WTF is renters insurance really, and do I need it?

Updated Oct 12 2015
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By: David HilowitzCC BY 2.0
I live in an apartment, but it doesn't explicitly require renters insurance. I've been renting my own places for four years now, and have gone without it. It seemed like a good thing to have, but not something to prioritize as a working (sometimes struggling) artist.

That said, I have a more stable income these days, and an apartment full of camera gear, and my partner's extensive video game collection. We live in a neighborhood that's been making headlines lately for a rash of daytime robberies, so it's been on my mind a lot lately.

But I really know absolutely nothing about where to start, what to look out for, and what it actually covers. I think it's time to finally make the leap, and level up in adulthood.

Can y'all help a Homie out and break down what your experiences have been, and any advice you have on renters insurance? It'll be much appreciated! –Tyler

  1. I had mine through my car insurance (saved a little by bundling them together). It came in handy when my apartment was broken into and someone made off with all my electronics and movies.

    If the value of things lost doesn't exceed the deductible, then it's not so helpful, but in my case it did. And it helped me feel less skittish and violated, moving forward, to be able to replace some things that had been stolen.

    • When I had renter's insurance, I had it through the same company as my car insurance policy also. Having two policies with them triggered the multi-line discount, which effectively made my renter's insurance $0.01 per month! definitely talk to your agent if you currently have auto or other insurance.

  2. Please get it! It's normally not very expensive, mine is less than $200 a year and has coverage for up to $35,000 worth of stuff.

    An old coworker of mine didn't have renters insurance and her apartment building burnt down. She was left scrambling to buy new furniture and replace all of her clothes.

    I know that my policy not only covers the loss of stuff but also helps cover the cost of staying at a hotel if your apartment is uninhabitable. It will give you such piece of mind to have it.

    Also, take pictures of everything in your apartment. And I mean everything, and save them to a website like flicker so that you have a record of exactly what you own if something bad does happen. For your cameras take pictures of all of the lenses and accessories too. The pictures don't need to be nice they just new to show what you own. Take a picture of your closet so you can say no, I really own 40 pairs of shoes!

  3. We also got ours through our car insurance provider. While we never had to use it during our time in the apartment, we had friends in another complex that had a fire and were very glad to have it.

    Like all insurance, it's one of those things that you pay for an hope that you'll never need. If you can afford it, it's a nice safety net.

  4. Full disclosure: I sold property and casualty insurance for almost 10 years for State Farm. However, I have not had my license in a few years and laws vary state to state.

    Even though a lot of landlords don't require renters insurance you should still have it. But not just to cover your stuff in case of theft. The really big reason is because you could be held liable (financially responsible) for causing damage to your unit and/or the entire building if a fire or water overflow originates from your unit and you were negligent. An example, you leave the water running in the bath, an emergency arises and you forget about the running water. The water over flows damaging your floor and the ceiling of the unit below. You would very likely be found liable for all that building damage. Same if you leave something on the stove and it catches fire…you were negligent so you are liable. So the question becomes not "Can I afford renters insurance?" But rather "Can I afford NOT to have it?" (Some states like CO can garnish your wages, savings accounts, etc. as a way for force you to pay for the damage).

    Something to keep in mind is that your camera equipment may not be covered by a simple renters policy if it is used professionally. However, some renters policies have a "rider" that provides a small amount of coverage for home businesses but ask about it…don't assume it will cover the cameras. If it won't cover or isn't enough coverage ask about a "personal articles policy". These policies are pretty in expensive and cover specific items for almost any type of damage (even accidental). You have to have a renters or homeowners policy to purchase the PAP but again, it is pretty cheap. The PAP also will cover professionally used items but you have to specify them as such.

    My renters costs me like $15/mo. But because of what I saved on my car ins. it really isn't costing me anything.

    • Can't agree enough, it's SUPER important. My appartment got broken into 2 times in a year, and my boyfriend's appartement was robbed the same year too. Whitout insurance, I'm not sure how we would have managed.

