“Obviously, the first thing you do when moving into a new apartment is get a new renters insurance policy.” Said no one ever.
In an era when a renters insurance policy costs less than a cappuccino each month, why is it that nearly two-thirds of all renters are still uninsured?
Maybe it has to do with bad branding. “Renters Insurance” isn’t sexy. And the name isn’t totally self-explanatory – it doesn’t exactly sound like protection for your stuff or damages you may cause others.
Even if people do know that renters insurance covers their stuff, some don’t think it’s worth the monthly payment.
Spoiler alert: it is! We’ll get to that sticky point later on.
Bottom line, renters insurance coverage seems to be something we really don’t know how to discuss in simple terms. And most don’t really know the value of it. It’s a shame because it’s one of the most basic investments you can make for a whole lot of peace of mind at a very low monthly cost.
So we’re here to dig deeper and explore the ins and outs of renters insurance: what it is, why it matters, and everything in between, in plain English.
Here’s a quick preview of what we’ll be discussing:
- What is renters insurance?
- What does renters insurance cover?
- What isn’t covered by renters insurance?
- Who is covered by renters insurance?
- How much renters insurance coverage do I need?
- Can I update my coverage after I purchase a policy?
- Do I actually need renters insurance coverage?
What is renters insurance?
A lot of renters insurance companies talk about protecting you from fire, dog bites, etc. But it’s a little misleading. Being “covered” by renters insurance doesn’t mean that insurance companies can actually stop these things from happening. Instead, it can help reimburse you when things don’t go your way.
So, in plain english:
Renters insurance is a safety net for you and your stuff. Along with loss or damage due to theft, fire, vandalism, some types of water losses like burst pipes, and other bad things (“perils” in insurance-speak), it also covers temporary living expenses and certain medical/legal fees.
Common myths about renters insurance coverage debunked:
Before we get into the nitty-gritty of what’s covered and what’s not, it’s important to dispel some common myths about renters insurance coverage.
Often, people think they’re covered by renters insurance when they’re not. Then there are those who think they simply don’t need renters insurance because it doesn’t apply to them.
In any event, here are a few hard facts about renters insurance coverage that may sway these misconceptions:
1. While your coverage applies to anyone in your household related to you by blood, marriage or adoption, it’s probably not enough for your roomie – tell ‘em to get their own policy
2. Your landlord’s insurance covers the structure of your place and any furnishings/appliances they may own inside, but it doesn’t cover you or your stuff
3. If your parents have insurance that’s great but it doesn’t cover your stuff… unless you live with them. If you do, make sure they have enough coverage for your stuff too
4. You may think that you don’t have anything “worth covering,” but you’re probably forgetting about a few key items (think: phone, laptop, bike, etc.)
5. Getting covered isn’t as expensive as you may think – renters insurance policies can start from as little as $5/month
7. Think renters insurance is hard to get (or takes a long time)? Think again. In some cases, you can get covered in less time than it just took you to read these myths!
What does renters insurance cover?
First things first: you’ll want to know why you’re shelling out the $$ to begin with. So know this: renters insurance policies have way more benefits than you probably thought.
A typical renters insurance policy will cover three main areas:
Let’s break it down:
1. Personal property
This type of coverage helps you recover the cost of lost or damaged items for a bunch of different scenarios.
Standard policies cover named perils – bad things that may happen to your stuff – including fire, lightning, windstorm, hail, smoke, vandalism, theft, freezing, damage from aircraft or vehicles, and riots, to name a few.
So if a fire in your kitchen destroys your stuff, or if someone breaks in and steals your TV, you’re covered. Just keep in mind that if the stuff in your apartment belongs to your landlord, it isn’t covered under your policy.
You can also add extra coverage for valuable items such as fine art, expensive jewelry, watches, electronics, and more. While these things may need appraisals or other proof of purchase, you can easily add them to most insurance policies for an additional cost.
You walk into a cafe, put your stuff down at a table to save your spot, and go to the counter to order. When your coffee is ready, you turn to go back to your table and notice your backpack is gone, along with your phone, laptop, and DJ-grade headphones. You’re shocked. And, then, you accidentally spill your piping hot double espresso on a bystander’s laptop. It immediately goes black. Double whammy.
Here’s the upside: if you have renters insurance, both your stuff and the damage you caused to the bystander’s laptop will be covered, in most cases.
Exceptions? Well, of course. Life always has exceptions.
Floods aren’t covered. Same goes for other natural disasters. It differs by state – in California, for example, stuff that’s lost or damaged due to earthquakes isn’t covered by your typical Golden State renters insurance policy. Just make sure to double check your policy for exclusions and, if needed, get additional coverage to protect your stuff against the perils of mother nature.
2. Temporary living expenses
Let’s say an electric outlet sparks a fire that forces you out of your apartment. You may need to get a hotel. This is something that most renters insurance policies will cover. Some may even cover the extra $$ you have to spend on food and laundry. Score!
