences here.
  • Ask about discounts for safety features (e.g. deadbolts, security alarms, fire sprinklers).
  • Inquire about any professional discounts and rate reductions for auto pay.

For help in purchasing a renter’s insurance policy, be sure to check out “The Average Cost of Renter’s Insurance” from The Balance, which offers excellent tips, including practical advice for determining how much renter’s insurance coverage you may need.

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