      And yes, make sure any special items (like your photo equipment) or collections, or art, or special expensive jewlery is covered. You have to ask about those things. There are many little add-ons you can have. A good insurance advisor will help you figure out the most effective way to do this.

      Finally, compare prices and check out any affinity program you might be eligible to. You're an alumni? Chances are, your alumni association has an agreement with one company or another. I got a rebate through my employer. It's really worth doing the little research.

  5. My friends almost two years ago had a fire that consumed their entire house and it burned to the ground with them having to escape by jumping out of their 2nd story bedroom window, sustaining injuries. They lost a snake and a rabbit as well. They were renting from her parents who were insured for the structure, but they didn't have renters' insurance and were not covered for any of the contents of the home. They lost EVERYTHING. This was the 2nd such case among my friends that I had seen. It was enough to finally get me to purchase renters' insurance for the first time. My current apartment complex requires a certain level of insurance, but we'd have it anyway.

  6. Definitely get it! My very first apartment on my own was broken into. Everything I had of value was stolen – electronics, jewelery, etc. No one told me about renters insurance – I was young and dumb, so I didn't have it. Had I purchased a plan, I would've been compensated and had money to replace what was replaceable. And most renters policies are super cheap, especially if you add them on to car insurance…do it today!

  7. My husband and I lived in an apartment once and DIDN'T have renter's insurance, and we really regretted it. An ice storm came through the area which caused a lot of damage. There was a diseased tree on the apartment property that fell during the storm, right onto our car! Our car insurance didn't cover property damage at the time, and we had signed away our rights in our apartment lease. None of the damage to our car was covered.
    We were poor undergrad students without anyone to help us out financially. My husband ended up fixing the major damage himself, and did his best at hammering out the dents, but the car was never the same, and it took us a long time to recover financially.

      • The renter's insurance would have covered property damage on the premises. Where I live, if your car is parked with no one inside it, it's just property – so either car insurance or property insurance can cover it. (But our car insurance did not cover property damage at the time, so our only help would have been renters insurance.)

  8. I work in a hotel, and we always have people in house with us for what we call "insurance stays." These are folks who are put up by their insurance after their home or apartment has been damaged to the point of being uninhabitable. We have folks in with us Every. Day. for this reason. No one is immune. Even of you're super careful, all it takes is your neighbor having a flood or fire to put you out. Or a big storm that drops a tree or power line on your house. Or dangerous mold after a flood. Or old wiring gone bad…… You get my point. Go get that insurance! It's cheap and only takes a few minutes to sign up. You can even do it online if you don't want to call.

  9. I lived in a complex once with several apartments very close to each other. One night one of the buildings caught on fire. Everyone got out ok, but everything inside that complex (with had 8 apartments) and then two apartments in the complex next to it were a total loss. Everyone lost everything they owned… and no one had renters insurance so it was just gone. The insurance for the complex does not cover renter loss.
    The complex fire really hit me… at any point a neighbor might set something on their stove or cause an out of control grease fire. Dryers… a number one source of fires due to lint build up. Everyone had them in their own units and who is to say anyone else is properly taking care of theirs? At any point there could be a fire and everything you own could be completely lost without compensation.
    Definitely have renters insurance. In most cases it's very cheap, especially when bundled with auto. I pay it all at tax time when I get a refund and call it good.

  10. I hate to say: no you don't need it… but: I have been renting for 8 years and have never had renters insurance. *knock wood* I haven't yet regretted it.

    When I first started renting I didn't even have health insurance, and I hardly owned anything of value so I never even thought of getting it. And, in a way, insurance always seems like a gamble to me… the house usually wins. Plus I was to busy trying to save up enough money to have a cushion if I lost my job/switched carriers.

    When I buy a house we'll insure that, but until then I'll just keep changing my smoke detector batteries and keeping my valuables in a fireproof box. (We are house shopping now)

    • The good news is, renter's insurance is really cheap. I probably spend more on coffee every month than I do on my renter's insurance. You can get cheaper rates by bundling it with car insurance or life insurance. Even check out what your bank/credit union has to offer.

