What You Need to Know about Renter's Insurance

The biggest blunder people make when it comes to renter’s insurance is not getting any.

Is all my stuff covered?

Most policies cover the bulk of your  personal property—clothing, furniture, artwork, electronics--with limits on jewelry, fur and silverware.   You can buy additional coverage for these restricted classes.

Computer equipment is typically also included. However, if you work primarily from home, it may not be. Additional coverage is usually available for business equipment you own.

What “perils” are covered?

Usually your insurance will cover you against theft, fire, smoke, explosions and water damage from bursting pipes and overflows.  Breakage (for example, your dog knocks your laptop onto the floor) is typically not covered. 

Storm coverage is a bit of gray area; damage from wind is generally covered, but water that seeps through a roof or wall is generally not.

If you’re in a ground level or below-grade apartment, however, you typically won’t be covered for any damage from floodwaters or excessive rainfall.  The best approach is to be proactive: Make sure there’s a pathway for water, that drains are kept clear, and any pumps are in working order. You might also think about buying flood insurance.

What happens if someone gets hurt in my apartment?

In addition to providing liability coverage for damage inflicted by you to another apartment (for example, your bath tub or sink overflows and ruins your downstairs neighbor’s new floors), apartment policies cover you for injuries sustained by others inside your apartment, like when your part-time housekeeper slips and breaks a leg on your wet bathroom floor.

Does my policy cover my roommates too?

Renter’s insurance typically covers spouses and immediate family members who live with you, but things get trickier when it comes to roommates.

Usually, only two roommates can be named on a policy—and you’d better have a great relationship:  Checks for damage are made out to both of you, even if it’s your laptop that was destroyed and your roommate has long since moved out.

Is my dog covered too?

If your dog bites someone inside or outside your apartment, the liability portion of your renters insurance usually covers this—unless you own an ‘aggressive’ breed such as a pit bull, Rottweiler or wolf hybrid.  If in doubt, ask.

Is my stuff covered if it’s damaged or stolen outside of my apartment?

Most policies cover off-premises damage caused by fire, water damage from burst pipes, and vandalism. So that means if the drycleaners catches fire and destroys half your wardrobe, or your storage locker floods from a burst pipe, you may be covered.

If your personal property is stolen outside your apartment, that may also be covered.   Or you may be required to take out extra insurance. The cost typically charged annually for off-premises theft insurance is probably worth it if you travel a lot with expensive suits or store a $3,000

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