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What does renters insurance cover?

Fact-checked with HomeInsurance.com

Most people choose to rent instead of own to avoid the cost of ownership, such as taxes, maintenance and insurance. But insurance for your apartment shouldn’t be overlooked, even when you rent. If there’s a burglary or fire, your property won’t be protected. What does renters insurance cover? 

Financial and insurance expert Laura Adams explains why to get renters insurance, “If you’re a renter, don’t make the mistake of thinking a landlord’s policy covers you. In general, their insurance only covers the dwelling, not your possessions.” With this in mind, take a closer look at renters insurance and why the cost is worthwhile.

What is renters insurance?

Laura defines it as follows: “Renters insurance pays to repair or replace your belongings, up to policy limits, when a covered event occurs. For instance, you have coverage if there’s a fire, windstorm, lightning strike, or theft. It reimburses a portion of your living expenses, such as hotels and meals, if you can’t stay in your rental during repairs.”

Landlords typically have their own insurance policy for the property when they rent to you, but the insurance only pays for damages to the rental’s structure and not your belongings. Renters insurance is an inexpensive way to protect yourself financially from loss. On average, renters insurance only costs around $180 annually. 

Who needs renters insurance?

If you have items of value that would be expensive to replace such as a laptop, electronics such as TVs and gaming systems or collectibles, renters insurance may be worth the expense. 

Additionally, it would be a good idea to have renters insurance if you have regular visitors. If someone is hurt inside your home or bitten by your dog, you would be covered through renters insurance.

What renters insurance covers

Renters insurance typically includes the following coverages:

  • Personal property, such as furniture, electronics and clothing
  • Liability coverage that pays for damages to someone’s property or for medical bills if you’re responsible for injuries while your guest is visiting
  • Living expenses if you have to rent an alternative home or stay at a hotel because your home needs repairs or is uninhabitable

As an example scenario, if there’s a fire in your apartment and your belongings are lost or suffer smoke damage that makes them unusable, your renters insurance policy will pay to replace and repair your items. In addition, your policy will pay for your hotel or alternative rental to live in while you wait for the apartment to get cleaned up and fixed. 

The liability side of renters insurance is worth noting. If a family member or visitor injures themselves in your home, your renters insurance policy will pay your guest’s medical bills. 

Adams explains, “Having a renters policy gives you liability protection if you, a family member, or a pet accidentally hurt someone in your home or off-premises. Liability also covers you if someone gets injured while they’re visiting your rental property. When you add it all up, renters insurance is a bargain for the protection you get.”

What does renters insurance not cover?

Most renters policies have a dollar limit of how much the policy will pay for or reimburse. Compare the value of your personal property or belongings to ensure they are covered in total. If not, you may need to buy additional insurance for higher-value goods. There are certain items renters insurance does not cover, or that typically come with limits that you may exceed.

Flood & Earthquake damage

These are sold as separate coverages and do not come standard with renters insurance. Depending on the policies your landlord has, the structure may be covered from these types of losses, but your personal belongings are your responsibility to insure against floods or earthquakes

Injuries from certain types of dogs

Certain dog breeds are considered dangerous and may not be covered by your insurance company, including Pit Bulls and Akitas. If you have a dog of this breed and it bites someone on your property, your insurer may not cover you.

Jewelry

Most insurance policies have blanket coverage up to $2,500 on any type of jewelry. Your engagement ring or nice watches may surpass your coverage limit quickly. 

Computer Equipment

Like jewelry, insurance companies limit coverage for computer equipment to $2,500. If you have a game console and several devices, such as tablets, smartphones and a laptop, you will need to purchase additional coverage. 

Art and collectibles

Art and collectibles are tricky because the value is sometimes difficult to assess. Many renters policies don’t include art and collectibles, requiring you to buy an endorsement for the items.

Your roommate’s property

If someone breaks into your home or there’s a fire, your renters insurance policy will only cover your property. Your roommates would have to have renters insurance of their own to cover their belongings.

How to get additional coverage

As mentioned, some items aren’t covered by your standard renters insurance policy. If you have items that are higher in value, you may want to purchase additional coverage. To do so, you may need to list the items and present photos and receipts for the goods so they can be named on your policy. 

Art, jewelry and collectibles require extra work. You’ll need to have the items professionally appraised and submit the information to the insurer so the specific items can be insured for the appraised value. 

Wondering who sells renters insurance and the additional coverage you may need? Check with your car insurance company, or compare quotes from major insurers such as Geico, Nationwide, Progressive and Allstate.

How renters insurance claims are paid out

When you file an insurance claim because some or all of your property was lost, stolen or damaged, the insurer will assign an assessor to review the claim. The assessor will determine whether to pay out the cost of replacing or repairing the items or send them away for repair. 

The takeaway

  • Renters insurance pays to repair or replace your belongings.
  • A landlord insurance policy does not protect your property against theft, loss or damage.
  • Renters insurance may not cover certain things, such as injuries caused by a dog known as a dangerous breed, high-value goods such as jewelry, electronics, art and collectibles and items that belong to roommates.

Conclusion

If you have items of sentimental or financial value that would be costly or difficult to replace, renters insurance provides protections against certain types of loss. To ensure your coverage is adequate, do a quick inventory of your belongings to get an idea of how much it would cost to replace everything you own. You may be surprised at how much value lies within your apartment’s walls. 

Besides protecting your belongings, renters insurance pays for your living expenses if you have to temporarily move out, as well as protecting you against the cost of medical bills if someone is injured in your home. Renters insurance isn’t required by law but it may be required by your landlord, and otherwise can save you a ton of money if something happens within your rental home.

Cynthia Paez Bowman

Writer

Cynthia splits her time between Los Angeles, CA and San Sebastian, Spain. She travels to Africa and the Middle East regularly to consult with women’s NGOs about small business development.

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