  11. I HAVE to have renter's insurance–my apartment complex requires it–but I've never had any need of it. However, if you have car insurance and it's been a while since you negotiated your rate, ask about bundling renter's insurance. With the bundle discount, I ended up coming away from the deal paying less for my car insurance–and absolutely nothing for my renter's insurance. Uh, solid.
    If I were paying flat-out for the renter's insurance I have (considering that my rate is less because I have car insurance with this company)? $10 a month for $100,000 of coverage. I always assumed it would be pricey!

    • I also assumed it'd be expensive. And then when the Mister and I were apartment hunting, we went to one place that required renter's insurance, and we were like "Okay see you later we're not rich enough for you guys" and the realtor was like "…but I only pay $15 a month for mine." So we got it basically the next day through the car insurance, and I think its like $8 extra monthly.
      I don't really remember what it covers or the details, but $8 is very little in relation to replacing everything we own in case of disaster

      • Think of it as added value to the complex. People who would otherwise be put off by an extra $8 per month are not the kind of people that you want as your neighbors. Those that care enough to insure their stuff typically also care more about everything else, making them good neighbors.

  12. I would do eet now! Especially since you have valuable gear that would be a huge pain to replace if something happened to your apartment. I had it with my old apartment and (although cost may be different in your area) it was like $12 a month, which is a lot easier to stomach that replacing thousands of dollars of gear in the case of an accident.

  13. Not only does it cover the loss of valuables, but it also covers pets. So let's say super sweet Fido decides to bite the annoying kid next door … The medical and maybe even legal fees that can follow that is often covered.

    • Fido doesn't even have to bite the kid. Maybe he gets excited and wraps his leash around your super sweet old neighbor lady and she trips and busts her knee. Renters insurance will cover that too.

  14. Please, get it! It's not expensive, and there are so many ways it can save your butt. Say your upstairs neighbor overflows their toilet and it leaks into your apartment and ruins your couch – ew! Or say someone falls down the stairs while visiting you and the only way their medical insurance will pay for their coverage is by suing you for damage – this can happen even if it's your bestest friend. Or what if there's a fire and you need to not only replace all your belongings, but stay in a hotel for weeks on end? Or what if your place is broken into?

    Rental insurance is cheap and IMO really, really worth it.

  15. I've had renter's insurance in every apartment, and I have never needed it. But it's $12 a month, automatically deducted, and I never have to think about. That said, I agree with one of the comments above to double-check that something like camera equipment is covered. I am a PhD student and my laptop is my life, so I have additional "personal article" coverage on it. At least two of my close friends have had their laptops stolen from their desks, one with insurance and one without. I am telling you that the one who did not have insurance was kicking herself about not wanting to pay that $12 a month.

    • I hope you are also backing up your data and writing on a regular basis (even just email it to yourself, but dropbox or whatever is better). My iBook had a motherboard issue when I was working on my dissertation. I took it to the campus help-desk and was told that I was the most relaxed doctoral student with a crashed computer they'd ever seen. I told them I'd backed up at the end of the prior workday, so the only loss would be about 4 hours of work from that morning. Not worth stressing over.

  16. When my friends apartment burned down, their renter's insurance paid to put them in a hotel while they looked for a new place for over a month, and once they moved, it paid to replace everything they had lost. I promptly realized the benefit in this and started paying for mine for 20 bucks a month, though there were plans as low as 10. It's a cheap price for some serious peace of mind.

  17. Not only will renters insurance cover your stuff while you rent, but many policies will cover you DURING A MOVE also! So if the movers totally destroy your stuff on a massive cross country move, you're still good.

  18. I have never been without one since I moved out, because my family insisted… and they are really not very expensive. We (Husband and I) pay 98 € a year and are insured upto 100,000. I have had to use it two times now, once when my stew was too large and the cheese started burning in the oven and singed the kitchen and the second time when my cat decided to use my neighbours brand new car as his playarea and scratched the hood. (I know, who gives a… but he did, so I had to pay. And I am glad my insurance covered it, because a brand new lacquer cost 800€ and I might just have throttled my cat for that.) Think about it this way: Would you be able to replace all of your stuff, in case something did happen, without running into serious troubles? And would you be able to pay for your neighbours damages?

