If you’re renting a home, it’s important to protect your belongings. Yet, renters’ insurance is often overlooked by tenants because of misconceptions regarding what’s covered, as well as concern with the costs. As with homeowners’ insurance, renters’ insurance protects you against personal liability for injuries to others in your home, and loss of or damages to your belongings, as well as a variety of additional (optional) coverage choices if you choose them.
Property Damage and Loss
Many tenants mistakenly assume that landlords are responsible for property damage. While this may be true for the building itself, landlords are not typically responsible for damage to or loss of tenants’ belongings (unless your lease explicitly says otherwise). Instead, you would need renters’ insurance to cover your damages or losses from the following:
- A natural disaster, such as hail, fire, rain, hail, or wind storm. Standard renters’ insurance does not, however, cover all natural disasters. Typical exceptions include earthquakes and floods (in which case you will need to purchase additional coverage, if necessary). See the website of the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) for more information on various types of natural disasters, including high-risk areas.
- An accident, such as if you unintentionally break a window; start a fire that causes smoke damage to the curtains; or overload the washing machine, resulting in leaking water and floor damage. On the other hand, you can’t intentionally start a small fire in your home and expect your renters’ insurance company to replace your damaged belongings.
- Theft, such as in the event of a robbery or break-in into your home. Extended optional theft coverage is often available that will protect your belongings that aren’t in your home--for example, if a covered item, such as your phone, is stolen from your car.
Don’t assume that your belongings aren’t worth much and shouldn’t be covered. Renters’ insurance not only covers expensive items, but it also covers anything you think is valuable (up to the limits of the policy you purchase), including:
- televisions and other electronic equipment
- furniture, and
If you have watercraft or a recreational vehicle, such as an ATV, go-cart, or snowmobile, you can include optional coverage to protect your property should it become damaged. Coverage usually only covers damage to your vehicle or watercraft while it is on your property. In other words, if you’re driving your go-cart down a public road and wreck it, your renters’ insurance probably will not cover those damages.
Personal Liability Protection
Most standard renters’ insurance policies provide personality liability protection for guest injuries in your home. For example, if you have friends over for a party and someone slips and falls in your kitchen on some dropped ice, you could be liable for the guest’s medical expenses stemming from the accident; and if your guest misses work because of the injuries, you may also be responsible for lost wages. Keep in mind, however, that personal liability coverage doesn’t include accidents that happen to a guest while in your car, but it may extend to accidents outside of your home, such as in your backyard.
Personal liability will cover medical expenses if a guest is injured by your pet, but some insurance companies have a “blacklist” of dog breeds that are not covered. It’s important to read the coverage details of each insurance company thoroughly, especially if you have a dog. In rare cases, landlords will have liability for tenants’ dogs. And in some cases, you will not be legally responsible for injuries caused by your dog; see the Nolo article A Dog Owner’s Legal Defense for more on this.
Damages covered by personal liability protection will usually include:
- emergency room and ambulance
- hospital stay
- surgery, and
- wages lost during medical treatment and rehabilitation.