Spend now or save for later? It’s an age-old dilemma that hits closer to home now more than ever. While deciding against buying a 52″ plasma television or postponing your Hawaiian dream vacation can be sound financial decisions, one corner we suggest not cutting is purchasing renters insurance.
Imagine coming home from work to find your apartment broken into and completely ransacked—gone are your expensive stereo system and fine china. Or even worse, suppose you return from a long weekend only to discover there was a fire in your kitchen. You can’t assume your landlord will pay for your damaged or lost possessions. In fact, you can probably assume they won’t. You’ll need a renters insurance policy to help recoup your losses.
Unfortunately, renters insurance often falls under the radar. Approximately 80% of renters do not carry renters insurance. That’s a staggering number considering a typical policy only costs between $150 and $300 a year—depending on where you live. For this reason alone, renters insurance is an excellent idea for anyone who rents a house, apartment, condo or other home.
How Much Coverage Do You Need?
The first step in purchasing a renters insurance policy is adding up the cost of everything you would want to replace if it were damaged or stolen—including clothing, electronics, furniture and appliances. Write down the serial numbers of appliances and electronics. In case of a fire, keep a copy of the list somewhere outside your home (at work, perhaps). You also may also take photos or make a videotape of your most valuable items. That will make it easier to make a claim on them if they are lost or stolen.
Something else to take into consideration is “actual cash value” (ACV) or “replacement cost coverage” for your belongings. As the name implies, ACV coverage will pay only for what your property was worth at the time it was damaged or stolen. With an actual cash value policy, if a tree falls through your window and destroys your computer that cost $2,500 when it was new four years ago but is now only worth $1,000, you will only receive $1,000 (minus your deductible) for the damaged item. Replacement cost coverage, on the other hand, will pay what it actually costs to replace the items you lost. Replacement cost coverage will cost you more in premiums, but it will also pay out more if you ever need to file a claim.
What Else Is Covered?
Personal Liability Coverage provides protection for you, the renter, and anyone who may visit your home or apartment in case of an accident. If a person who is visiting you is injured in some manner, you will not be held liable for the injuries. If necessary, your policy may even pay for your legal defense in these circumstances.
Loss of Use/Temporary Housing will cover you if your home or apartment is rendered unlivable by a fire or other disaster. Generally, this coverage provides temporary relocation housing while your residence is repaired or rebuilt.
Car Interior – Many renters insurance policies also cover possessions that you keep in your car (CDs, books, portable computer equipment). Note that the car’s value itself is not covered, and typically installed stereo equipment (which is often considered “part” of the car’s systems) is not insured either.
What’s Not Covered?
Earthquakes, flood and landslide protection are not commonly included on rental insurance policies. If you live in an area where these natural disasters are common, coverage for your personal possessions lost in one of the aforementioned occurrences must be purchased as add-ons or via separate insurance policies altogether.
The above is meant as general information and as general policy descriptions to help you understand the different types of coverages. These descriptions do not refer to any specific contract of insurance and they do not modify any definitions expressly stated in any contracts of insurance. We encourage you to speak to your insurance representative and to read your policy contract to fully understand your coverages.
By Chris McLaughlin
Originally published July 2015.