  19. For a long time I didn't do it because I was really really poor and didn't really even own anything of value – but then a friend of mine pointed out that things add up. If suddenly EVERYTHING I owned was gone, where would I start? Bus pass? Clothes for work? Winter coat? Work-and-winter-appropriate footwear? Food? I was poor enough that I really would not have been able to afford more than one of those things a month, never mind finding a new place to live or whatever else – and I realized it could take me years to get back to the relatively meager situation I was currently in… I looked into it, thinking I couldn't afford it, and found it was $8 per month.

    I haven't ever needed it, but I spent some time living close enough to "that" line that it made me feel a little safer incase something terrible did happen to my tiny apartment.

    My husband on the other hand, back in his rental days, decided to defrost a turkey by running water over it in the sink – and then went out to meet some friends for a drink… Or two… The turkey slipped at some point, covering the drain, and he not only flooded his own apartment, but 6 floors below him!!!

    If he didn't have renter's insurance that covered this sort of thing, he would still be working on digging himself out of that hole 20 years later. He's not a stupid guy (honest), perhaps he was young and distractable – but things happen. And IF they do, please please be protected!!!

    • I tipped over a cup of water in an old apartment, and it dripped onto my downstair's neighbor's TV! Luckily there was no damage and he was a nice guy. But yikes! I could have been in big trouble.
      (That incident also seriously called into question whether that apartment was up to code… )

  20. We have renters' insurance and a separate line on my engagement ring (it's literally the most expensive single thing we own). If something happens, it's great to have the peace of mind that we are covered.

    Also, try to go through independent insurance companies for a quote! We shopped around for our car insurance, renters' and jewelry coverage at AAA, Costco, various associations we're a part of, online, through brick & mortar agents for the big companies, and then looked at some independent agents. We ended up choosing an independent agent that gave us a cheaper deal for everything, by actually breaking up our policies across two different carriers. Plus, it's a local family business that's been around for almost 50 years!

  21. True story- I didn't have insurance. I filled a pot of water on the stove, turned on the wrong burner, which had the plastice spoon on it, and went to pee. The spoon caught fire. I threw water on it.

    The fire sprinklers came on and did not turn off until the fire department got there. I was on the hook for the restoration service after hours call, replacing the carpet, the celing and my neighbor's ceiling. Over $1000 dollars.

    I called for a quote the next day. $40 dollars a year when bundled with my car insurace.

  22. Definitely consider it. We've had it for years (bundled with our car at State Farm) and it really is quite reasonable. My main tip is to be sure to ask what kind of replacement coverage is on the agreement, because some options are "replace at cost" and other are "replace new". So if you have a six year old Macbook, the *current* worth may be next to nothing, but then you're stuck having to buy a new one that cost a ton more with the piddling amount you were entitled to via insurance.

  23. How do you convince a reluctant roommate/partner that renters insurance is a worthy investment? I'm curious because I had to do this. Worked out for me, but I can imagine that some people might be harder to convince, even with the facts laid out.

    I had to convince a roommate that renters insurance was absolutely necessary. She considered it a "nice to have" expense on top of her already stretched paycheque. During the week we were discussing it, she went out and bought a patio set that cost almost as much as her share of the annual insurance fee. To her credit, she had been putting away a couple bucks per week in order to afford it, so it was a long-planned purchase. When I explained that she would have to pay out of pocket again to replace it AND the rest of her stuff should the apartment burn down or should there be a burglary, she came around, returned the patio set, and paid her share of the insurance.

    I had an easy time of it, but has anyone had to put their foot down with a roommate or partner about purchasing renters insurance? I'd say it's a dealbreaker for me.

    • Show the reluctant roommate this post & all these comments! These aren't stupid or horribly unlucky people — this is a microcosm of everyone, & here are folks who've had to use their renters insurance or known friends who did. It saved their butts, it could save your roomie's too 🙂

      • Ha ha, yes I have already bookmarked this page for future reference : )

        Thankfully the circumstances already made it easy to convince her!

