What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

considering apartment renters insurance
Seriously – how do you feel about your sofa, your sound system, your clothes and your art? You think they’re not worth a whole lot, but the average renter’s possessions are worth around $20,000. What would you do if a fire destroyed everything in your apartment or someone broke in and stole your most prized possessions? If you’d be at least a little bummed if you lost it all, you need renters insurance.

Still wondering why you need renters insurance?

Six Situations Renters Insurance Can Help Make Better

Renters insurance coverage is very similar to home insurance, as it can pay for your losses when a disaster damages your possessions. It can also protect you if someone gets hurt on your property. Only 41 percent of renters carry this insurance, but really, everyone should have it. It’s super cheap — the average apartment renters insurance premium is $188 for the year. And it can save the day in all kinds of situations, such as…

1. Somebody steals your stuff.

After a weekend at the beach, you come home to discover your house has been trashed. Someone broke in the back door, rummaged through all your possessions, stole your iPad and some jewelry, and even ate the leftover pizza in the fridge. Can renters insurance help?

Yes! Renter’s insurance can cover the theft of your possessions from your home or apartment. But you can’t just say, “I think I lost about $5,000 worth of stuff — can you cut me a check?” You’ll have to provide proof of your losses, which may mean filing a police report that details what was stolen and/or providing receipts or photographic evidence of your possessions. Find out if your renter’s insurance plan covers the actual cash value of your stuff (which factors in depreciation over time) or its replacement cost, which is the amount required to replace your items with brand new ones. Your policy will also state maximum limits for certain valuable items, like jewelry, electronics and guns.

2. Fire, water or another disaster damage your possessions.

You have to evacuate your apartment after the guy next door deep-fries some chicken wings and causes a grease fire. The blaze doesn’t actually spread to your place, but heavy smoke damages almost everything you own. Your sofa, mattress, and clothes reek. Can renter’s insurance help?

Yes! Renter’s insurance typically can cover the cost of replacing or cleaning your possessions after damage caused by fire, smoke, water, wind, etc. (Floods and earthquake damage are generally not covered unless you buy a separate policy.) Insurance can also cover the cost of a hotel room and meals, if your apartment isn’t habitable.

Take lots of pictures of the damage, and inventory everything that was affected. Call a remediation company to give you an estimate for cleaning/restoring things like furniture and rugs. And contact your renters insurance company to find out what other documentation they might need.

3. Someone gets hurt on your property.

You’re hosting a backyard barbecue at your house for the Fourth of July. A friend’s date trips on a loose board and tumbles down the stairs leading to the deck, breaking his wrist. The guy then sues you, claiming you should have known that board was a hazard. Can renter’s insurance help?

Probably! If a guest gets hurt on your property, renter’s liability insurance can pay for his or her medical expenses, as well as for your legal defense if the person sues you. There are a lot of exceptions to this coverage, however. In general, it only covers invited guests (not people who live with you or work for you), and it doesn’t cover injuries caused by any kind of criminal act. So if you assaulted a guy at that barbecue and he sued you, renter’s insurance wouldn’t help.

4. Your dog bites someone.

Your neighbor’s kids are teasing your dog. When one boy pulls his tail, your dog bites the kid’s cheek, sending him to the emergency room. This is a total nightmare. Can renter’s insurance help?

Maybe! If you own a dog, you really, really need renters’ insurance with liability coverage. Even if your dog is the sweetest pup who ever walked on four paws, accidents do happen. Renters insurance can cover medical bills and lawsuits resulting from a dog bite, but you’ll have to make sure the policy covers your dog breed. Many insurance companies won’t cover dogs like German shepherds, Staffordshire terriers, pit bulls and bulldogs. Ask ahead of time, and don’t lie! If you don’t tell the insurer you own a dog, then your renters insurance coverage won’t cover pet-related claims.

5. You damage someone else’s property.

You leave the water running in the sink, which overflows and floods your downstairs neighbor’s apartment. Can renter’s insurance help?

Probably! If an insured person unintentionally damages someone else’s property, renter’s insurance may pay for the damage, up to a certain amount.

6. Your car gets broken into.

While you’re on a road trip, someone smashes your car window and steals your laptop and some expensive camping gear. Can renter’s insurance help?

Yes! Few people know that renters insurance coverage often includes off-premises coverage, which means it can protect belongings stored in your vehicle, hotel room or other location outside your home. It doesn’t cover damage to your car or in the case that your car is stolen, however. For that, you’ll need comprehensive/collision coverage as part of your auto insurance policy.

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