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Do You Need Renters Insurance?

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 | July 12, 2016

It always feels safer to be part of the majority. And if you’ve opted out of renters insurance, you are among the 7 in 10 American renters who have done the same.

But is it a wise move?

In short, if you rent your home without insurance you’re putting yourself at serious financial risk and saving very little money. That’s because renters insurance is pretty inexpensive.

The average policy costs between $15 and $30 per month – less than most people’s coffee budget. The average renters policy offers about $30,000 a year in property coverage and $100,000 in liability coverage in case you’re sued or someone is injured in your home, according to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners. Surprisingly, from 2005 to 2013, the average price of renters insurance has actually dropped about $5 a year.

Are you really at risk?

About two-thirds of young adults between 18 and 29 years old rent their homes and nearly 70 percent of them don’t have renters insurance, according to a survey by the Princeton Survey Research Associates International for InsuranceQuotes.com. Surprisingly, about 59 percent of these renters say cost isn’t a factor, the survey adds.

Simply put, most people opt out of renters insurance because they feel lucky. The survey found that 61 percent of millennials believe they live in a secure enough property so the risk is negligible. The survey also reports 43 percent of millennials feel they don’t have enough property to warrant insurance coverage, and 41 percent said they really don’t understand the renters insurance product.

But risks are there. In 2013 alone, there were 98,000 apartment/rental structure fires in the country, according to the National Fire Protection Association. National crime statistics record an average of 2 million homes broken into each year.

Moreover, if you take an inventory all your property – clothes, electronics, jewelry, furniture and appliances – it is most likely worth a lot more than you think. For instance, the average person who rents a two-bedroom house has about $30,000 worth of property, according to a recent U.S. News and World Report article.

The benefits of renters insurance

Renters insurance covers many things. A policy can have customized coverage levels so that your belongings are insured for either their actual value (what they’re worth after depreciation) or for replacement cost (what it would cost you to replace them), according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Renters insurance will cover your property in the event of power surges, water damage, fire, vandalism, theft, and other disasters (even space debris that may fall from the sky). Most policies cover clothes, furniture, bicycles, TVs, appliances, and other electronics as well (typically up to $2,500), according to Property Casualty 360. You’ll want to understand coverage levels and may need an additional policy if your jewelry collection exceeds the policy limit,  which is usually around $1,500. In some cases, especially in high risk areas, you may want to consider covering floods and/or earthquakes, which aren’t covered by basic renters and homeowners policies.

But policies go beyond just covering property. Should a fire force you out of your home, your renters insurance will help foot the bill for temporary housing and even reimburse you for food you lost due to the disaster.

Moreover, your coverage extends beyond your home - while traveling – so your property may be covered if it’s stolen while vacationing in a foreign country.

The other plus is liability coverage. While most people assume liability falls to the landlord - that’s not necessarily the case. If someone is injured in your home, or you accidentally injure someone, the average renters policy offers $100,000 to pay their medical bills, pay a settlement, and cover your court costs as stipulated by the policy, according to Property Casualty 360. In many cases, you can increase coverage up to $500,000 for an extra $20 per year.

How to find a good policy

The first step is to take an inventory of your belongings and decide how much coverage you really need. Also understand your finances so that you adjust your liability coverage accordingly to protect your assets in a lawsuit.

Now, go shopping.

Obtain quotes from reputable insurance companies or get multiple quotes at once from an independent insurance agency (like us at InsuraMatch!). Talk to an agent for help customizing your coverage levels. Make sure you fully understand what is covered and what’s not, and consider whether you need optional flood or earthquake insurance if you live in a high risk area (you can purchase flood insurance just to cover your belongings, not the structure). Also understand if the policy covers replacement for actual value or just replacement value for your belongings.

Finally, look for discounts. If your home has an alarm system or sprinklers, you may qualify for additional savings. Another tip: Consider bundling your policy with your auto insurance. In some cases, this bundling can dramatically decrease your renters insurance policy cost.