    • Your roommate does not need to be on the policy. You can get your own and if there is a fire, your stuff will be covered and the roommate's stuff won't be covered.

      • Yep! I had discussed this with the insurance broker, and they were reluctant to insure only one person in the household since there could be difficulty in discovering fault, or something like that. I wanted a comprehensive plan that covered not just my stuff, but also liability should I/we cause some damage. I think the liability portion is where they were having trouble.

    • I purchased renter's insurance separately from my roommates in college. When our apartment was broken into that year, one roommate didn't have any insurance. Her things weren't covered, but ours were replaced.

  24. YES!!! I was in the same boat and was like, wtf do I really need this? Lucky for me I did – a pipe burst in my apartment one day while I was gone for 10-12 hours and I came home to three inches of standing water covering two bedrooms and two bathrooms. I lost a bookshelf, some clothes, but most importantly my MacBook Pro. Renter's insurance covered the cost for it to be diagnosed and bought me a brand new one. It literally saved my skin.

  25. Definitely in the pro-renters insurance camp, but really y'all – do your research. The insurance I have now is better and cheaper than the insurance I would have gotten bundled with my car insurance. I got quotes from at least 6 different companies before I found one with prices & terms that I liked. As with all insurance, there is a lot of fine print, so make sure what you want to be covered is actually covered, and make sure your deductible is low enough to make paying for the insurance worthwhile.

    • A good independent insurance broker should be able to clearly explain the "fine print" for you and help you get a policy that fits your needs. Every policy is different, and that fine print can get really overwhelming.

  26. If you use your photo gear for business purposes, you may need business insurance to cover it, so be sure to ask about that from your renter's insurance company. A friend of mine is a wedding photographer and had all his gear stolen from his car. Renter's insurance did not cover it because it was used for business (he was just starting out and didn't have business insurance yet). Not sure if you use your photo gear to make money, but you mentioned being an artist. If you sell your photography or use it in your artwork or make money off it in any way, you'll most likely need business insurance. Just something to think about. That being said, if you do use it for your income, can you really afford to replace it on your own if something happens to it? Insurance is likely cheaper.

  27. Also going to hop on the "get insurance" bandwagon. Every place I rented required it for liability coverage, but think about it: how much do you trust yourself, your roommate, your pets, your neighbors, and the local criminals? I mean, I know myself and that I'm a pretty safe and careful person who's not likely to burn the place down, but I don't know that about the folks who live downstairs from me (or their guests). All it takes is one neighbor to fall asleep with a cigarette (happened to a coworker of mine) or an unsupervised toddler in a bathroom upstairs to destroy your apartment. Just like any other type of insurance, better safe than sorry.

  28. Get it. When I rented, I had it through my car insurance (State Farm) and it was less than fifteen dollars a month. And yes, I realize that when you're young and broke that can seem like a lot…it did to me at the time but I did it because my dad is Captain Disaster and he nagged the shit out of me about it. I was happy to have it, though, on more than one occasion. I have tenants now in property I own, and though I don't make them buy it I strongly encourage it. I was also employed by a property management company for several years, and I saw it save people lots of heartache and money multiple times.

    Make sure you have photographs of all your valuable stuff, documented, on a USB drive that you keep somewhere other than your house (like in your glove compartment or your desk at work) just in case, and read the fine print to make sure that everything is covered. (Some insurance policies require extra coverage to be purchased for really valuable things like jewelry or antiques)

    • Just something to consider: a tenant causes damage to your building. They don't have renters so your policy must cover the damage. You pay your deductible and your loss history now shows a claim. If your tenants are descent they may pay you back for the deductible but they can't erase your loss history. With too many losses your company may cancel you then getting a new policy through a new company will be much more expensive because you are seen as a higher risk due to the claim(s). Renters insurance protects the owner of the property too.

    • You may want to reconsider requiring tenants to have renters insurance. It protects you too. If they cause damage to your building and your policy covers it, you pay the deductible and your loss history will be tarnished. Maybe you are fortunate and the tenants pay back the deductible but they can't erase that loss history. With too many claims your company will either A. Require you to increase your deductible or B. Cancel/non-renew your policy. It is harder and more expensive to get a policy when you already have claims on your loss history. Most companies will look back 3-5 years.

