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The Ultimate Guide to Renters Insurance​


Because a landlord’s insurance policy will not cover your personal liability or help you should your property become unhabitable, buying renters insurance can offer complete peace of mind to almost anyone who rents a property.

Quick References


What is Renters Insurance?

A renter’s insurance policy will cover your personal possessions and provide a cash payout in your property is destroyed or lost. It gives you financial protection against the destruction or loss of your possessions when you rent a property. It covers possessions only, and not the physical property itself. You’ll need to check the exact terms on offer from the insurer whom you buy a renters insurance policy from, but the majority of renter’s insurance will give you coverage for events such as smoke, vandalism, theft, fire, water damage (excluding floods), and windstorms.


Why should you buy renter’s insurance?

Buying renter’s insurance is a wise investment. With the national average renter’s insurance premium for a policy with a coverage level of $40k, and a $1k deductible, the cost is $197, which is the equivalent of just $17 monthly, this makes the cost of coverage relatively cheap. If you consider the cost of replacing all of your belongings in the event of a fire. Then, calculate the amount it would cost to replace your electronics, clothing, appliances, furnishings, and more. It would almost certainly equate to more than the cost of your annual renter’s insurance policy premium.

Another key factor to consider is that your landlord’s insurance will not pay towards your expenses while the property is being repaired. However, renter’s insurance will.

What does renter’s insurance cover?

A standard renter’s insurance policy, otherwise referred to as an HO-4 policy, will recompense you for the cost of your personal belonging for up to sixteen different events. While these are standard in most types of renter’s insurance policies, it’s important to check the terms of any policy before you buy it.

  • Explosion
  • Riot or civil unrest
  • Lightning or Fire
  • Hail or Windstorm
  • Damages caused by vehicles
  • Damages caused by an aircraft
  • Volcanic Eruption
  • Smoke
  • Theft
  • Falling objects
  • Malicious mischief or Vandalism
  • Accidental or sudden damage from an artificially generated current of electric
  • The freezing of a heating, plumbing, AC or automatic fire-protectant system
  • Overflow or accidental discharge of steam or water from a heating, plumbing, automated fire-protectant sprinkler system or AC; or from any household appliance
  • The weight of snow, sleet, or ice
  • Accidental or sudden cracking, bulging, tearing apart or burning of either hot water heating system or steam, an AC system, or automatic fire-protectant system

Aside from the above, renter’s insurance will give you other protection outside of coverage for your possessions.

Additional Expenses – If your property is destroyed by a covered event in your renter’s insurance policy, then it could also pay for any additional living expenses, such as meals, hotel bills, and any related additional costs you incur while you wait for the property to be repaired.

Liability Insurance – If somebody is injured in your property as a result of your negligence, this could significantly impact your personal finances. However, renter’s insurance will often include an element of liability protection as well. This will give you additional coverage from any legal action for property damage or personal injury that could potentially be taken against you. It may also cover any damage that you or your guests accidentally do to others.

In some cases, the liability element of your renter’s insurance policy will cover you in the event your pet bites somebody, both on and off your property. This is not covered in all types of renter’s insurance, so be sure to ask an insurance agent about whether or not this is included.

Finally, it may also include a no-fault medical payment coverage option, which would enable a third-party who is injured at the property to submit their medical expenses directly to the insurer, helping avoid any type of legal action.

What is not covered by renter’s insurance?

A renter’s insurance policy will not typically give you coverage for flooding or an earthquake. However, it is possible to purchase flood insurance under a separate insurance policy, either from your insurance company directly, or from the National Flood Insurance Program. The same applies to earthquake coverage, and this can be bought either as an endorsement or as a separate policy. 

How do reimbursements work with renter’s insurance?

Most insurance companies who sell renter’s insurance will offer you a choice of two types of reimbursement.

  1. Actual Cash Value

An actual cash value policy will pay to replace any belongings you have, at their value at the actual time of their loss. This will factor in depreciation. For instance, if you have a computer that is two years old, and a covered event occurs, then the amount you will receive will be enough for you to buy a 2-year old computer only.

  1. Replacement Cost

A replacement cost policy will cover the actual cost of replacing your property. Using the same example as above, a computer; should this be damaged in a covered event, this option will give you a like-for-like replacement.

The replacement cost option will cost you more money, and this is typically around 10% more compared to the actual cash value option.

With this in mind, there are still specific items of value that might require specialist coverage, and this can be obtained with an insurance rider. A standard renter’s insurance policy will place a cap on the value it will cover. If you have something of particular value, it’s important to talk with an insurance agent about whether or not you will need a rider for this.

