What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

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Renters insurance covers costs associated with damage to your personal property, personal injuries to guests, and living expenses if your apartment becomes unlivable. Not every cause of damage will be covered by your policy however. Certain causes or "perils" are excluded. So before you make a claim, read on to be sure it will be accepted by your insurance company.

Your Personal Property Is Covered by Renters Insurance

The central coverage of renters insurance is protecting your personal belongings from damage. Personal property includes almost everything you own in and outside your rental unit or home. You may be thinking that you don't own many things, so why would you need to get them insured?

When you tally it all up though--your furniture, bed, computer, electronics, clothing etc--you may find you own at least $10,000 worth of property. That is not an easy amount to replace. Renters insurance will give you the peace of mind that you will always be able to replace your stuff.

Before starting your policy you should take an inventory of everything in your home. Estimate the worth of everything you own from the smallest item to the largest and save that list somewhere. Lastly, you should know that not everything that causes damage will be covered by insurance. If your stuff is damaged in a fire, its covered. If its damaged in a flood, its not covered. We discuss what is and not covered by renters insurance below.

What is Covered by Renters Insurance?

  • Fire and Lightning
  • Theft
  • Water Damage
  • Acts of War
  • Falling Objects
  • Snow and Ice Collapse
  • Wind and Hail
  • Vandalism
  • Mold
  • Volcanoes
  • Storage Units

Renters Insurance Covers Fire and Wind Damage

Costs associated with fire and are covered by every renters policy. According to the National Fire Safety Administration, residential fires caused over $6 billion in damages in 2014, with 37% of those fires coming from cooking. Thankfully every type of fire will be covered whether a fire started because a pet knocked over a candle or something was left on the stove it does not matter.

Damage caused by high winds is also covered in all renters insurance policies. Whether that wind is caused by a hurricane, twister, or cyclone, if the damage is a direct result of those storms you are covered. The best example would be if high winds rip shingles from your roof causing costly damage. Your renters policy would take care of those costs. Damage caused by hail storms, such as shattered glass, will also be covered by your policy.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Theft?

Yes, renters insurance covers costs from both. If you ever worry about your stuff being stolen, renters insurance will forever put an end to it. Your theft protection starts in your apartment and goes anywhere you go. You can be anywhere, but if your stuff is stolen off of you, your renters policy will take care of it--up to the limits of your coverage that is. For people who live in areas that experience a lot of thefts, like college towns for example, renters insurance should be a must. Just be aware that if you own a car, that will not be covered by your renters policy. You will need a car insurance policy with comprehensive coverage. The stuff that was inside your car at the time however is covered by renters insurance.

It Also Protects Against Vandalism

Damages due to vandalism are also covered. If your house gets spray painted, egged, etc. your insurance will pay for the costs associated with restoring everything back to normal. Just be aware that you likely have at least a $250 deductible on your policy. A few eggshells on your porch is unlikely to have caused at least $250 worth of damage. Finally, renters insurance companies will exclude any damages if the event takes place after a home has been vacant for more than 90 consecutive days.

Renters Insurance Protects Against Water Damage But Not Flooding

In the eyes of insurance companies, water damage and flooding are two very different things. Water damage is caused by leaking water, or a burst pipe. The water floods your apartment and all of sudden half of your stuff is destroyed. In this case you're covered. If it is a "flood" as in an act of nature, you are not covered.

A flood is defined as "surface water, waves, including tidal wave and tsunami, tides, tidal water, overflow of any body of water, or spray from any of these, all whether or not driven by wind, including storm surge". So if you live in Manhattan and there is a storm surge and the East River floods your downstairs, you won't be covered unless you have separate flood insurance.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Mold?

Some companies and policies automatically include mold coverage up to a small amount, usually $5,000. If you catch the infestation early however, the $5,000 should be enough. Some policies restrict where the mold has to be in order to qualify. Sometimes the mold has to be inside the walls or under the ceiling, and have been caused by a water leak to be covered.

If there is mold caused by a building defect, then it becomes your landlord's building insurance that will have to cover those damages. Lastly, if the mold is caused by something you are always covered for, your renters insurance will pay for it in full up to your covered expenses. So for example, if there is a fire and the water used to put out the fire causes mold to grow, you are fully covered cause the root cause was the fire.

Will Renters Insurance Protect Items in a Storage Unit?

If you have property stored off premises in a storage bin, it would still be covered under your renters policies up to a certain amount. Usually a renters policy will limit coverage for storage unit items up to 10% of your total coverage. So if your policies gives you $30,000 worth of coverage for personal property, the items in your storage unit will be protected up to $3,000.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Bed Bugs?

Most renters insurance policies will not cover damage costs associated with bed bugs. Along with other pests, they are considered a maintenance issue, and not covered under your standard renters policy. You will likely have to pay for extermination services out of pocket.

Will Your Renters Policy Protect You from Earthquake Damage?

Renters policies do not cover much in the event of an earthquake. Whether the earthquake causes damage to your personal property, or the quake causes a water leak that floods your apartment, you will not be covered. You will need a separate earthquake insurance in this case. In California, insurers are required to sell their own separate earthquake policies or offer one through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).