  29. Totally get renters insurance, in NZ we call it contents insurance but it includes legal liability cover which everyone should have. I have heard far too many horror stories in regards to people not having insurance and then losing everything to a fire and having to pay back hundreds of thousands of dollars in repairs and replacing their belongings. You may not think you have much but if you lost everything in your house think how much it could cost to replace it and I'm not talking what you paid for it but replacing (which if you got it second had or on a massive sale card vary a lot). I know it would of cost me about 10,000 to replace everything in my room when I was flatting, clothing and shoe costs a lot when you have to replace it all at once, then books, beds, bedding, draws, desk, make up, jewellery, rugs, computer.

    • Yup – remember those students in Dunedin? One had some bacon on the stove, popped over next door to beg a tomato, came back and the house was burning down.

      And all of the students on the lease were held liable for something like $200,000 of damage. So it's not even about you being careful (and trusting to luck) – it's about having that level of faith in your flatmates/roommates as well. No thanks!

      Not worth the risk not to have it IMO. I don't think I could have replaced even just a room's worth of stuff – clothes, bedding, towels, bed, furniture, computer, etc. – for less than $8k either.

  30. I am the poster child for why renters should have insurance. I got it when I lived with a lunatic and I didn't trust her not to burn the house down while she smoked out her window but it actually came in handy a year later. Three weeks after our wedding, Hurricane Sandy rolled through CT and dropped a tree on the cottage my husband and I had just moved into. Renters insurance paid for a hotel, clothes and dog supplies since everything was stuck in the house for several days, covered the cost of all the wasted food from the powerless fridge. It even paid for our eventual move to OH. The whole situation was heart-breaking and super stressful but having so much covered made it easier. It's not that expensive and even if your budget is crazy tight, find room for renters insurance!

  31. I recommend it. I use to live in Philly and lived in the "nice" neighborhood. Even with that, my apartment got broken into. Oddly nothing got stolen. I had a family who lived in a really gentrified area and their neighbors made the new since the row house got broken into. So don't think "I live in a nice neighborhood, I should be fine!" Sometimes the nice areas get targeted.

    That said I know with our insurance we had to estimate how much stuff we own, and list a price. Unless you have literally nothing of value (ie you are sleeping on the floor and own only clothing) it is worth getting.

  32. Any recommendations for where to buy renters' insurance? I don't have a car, so I can't piggy-back on that policy. I live in the Boston area.

    • the usual companies who offer car insurance also offer renter's policies – geico, nationwide, state farm, liberty mutual, etc.

      • Thanks for the head's up JenniferJuniper. I looked into those companies' policies. But I was hoping for a recommendation of one company over another. Most of the policies seem fairly comparable, so I'm having a hard time choosing one.

    • Policies vary from area to area. I would go to 2 places to ask for local recommendations: your bank, and HR for where you work. Otherwise, find an independent agent who has experience with all the local policies and can explain the differences.

  33. I say get insurance and get it now – it doesn't only cover robbery, it also usually covers other crazy events such as flood or fire. It's also very cheap, the policies that I've had over the years renting were under $100 per year, the last one was $8 per month.

    But now, I have a story: Our apartment caught fire one morning when no one was home. We were lucky, no humans were hurt and a lot of our things were able to be cleaned and saved. At the time we had no renters insurance, which is a whole other story, and so we had no official route to go to for help paying to replace/clean our stuff. This sucked… what was worse was that we were later sent an itemized bill for the damage to the apartment. The fire was ruled no fault, and while the apartment complex had their own property insurance to cover the damage to the building and rebuild the unit – they went after us first. They were well within their legal right to do that and charge us that money, however we were not at fault and so the charges would not have been likely to stick in court. We had to obtain our own lawyer to send a letter telling them we weren't sending them any money. If the fire had been from an unattended candle, a pot left on the stove, the cat tearing apart a cord causing it to short or whatever – if the fire had been ruled our fault, we could have been held liable for a whole lot of money. And so the moral of the story is: renter's insurance is cheap, and sh*t happens. make sure you pay your bill on time.