Who needs to buy renter’s insurance?

In some cases, a landlord will insist that you buy renter’s insurance before you can sign a lease. However, if renter’s insurance is optional, the simplest question is this; how could you afford to replace your personal property if they were lost, destroyed, or damaged?

How can you save money on your renter’s insurance?

The majority of insurers will offer you a discount if you buy multiple insurance policies with the same company. In some cases, they will bundle insurance together to give you an overall package. Aside from this, if your property has smoke detection, a security system, or deadbolt locks, these features can also help. A higher deductible could also reduce the cost of a renter’s insurance policy.

How do you know how much renter’s insurance coverage you need to buy?

The first and most important step to take is to know what it is that you own. With this information, your insurance agent will be able to help you know the right level of coverage to buy to adequately cover your belongings. Here are a few practical things you can do to prepare.

Create an inventory of your belongings before you buy renter’s insurance. Be sure to write down the item’s value, along with any serial and model numbers. Don’t just include your expensive belongings. Write everything down, including the lower value items, such as your bedding, utensils, and smaller appliances too.

A great tool to help you create an inventory can be found here, at www.knowyourstuff.org. There are lots of other free tools, many of which can be easily found online.


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Tips for Buying a Renter’s Insurance Policy

Buying renter’s insurance is a great way to make sure your personal possessions can be easily replaced should an unexpected event occur. Here are a few key things to consider when you shop for a renter’s insurance policy.

  1. Make sure you know what is, and what is not covered in a policy

Earlier in this post, we spoke about the 16 different events that could be covered as part of renter’s insurance. While most insurers will cover all of these scenarios, it’s important to check what is covered. Floods and earthquakes are two common exclusions, but if needed, you can buy additional insurance or add an endorsement to cover these events.

  1. Select the right coverage amount for your individual needs

We’ve already discussed the importance of making an inventory, and the role that plays in understanding the amount of coverage you need to buy. According to figures published by State Farm, the average American renter has just over $35,000 worth of personal belongings. However, you will need to document and itemize your property in order to work out exactly how much you require. Your policy should also include an amount of liability coverage as well. The typical limits will usually range between $100k-$500k.

  1. Try to bundle your renter’s insurance

This can apply to almost any type of insurance, but it’s worth a mention here too. By combining a number of insurance policies together with the same insurance company, you can attract discounts on your renter’s insurance. In some cases, this could be as high as 10-20%.

  1. Consider choosing a higher deductible to reduce your premium

This is something that applies to most insurance policy purchases, and it can help you get a lower premium in the process. However, when you opt for a higher deductible, it means that you will have to make a higher upfront payment in the event of a claim. However, if you don’t happen to make a claim for a number of years, the amount you save monthly could offset the expense of the deductible anyway. Depending on which insurer you buy renter’s insurance from, you could be asked to pay a deductible of between $200-$1000.

  1. Be clear on the type of coverage you are buying

In this post, we have explained the different coverage options you have when buying renter’s insurance. The two main differentials are between replacement cost and actual cash value. While the replacement cost option will cost a lot less, you might end up receiving substantially less of a payout than you were expecting.

For this reason, it’s important to make sure you are crystal clear on the type of policy you are buying. Or, if you are getting quotes for renter’s insurance, and comparing them side-by-side, make sure you are comparing like-for-like insurance quotes.

What information do you need to apply for renter’s insurance?

You won’t actually need that much information in order to obtain accurate quotes for a renter’s insurance policy. Most insurance companies will ask you to complete a form that includes your name, the location/address where the goods will be kept, and in some cases, you’ll be asked to provide your social security number too.

Aside from this, you will be asked to provide an estimation for the total value of your goods and detail and items that are considered to be of particular value. In most cases, this is anything you value to be above $1.5k.

Some insurance companies will also want to know about any pets you have. The reason they will ask this is because there are certain breeds of dogs, and types of exotic pets that could disqualify you from getting insurance with them.

The security and safety features of the property, such as fire alarms, and sprinkler systems might also come into play.

Whatever you do, it’s important to be completely honest about your insurance application. In the event you need to make a claim, should you be found to have been dishonest about any element of your information, you might find that the claim is denied, and in some cases, this could also lead to legal action.

After you’ve given all of this information, the entire process should take you no longer than 20 minutes.

How does the claims process usually work for renter’s insurance?

If a covered event takes place and you need to make a claim, then you will need to make a claim on your renter’s insurance policy. For some insurance companies, the claims process is handled over the phone, and for others, this can all be handled online.