3. Personal liability & medical bills
Did you know that your renters insurance coverage also extends to legal fees and medical expenses? That’s a surprise to most, so kudos if you did know 🙂
So that house party you were debating? Host away.
If you’re sued after your friend slipped on spilled beer and broke his leg, your policy may cover the costs to get you out of this jam. But remember: friends don’t let friends drive drunk. If you do, your liability as a host may not be covered.
If one of your friends gets hurt in your apartment, goes to the hospital, and then decides to sue you (what a friend, right?) your liability coverage will kick in for both medical and legal fees.
Also, remember that house fire we spoke about earlier? Well, if it happened to reach your neighbor’s apartment and wreak havoc, the damages should be covered under your renters insurance policy. Taking it one step further, if your neighbor is VERY unhappy and decides to take you to court, your coverage will once again kick in, legal fees and all.
Wrapping it all up
Obviously, these are all worst case scenarios. That said, they do drive home the point that your coverage is actually quite broad.
Hopefully, these things will never happen, but if you do find yourself in a bind, renters insurance coverage will most likely have your back (financially speaking). Just be sure to read your policy in full. It’s chock full of benefits, so read it closely to find the hidden gems.
What isn’t covered by renters insurance?
Unfortunately, renters insurance coverage isn’t the be-all and end-all. It doesn’t cover those annoying things that sometime happen, like:
- Your power, water or heat going out in your condo or apartment in the dead of winter
- A place to stay because your apartment got infested with bedbugs (eek!)
- Natural catastrophes such as floods and earthquakes (or man-made catastrophes such as terrorism, war, and nuclear meltdowns – those require either a separate policy or additional coverage)
- Your single speed bike after you crash it into a tree, or any other items of considerable value (although you can always add “extra coverage” onto your policy to protect jewelry, fine art, etc.)
- Oh, and zombie attacks aren’t covered either
Rule of thumb: If it’s not a listed peril on your policy, it’s not covered.
Who is covered by renters insurance?
You’ll want to add their names to the policy, so make sure to tell your insurer the names of your partner/child(ren). Be sure to take into account all of their stuff as well when setting your coverage amount!
How much renters insurance coverage do you need?
When signing up for a renter’s insurance policy, you’ll have to select your coverage amount. That means you’ll have to decide up to what dollar amount you’ll want your insurance policy to cover. If a burglar breaks into your house, would you want your insurance to reimburse you for up to $10,000 of stolen stuff? Or would you need more than that?
As we previously mentioned, renters insurance coverage spans a few areas. For each area, you can select a different amount.
Here’s what we do at Lemonade:
Choose what makes sense for you, in terms of your lifestyle and ability to pay upfront versus on a monthly basis. For Personal Property, here’s a pretty accurate way to see how much coverage you need:
Take a look around your place. What’s there? Most likely clothing, furniture, electronics, etc. Hey, your electronics stuff alone are probably worth more than $3000! What about the stuff that may not actually be in your home? Maybe a bicycle?
Long story short, you have a lot of stuff and it all adds up.
Go over these three simple steps that will save time (and money!) later:
1. Take 2 minutes, walk around your apartment, and take a video of everything you care about
2. Make a list of your big ticket items/electronics, and estimate how much they cost
3. Create an estimate for bulk items such as clothes
4. Add all of this up to determine how much coverage you’ll need
It’s best to round up to the nearest $10,000. So, for example, if you have $17,000 worth of items, you should choose a personal property coverage amount of $20,000)
Basic policies start with $10,000 of personal stuff. Increasing that to $30,000 is usually the smarter (and not too pricey) thing to do. If you need more than that, if you increase now, you’ll pay less later.
As for extra coverage – to cover things like expensive jewelry, cameras, musical instruments, bikes and fine art – you can generally add stuff à la carte.
Can you update coverage once you’ve already purchased a policy?
Of course! With most companies, you can contact your broker or your insurance provider’s customer support team, explain your issue, and you’ll get a new policy sent to you in the mail. Just keep in mind that your monthly premium may change accordingly.
However, Lemonade’s Live Policy allows customers to update their own coverage, whenever and wherever, on the Lemonade app. You can update your policy to reflect your needs in seconds, with no brokers or paperwork involved.
So do you actually need renters insurance coverage?
If you’ve read this far, and you’ve asked yourself the above question at least once, chances are the answer is YES. But even if you haven’t, the answer is still probably YES.
There are so many benefits of renters insurance coverage for you and your stuff, it’s hard to ignore.
Still not convinced? The best part of renters insurance is that you usually can stop and start as you wish. With coverage starting from monthly prices as low as your morning cup of joe, it would be the smart thing to invest that same dollar amount for something much greater than a single caffeine rush – daily peace of mind.
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