  34. I have renter's insurance because my apartment complex requires it, and my previous apartment complex did too. I didn't really choose the company, I just went with the one that already had everything set up with the complex. Still cheap, still does what it's supposed to do, and they already know the value and details about the apartment.

    That said, we had a flood in our apartment last year due to burst pipes (probably our neighbor's fault, but also the winter was terrible). It was hugely annoying, though we were lucky not to have anything seriously damaged. We lost the use of half our apartment for several weeks while damage to the ceiling was being repaired, though, and we could have gotten reimbursed for that, but the reimbursement (based on unusable square footage) would have been so little that it was barely worth it. Our rate would have increased probably more than we would have been reimbursed. So, I get that renter's insurance would be excellent in the event that valuable things get destroyed or the whole apartment becomes unusable, but for us it wasn't really that useful even though we had a mini-catastrophe.

  35. Please, for the love of all that is good, get renters insurance.

    You will hopefully never need it, but if something completely random happens, say, you live in an apartment building and there is an explosion in the apartment above you that incinerates half your belongings as well as your roof and outer walls (which would have killed you had you been home), you will find renters insurance super handy.

    This senario above played out with my sister in law. They did not have renters insurance. The three of them had to move into one of our bedrooms (6 people living in a 2 bedroom, yay!) for a few months and they had to rely on charity to replace all of their belongings.

    While they got a little help from the responsible party, insurance would have hooked them up with living expenses, a hotel, money for food and clothing and basically helped them get back on their feet.

    I didn't have insurance either, but I got it immediately afterwards and it turned out that my car insurance went down when I bundled them, so I was effectively paying less money for twice the insurance!

    Just do it and do it now!

  36. I wish I could imbed a photo of what happened at one apartment complex I lived at several years ago… I was showering one night and noticed the water pressure was dropping severely so I hurriedly ended my shower, got out, and continued getting ready for bed. While I was getting ready I noticed that I heard a lot of noise from across the street (still within my apartment complex) and lo and behold, the WHOLE building across from me was on fire. The only reason I didn't notice sooner or worry about my building is because I was on the other side of the "main" road going through the complex. I watched that building burn for two hours… It was horrible… The top two floors lost EVERYTHING due to being torched and the lowest floor probably lost everything due to water and smoke damage. All told, 80 people were made homeless all due to someone flicking a cigarette into a bush from their balcony. Luckily, no one was hurt.

    TL/DR – A fire gutted an apartment building near mine and I've had renters insurance ever since.

    EDIT – Here's a video I found of the fire:

  37. I second, and third, etc., what everyone else has said about renters' insurance. I've never needed to use it, but I probably would have wasted the $140/yr or whatever it is that I would have saved by skipping it anyway.

    A benign story about the value of insurance: A friend and her roommates were drinking cocktails once on the roof of their 6-story apartment. One roommate had a few too many (as one does) and fell off the roof (as one does). He landed on the AC unit of the building next store. Remarkably, he got up and laughed about it, but the unit was trashed. What would have been a major expense was covered by his renters' insurance. It wasn't a huge deal, but renter's insurance made it a non-issue.

    I'm not sure if that's standard policy coverage, or if he had to swing that, or if he was paying for a no-deductible policy or what, but still. It's a small thing that would be a hassle or a setback to anyone, but because he paid his renters' insurance, it was just a funny story.

    Another reason I definitely have it: I live in LA, where earthquakes are a pretty standard occurrence. Even a small one can knock things down and break them, and according to my insurance agent, most things that might get destroyed in an earthquake are covered. If plates crash against the countertop, it's not the earthquake that destroyed them; it's actually the COUNTERTOP. If my TV hits the floor and shatters, my insurance covers it because the damage is floor damage, not earthquake damage. Now, if my TV broke apart because the wall separated during an earthquake, that would NOT be covered, since that's earthquake damage. Earthquake insurance for buildings is a totally different animal and something (thankfully) I don't need to know about. But for a renter, renter's insurance is helpful in earthquakes, too. (I am totally taking my agent's word for this. He did explain this after I'd already committed to purchasing renter's insurance. If anyone knows better, let me know.)