When you buy a renter’s insurance policy, your policy documentation should clearly state which method is preferred by the company. Once you’ve lodged a claim, your insurance company will then start the investigation process. Many insurance companies will ask to see proof of purchase for any higher value items. So, if you are insuring laptops, jewelry, or anything else of value, it’s a good idea to have all of this data to hand. In the event you do not have a receipt for the goods you purchase, having their serial numbers could help. To take this a step further, you can even take photographs of your belongings and add these to the inventory.

How long does it take to receive a payout from a renter’s insurance claim?

Earlier in this post, we mentioned the importance of making an inventory; should you ever need to make a claim, having all of this data prepared in advance will make what is likely to be a highly stressful situation just that little bit easier.

The time it takes to go from claim to payout will vary greatly from one insurer to the next. If you want to make sure this process goes as smoothly as possible, prepare an inventory of your goods when you take out the policy. If you don’t have all the necessary information to hand when you need to make a claim, this could delay the claims process and prolong the payout period.

How to find the best renter’s Insurance policy?

With so many renter’s insurance companies, agents, and brokers online, oftentimes, knowing where to buy the best renter’s insurance isn’t always as straightforward as just picking the policy with the best price. Here’s are a few key points to help you decide which coverage is best for you.

#1 Compare Renters Insurance Companies

When you compare quotes for renter’s insurance, and there are different insurance providers to choose from, there are a few things you can review and consider.

Firstly, check the reputation of the company, their financial standing, number of years in business, and any online reviews that have been made by their previous customers. You can go a step further and review your state’s Department of Insurance (DOI) to ensure they are licensed to carry out the services they provide as well. The key point to remember here is that this insurance company needs to prove they have a good financial standing and that they have the capacity to pay out for any claims that are made. The online reviews are also crucial here as many customers will leave feedback following a claim as to the ease of the process, and the length of time it took to lodge the claim and receive a payout.

While this might seem a little long-winded, you might be compared two identical insurance quotes, and see one company with a superb reputation, and another without. In this event, you’ve just made it easy to see which company could be best.

#2 Compare Policy Terms and Deductibles

It’s easy to take a policy on price-value only. When, in fact, you need to make sure you are comparing policies that offer the same or similar levels of coverage. The key things you want to check are your policy deductibles, your covered events, and any policy exclusions.

This is why so many people choose to use a local insurance agent to help them find the best level of coverage for their needs. They will be able to quickly and succinctly review suitable insurance policies side-by-side and give you an honest comparison between any shortlisted options.

#3 Ask for Recommendations

Finding a good deal on your renter’s insurance is always made easier when your friends, family, or colleagues make a personal recommendation. They can often give you first-hand information about their experiences, and most insurance companies will also offer referral discounts for their existing customers too. If you take a referral, it’s still good practice to follow the steps outlined in this post and do a quick check of their online reputation before you buy from them. 

Is it possible to update your renter’s insurance coverage after you buy a policy?

Yes, absolutely. It’s perfectly normal to expect that the contents and personal property you own could change during the course of the years. With most insurers, you will either need to contact them directly or use your insurance agent to update the details of the new items.

Don’t forget to add anything that’s new to your inventory and keep any pictures or receipts in your central inventory. Depending on your coverage limitations and the value of the items you are adding, you might find that your monthly insurance premiums change.

Tip: If you know you are going to be making a purchase when you take out your renter’s insurance policy, you can speak to your agent or insurer about this when you buy your policy. For instance, if you know you are about to get a new laptop in two months’ time, and it has a value of $1.5k, you can inform your insurance company of this at the time to check any impact this may have on your premiums. While you will probably need to call up and add this once you’ve bought it, you might find that some insurers will be able to factor this into your initial quote to avoid you paying any extra premiums later down the line.

Questions to ask insurance agencies before you buy coverage

If you decide to speak directly to the insurance company or you use an insurance agent, here are a number of questions to ask.

  • Are all my items covered, are there any exclusion?
  • What perils are covered, and are there any which are excluded?
  • If somebody is injured at the property, what do I need to report/do?
  • Will the policy cover any additional occupants?
  • Do you allow pets?
  • How much is the deductible, and if this is changed, what is the new cost of my premium?
  • Is the claims process online or over the telephone?
  • How long does the average claim take to process?
  • How do I add new items to my policy, and will my premiums increase if I do this?

In Summary

Buying renter’s insurance can be quick and easy. The key to comparing quotes online is to make sure you are looking at like-for-like policies. Deciding whether to get actual cash value Vs. replacement cost is also another key consideration. Once you buy renter’s insurance, take an inventory of your items, and try to get your receipts and serial numbers in order. This will save you so much time and hassle should you need to make a claim, and it can also help to expedite the claims process too.


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