Limits on Personal Property Coverage

Category limits enable insurers to control what property they insure without auditing everything a policyholder owns. So for example, if $15,000 out of your $25,000 of value came from jewelery, you would be out of luck since most standard policies only cover up to $2,000 worth of jewelery. If you want higher amounts, you will have to buy more coverage specific to that item.

Common CategoriesTypical Claim Limit
Money, Bank Notes and Coins $200
Jewelry and Furs $1,000-2,000
Personal Computer 1,000-5,000
Other Electronics $1,000
Firearms and Ammunition $2,500
Collections (i.e. baseball cards, comic books and album covers) $1,000
Silverware and Goldware $2,500
Watercraft and Trailers $1000-1,500
Sports Equipment and Musical Instruments $500-2,000
Credit Card and Forgery $1,000

Renters Insurance Covers Liability Damage as Well

Most renters insurance policies include $100,000 of liability protection that covers the costs associated with a lawsuit or damages. It is sometimes hard to imagine how a lawsuit might be filed against them, but say a visitor trips and and injures themselves. They could potentially file a lawsuit to cover their medical bills. If someone were to pass away in your home, you would be shielded from any potential lawsuits from the person's next of kin. Attorney fees will account for most of the cost of a lawsuit itself, but liability will also cover any bodily injury or property damages a policyholder might be ordered to pay a plaintiff. The only caveat is that insurance companies commonly write into their policies that it will only cover the expenses of an attorney of their choice. The attorneys appointed by insurance companies are generally experienced litigators and do work in favor of their assigned clients.

Are Dogs and Dog Bites Covered by Renters Insurance?

Property and bodily injury damage caused by a dog is covered by a renters insurance policy. If your dog were to bite a guest, causing them to visit the hospital, you may be found liable to pay for their medical expenses. You may also be sued and forced to pay legal fees. If your dog were to destroy some of your stuff as well, your policy would cover the cost of replacement. The only exception to this is if you have a certain type of dog. Some insurance companies won't insure certain dog breeds. Common dog breeds that aren’t covered include Akitas, American Bulldogs, Beaucerons, Belgian Malinois, Caucasian Mountain Dogs, Chow Chows, Doberman Pinschers, German Shepherds, Great Danes, Keeshonds, Mastiffs, Pit Bulls, Rhodesian Ridgebacks, Rottweilers, Staffordshire Terriers, and wolf hybrid.

Does Renters Insurance Cover Your Roommates?

Renters policies usually never cover damage costs associated with your roommate's belongings or personal injuries. In order for them to be covered they have to be listed on the policy. We would recommend not adding them however, unless they are related or a spouse. Adding a non-relative to your policy will not double your limits, but rather split them. So if you were insured for $20,000, $10,000 is for you and the other $10,000 for the roommate. Both roommates should just have separate policies if they are not related or married.

Renters Insurance Covers Additional Living Expenses

If your apartment were to become unlivable, your renters insurance will pay or help pay for the cost of living somewhere else. If your apartment in San Francisco or Manhattan burned down, it would be pretty costly to have to live in a hotel in one of those cities. Eating out every night would only add to that bill as well. If you have renters insurance though, both are covered up to the limits of your policy. If you live in an expensive city, it may be prudent to increase the limit on this part of your policy.

Emergency Medical Payments Are Part of a Renters Insurance Policy

Liability coverage includes medical payments to others if you were found to be responsible for another person’s expenses. This might include their hospital stay, surgical procedures, x-rays, dental expenses and other related costs. It will also cover professional nursing, the cost of prosthetic devices and funeral services. Insurance companies limit the amount of time a policyholder’s liability will cover medical payments – it’s usually a duration of three years or up to the limit of the policy.

Miscellaneous Things Covered by Renters Insurance

In addition to the three primary coverages renters insurance, the policies usually provide other little-known coverages. Debris removal (if necessary after a covered loss) is typically included, along with emergency repairs necessary to protect covered property. Some example of these might be if a fire destroys the interior of a renters unit and they are responsible for removing what is left of their belongings. An necessary emergency repair would include boarding up a door or window to secure a residence after someone broke into it. Renters insurance usually covers service charges up to about $500 from a fire department, as long as a service call was related to a covered event. You cannot file a claim for this otherwise. Although unlikely, some renters insurance will cover building additions and alterations a renter might have made to their home. The majority of building owners or landlords do not allow such changes to be made to a rental, at least without their permission. However, if a renters did invest their own money in an addition or alteration, they might be able to file a claim for it if it were damaged. Carriers usually cover up to 10% of the personal property coverage.

Optional Renters Insurance Coverage

There are a number of endorsements a renter can add to their policy to bolster their coverage. These might be necessary to expand a category limit or cover a peril that otherwise would not be covered. In some cases, a renter might need to purchase an additional, separate insurance policy to ensure they are adequately covered. Most renters insurance policies offer sinkhole endorsements that would protect their belongings against those perils.

Sources

National Fire Safety Administration

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