    Renters insurance costs like $16 a month not bundled with car insurance, and it just makes me less anxious about bike thieves, burglars, earthquakes, and the fact that my landlord still hasn't put a fire door on my water heater. In my opinion, rich people are more likely to avoid these issues with their fancy security systems and retro-fitting and fire doors. But it's those of us who can afford neither prevention nor replacement who need insurance.

    As for details, I have actually found that bigger companies work better for insurance. It's just the nature of the game: the more people you cover over a more diverse area, the cheaper your insurance can be and the better your coverage. My insurer, State Farm, was great when my car was totaled. Though I don't know how they'd be in a renter's insurance issue, they've earned my loyalty for the next few years.

    Also check with your bank– I think Wells Fargo offers minimal coverage for $12 or $13 a month, which I would have gotten if I weren't happy bundling my insurance with State Farm. So check the major companies and your bank, and expect to pay between $12 and $20/month.

    If you have expensive equipment, maybe get a more complete policy. Personally, my thoughts are that $25,000 (which I think is pretty standard coverage) can cover me starting my consumer life over. If you share walls with someone, ask specifically about "damage to the property of others". My coverage for that is only $500, and I might actually get that increased. Also note that certain equipment has limits on the coverage. More than a couple thousand dollars worth of electronics, guns, jewelry, or furs might require extra coverage. Definitely talk to an agent about those.

    In short, definitely get some, and try talking to a couple agents about it. They should be able to offer you good information.

  38. Just last Sat the 20th a couple friends of ours lost everything in a fire musical instruments and recordings they didn't have renters insurance. We are having a benefit to help them rebuild. We can't replace the recordings from their band or the comic book collection. It may never happen to you I never had it but you never know.

  39. Renter's insurance is typically cheap on its own, but is awesome if you can bundle it (car insurance, life insurance, etc). We're currently breaking even with our multi-line discount.
    A few years back, the duplex my S.O. was living in caught on fire while he was at work. The fire started in his neighbor's unit – who was away on vacation at the time. The building was burning for some time before the neighbors across the road noticed and called for the fire department. The damage was pretty extensive (the neighbor's side of the building was practically gone). Although the fire was contained before it spread to my S.O.'s side of the building, he still had a lot of smoke and water damage. The restoration service his insurance hired was amazing (they de-smelled his books and paperwork, washed and dry cleaned all the clothing, etc), however a lot of items were unsalvageable – mostly kitchen items that were made with plastic or had non-stick coating on them, food, toiletries, the mattress set… It added up FAST. It's one of those things you cannot fully wrap your head around until you begin to itemize everything.
    Beyond replacing the items, his insurance people helped direct him every step of the way – from filing claims, finding a place to live temporarily, next steps, etc. Sometimes during stressful situations it's hard to keep a clear head and think straight. Having that support was an added bonus.
    Definitely photograph your belongings to prove that they were there. If you're an overachiever, make a note of model numbers too. His insurance adjuster suggested listing those, plus it makes it easier to find a replacement. We now currently keep a running list via Google Docs whenever we bring a "big ticket" item into our house, with the model number and date purchased listed with an item description.

  40. My sister had a fire in the apartment unit next to hers. While her unit didn't have any fire damage, everything in her unit was a write off due to either smoke or water damage. The fire in the unit next to hers was intentionally set, turning the whole building in to a crime scene and as a result she couldn't get her car from the parking garage until the fire marshal and the police had finished their investigations.
    Her policy replaced everything in her unit from clothes, furniture, dishes, electronics, hotel, meal and her work equipment to a rental car until she could get hers back.
    Paying a few dollars a month may seem pointless until the unthinkable happens and all of a sudden you are on the hook for major expenses.
    Invest in a fireproof safe for valuables and important documents and take pictures of your apartment and any valuables that will not fit in a safe.

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