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Renters insurance: What’s covered and what’s not

Jeanie Ahn
Senior Producer/Reporter

You may not be living in a palatial pad filled with the finer things, but your stuff still has value.

While 95% of homeowners have homeowners insurance, only 41% of renters have renters insurance, according to the Insurance Information Institute. So why do renters need insurance, and should you have it?

Renters insurance might seem like yet another bill to pay – which it is – but the right policy could protect you from shelling out major cash to replace your valuables after theft or damage.

Most apartment structures are covered under insurance your landlord has for the building, but renters insurance covers your stuff inside, like furniture, electronics, your childhood collection of Star Wars figures – whatever you have and want to protect.

On top of what you own, you’re set for any liability for damages or injury caused by negligence at no extra cost to you. As an example, if someone trips over your rug and breaks their arm, insurance could cover their medical bills and even legal fees that can occur, up to about $100,000 for most policies.  

The average renter typically takes out a policy that covers $30,000 in personal property with $100,000 in liability coverage. An average policy costs around $200 a year, or $17 a month, but could vary depending on where you live. People who live in cities will pay more than renters in more rural areas because of the extra risk involved.

What’s not covered is damage from floods and earthquakes — you’ll need a separate policy for that. And for things like expensive jewelry, you can add what’s called a floater policy for an additional $50-$100 a year.

Want renters insurance but not sure where to start?

First, take an inventory of what you own by going from room to room with a checklist. You probably have more valuables than you think and this will give you an estimate of how much coverage you need.

Most insurance companies will allow you to pay month by month, but some offer a discount if you pay for the policy in full for the year. Plus, your plan can be transferred if you move, so you’ll stay covered.

There are 2 types of insurance coverage: replacement cost value and actual cash value.

Replacement cost value will reimburse you at the price you paid for your stuff — but the policy will cost more. On the other hand, actual cash value factors in depreciation of your belongings, so you might not get enough money to replace your items, but you’ll pay less each month. Either way, remember, renters insurance isn’t mandatory.

But if you’re losing sleep over the thought of losing your stuff, you might want to say “Now I’ll get it!”

Jeanie is a reporter at Yahoo Finance. Reach out by email jeaniea@yahoo-inc.com; follow her on Twitter @jeanie531.


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