When’s the last time you talked about renters insurance at a bar? If you’re like most, the answer is probably never.
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 the stuff you care about, like your laptop, phone, bike, jewelry, clothes, etc.
Even if people do know that renters insurance covers their stuff, some don’t think it’s worth the $$.
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?
- Getting your renters insurance quote
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, types of water losses like some burst pipes, and other bad things (“perils” in insurance-speak), it may also cover 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 what renters insurance covers.
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 for their home 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
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 for your home 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.
Over at Lemonade we’re asked, ‘does renters insurance cover theft outside the home?‘ and, ‘does renters insurance cover fire?’ And our answer is: It sure does!
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, 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. From the Lemonade app, it’s super easy.
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 for your rented apartment, both your stuff and the damage you caused to the bystander’s laptop will be covered by Lemonade, 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—for renters insurance 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.
There might be other small differences in policies from state to state., Renters insurance in Pennsylvania has you covered for certain damages resulting from electrical currents, while a similar plan in Texas does not. (Btw, if you’re looking for an up-to-date list of where Lemonade’s insurance policies are available—check this out.)
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 your renters insurance coverage also extend to cover damages or amounts you’re legally required to pay? 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 may 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, insurance for your rental apartment 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. Renters insurance doesn’t cover those annoying things that sometimes happen, like:
1. Natural disasters
If you live in a place where flooding, sinkholes, or earthquakes are common, beware! Renters insurance typically doesn’t cover items damaged by these types of natural disasters. Before you start to pack your bags, don’t fear – you can purchase an additional flood insurance policy that covers that possibility.
Pro Tip: If a volcanic eruption, wildfire, or tornado destroys your things, you’re most likely covered.
2. Car theft
If someone steals stuff from inside your car (which we hope never happens!), renters insurance has your back. But, renters insurance doesn’t cover damage to your car itself. In fact, it doesn’t cover any ‘motor vehicles’ – that’s insurance speak for electric bikes or scooters, too.
3. Undocumented items
If you can’t prove you own your items or prove the value of them, you may be out of luck. When you file an insurance claim, you’re often asked to provide a receipt.
Here are two tips to help you avoid this scenario: Keep receipts of everything so you know how much your stuff is worth, and take pictures of your items and documents on your phone just to be safe. You’ll thank yourself one day!
4. Your roommate’s stuff
If your roommate’s things are damaged, lost, or stolen, your insured-self unfortunately can’t come to the rescue. However, if your roommate happens to be related to you by blood, marriage, or adoption, you’re in the clear. It may be wise to recommend to your roommate that he or she invests in their own policy (and reads this article in case they are confused)!
5. Damage by pests
As if rodents, pests, and bugs aren’t irritating enough, renters insurance doesn’t cover any damage done by these creatures. And for some more pesty news, the cost of an exterminator isn’t covered either. So consider these creepers a liability (if you don’t already), and invest in some preventive measures to avoid an infestation.
6. Property damage
Renters insurance covers your stuff, but it doesn’t cover the physical building that holds your stuff. That’s the job of your landlord’s insurance. So, if your building has roof leaks, it’s your right as a renter for your landlord to provide a dry roof over your head. We suggest that you check with your landlord to make sure they have the right coverage for your building.
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 do I 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 for your apartment 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 four 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 (aka, contents insurance) 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.
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 for your apartment?
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.
The average cost of a renters insurance policy is $15.50 per month. But as we mentioned, the price you’re offered (aka your renters insurance quote) can vary significantly, depending on your apartment’s location, the condition of the building, your personal history, and the amount of coverage you need.
In other words, renters insurance for a brand-new duplex in Brooklyn will have a different price tag than a policy for a studio apartment in Scranton, in a building from 1945.
The coverage amounts you choose also affect price. If you decide to insure just $10,000 of your stuff, your insurance policy could cost $13. But, insuring $40,000 worth of stuff may cost around $15. So if you’re asking ‘how much is renters insurance?’, first consider how much renters insurance coverage you’ll need!
Adding extra coverage for certain valuables might increase your premium, too, but you’ll probably be grateful that you did it.
Nowadays, several insurance companies are using tech – namely, replacing brokers with bots – to dramatically lower insurance premiums. Using AI and machine learning, Lemonade’s renters insurance policies start at $5/month, which is much lower than the industry average.
We’re obviously a little biased, but we think the Lemonade sign-up experience is pretty delightful. All you have to do is chat with Maya, the nicest bot we know, and she’ll serve you up an affordable renters insurance quote in minutes.
Liked this article? Check out some more nuggets of insurance wisdom over at #Lemonade101.