4 Myths About Renter's Insurance
Common MisconceptionsBy Sally Anderson
If you're wondering what's the big deal about renter's insurance -- like you need another way to spend your monthly paycheck? -- first consider these common misconceptions:
It's cool -- my landlord's covered. In most cases, a landlord's insurance covers only structural damage to the building itself—and many landlord policies don't even go that far if the damage is caused by a tenant. If you leave the tub running and it turns your floor into cardboard and dribbles downstairs, damaging your neighbor's couch, you may be liable for the whole drippy mess. If your building went up in flames, your landlord's coverage would include repairs, but only to the building, not to the possessions of tenants.
It's out of my price range. Is $10 to $20 per month too much? In March of 2002, unofficial online quotes from two major carriers produced annual rates of $147 ($12.25 per month) and $203 (under $17 monthly) respectively. Both quotes were for a fictional five-room house in Boulder, Colorado, covering the basics for "standard" personal property valued at $35,700 (the automated figure produced by one company). Both quotes had a deductible of $500 per incident, and included medical coverage for others, on-premise or off-premise. Assumptions were that the house contained a smoke alarm and fire extinguishers. For lower rates, you can raise the deductible; for more protection, you can pay more for replacement cost coverage, in which reimbursement is based on today's replacement cost rather than original value.
I'm in a great building, and I'm not worried about security. Renter's insurance extends beyond on-premise theft and hazards. If your suitcase is stolen while you're on vacation, you'll likely be covered. Same with property stolen from your car. If you're prone to barroom brawls—well, you might need more help than renter's insurance, but you'll probably be covered if you hurt someone. Speaking of injuries, you'll also likely be protected if someone slips and sprains their ankle at your annual dance-a-thon; you may even receive compensation for legal defense costs in the case of a lawsuit.
My stuff isn't really worth much. You might be surprised at how quickly all those books, CDs, and kitchen appliances add up. According to StateFarm.com, most people own more than $20,000 worth of property. Refer to the lists in this article to make an inventory of your possessions prior to contacting an insurance carrier for a quote. (Some Web sites help you with this step, such as http://www.statefarm.com/insuranc/renters/howmuch.htm.) List each item along with its year of purchase and what you think it would cost to replace it today.
Types of CoveragePersonal property coverage
As with any insurance policy, coverage varies by state, company, and type, but here are some basic examples of personal property to include in your inventory. Items not listed here may still be insurable; ask agents about customizing your policy with more options.
Property typically covered:
Property typically covered with limitations:
Natural hazards coverage
Again, natural-hazard coverage varies by state and company, but most policies protect your property against losses created by the following:
For a higher premium, most insurance carriers offer options to add coverage for hazards not included in a standard renter's policy:
Questions to Ask Your Insurance Carrier
Remember that insurance is about your protection against unforeseeable circumstances. Even if you think "it can't happen here," paying the price of one music CD a month might someday make the difference between an empty house and a replacement-shopping spree.
Sally Anderson is a writer and editor based in Seattle.
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