Ah, the sweet life of the renter. No monthly homeowners premiums to pay. No flood or storm insurance to agonize over. No annoying calls from insurance agents — ever. The good life.
At least that’s what a lot of us think.
Renting has its perks. If you get tired of where you’re living, you can pack up and move somewhere better. If the kitchen tap springs a leak, you call the landlord.
But renting has its baggage too. Literally. Just like homeowners, renters own things — clothes, laptops, bikes, etc. They also have visitors from time to time. In other words, if you rent, you have stuff that can get damaged or stolen, and a responsibility for the safety of the guests who enter your living space.
That brings us back to insurance. Do you really need it if you rent? We’re pro insurance around here, so yes, it’s a good idea to snatch up a quality renters insurance policy. But let’s take a closer look at what renters insurance is, how much it costs, and what it covers so you can decide for yourself whether you need it.
Did You Know: Only about half of U.S. renters have an insurance policy. Read on to find out why that could be a big mistake.
What Is Renters Insurance?
Pop quiz: Imagine your landlord isn’t exactly on top of maintenance in your building. The plumbing is old, tenants have complained of leaks, and he’s done nothing. One day the pipes in your living room walls burst and soak everything you own — your phone, your laptop, your new couch, your tabby mix. Do you have any recourse, or are you out $6,000 and a cat?
Without renters insurance, you’re definitely out. With a renters policy in your back pocket, you’d probably get a check from your insurance company — your new BFF in situations like this.
That’s the essence of renters insurance: It’s coverage for your stuff. If you thought your landlord’s policy would take care of your things, it won’t. Your landlord’s policy covers only damage to the building.
That’s just one pretty broad hypothetical situation, so let’s zoom in on exactly how a renters policy protects you and the situations in which it may kick in.
FYI: Plenty of renters are surprised to learn their policies cover their stuff both inside and outside their living spaces, just like homeowners insurance policies. If you’re working at your neighborhood Starbucks and some creep steals your laptop, for example, your insurance company may cut you a check to replace it.
What Renters Insurance Covers
An HO-4 renters policy would protect your things from a number of accidents. To insurance companies, accidents generally mean something unexpected, such as a freak kitchen fire, not your hanging a blanket over your halogen floor lamp and torching half your living room. Keep that in mind.
Insurers call these big incidents “perils.” The major perils are fire, storm, vandalism, theft, and, sometimes, water damage. There are always gray areas — adjusters love them — but if it happens out of the blue and you lose personal property, you’re usually entitled to compensation. With one pretty big exception: valuables.
Most insurers put caps on coverage for expensive items. The default is $1,000, so if you have a $5,000 trumpet or a $10,000 road bike, you’ll need to pay a slightly higher premium (that’s your monthly payment) if you want full coverage for those items.
Pro Tip: Most people pay their insurance bills monthly. The lower the amount you want to pay for your coverage to kick in after an accident, the higher your monthly bills.
Anyone Who Gets Hurt at Your Place
Personal liability coverage, which also comes with your renters policy, is for people accidents. If someone gets hurt inside your place, your insurance would help you out with medical bills and legal expenses. Knock on wood that your friends won’t sue you if your cat scratches them or they trip on a loose floorboard and twist their ankle, but you never know.
FYI: If you run a Pilates studio out of an apartment or house you rent, your renters insurance won’t cover you because your insurance company will consider it a business.
Living Expenses (If You Need to Move Out)
We talked about pipes bursting and destroying all your stuff. Plumbing disasters are ugly, smelly, and costly, but they likely wouldn’t force you to move out.
Let’s say, however, a tree crashes through your living room wall during a storm. You probably wouldn’t want to keep living in your rental property while it’s being rebuilt unless you happen to own a very cozy tent.
If your living space is uninhabitable after an accident, your policy should compensate you for temporary living expenses. Insurance providers call this loss-of-use coverage, and it will help you out not only with rent payments or hotel bills, but also with groceries and utilities.
Did You Know: Renters insurance can be as cheap as $5 per month with a Lemonade Insurance plan. You can typically expect to pay between $15 and $20 per month, however, or about the amount it costs to host a personal website.
What Renter’s Insurance Doesn’t Cover
A renters policy doesn’t work like magic. Your insurance company won’t zap money into your Venmo account the minute you report an accident. They’ll need to take a look at your claim first, which is fair enough. But there are a few cases in which you shouldn’t wait for a payout with bated breath, because insurance companies simply aren’t going to cover you.
Here are eight scenarios renters insurance doesn’t typically cover:
- Pet damage
- Stuff you haven’t told your insurer about
- Anyone else’s stuff (roommates, family, or friends)
- Appliances, unless you have a home warranty
- Damage to your car
- Preventable water damage
Pro Tip: If you expect your insurance company to open up its wallet when your stuff goes missing, it needs to know it’s there first. If you haven’t already, document anything of value in your rental property with a dollar amount. Receipts with dates and your name on them are even better. It will make the claims-filing process go a lot smoother.
Do I Need Renters Insurance?
No, you don’t need renters insurance. Life goes on without it. But your life could get pretty difficult without it too.
Maybe you haven’t tallied up your belongings lately, or maybe you have no idea how much they’re worth. For a little perspective, most renters own at least $10,000 worth of stuff, and probably a lot more. Yep, it all adds up. But you don’t have to lose everything in order to wish you had a backup plan. The loss of an expensive laptop alone would put most of us in a pretty serious funk.
Renters Insurance Cost
The average cost of renters insurance — $180 to $240 per year — to cover all your earthly possessions in the event of some common accidents is pretty small change, all things considered. Even though renters insurance isn’t required by law anywhere, we definitely recommend investing in a policy — especially if you live in a state prone to natural disasters or a neighborhood that sees lots of burglaries.
Not sure where to start? Here are a few renters insurance providers we recommend.
If you like your renters insurance cheap, friendly, and built for the web, read our full review of Lemonade Insurance.
- State Farm
State Farm renters plans are also surprisingly affordable these days. If you bundle it with your auto insurance, even better.
Check out Nationwide’s latest deals. It’s another major insurance provider that’s cheaper than you think, and you’ll have a lot of room for customization with a Nationwide plan.
There are a few pretty big misconceptions about renters insurance making the rounds. One is that if your landlord has insurance, you’re covered. You’re not. The second is that renters insurance is expensive. It isn’t. Finally, plenty of renters believe that only homeowners have stuff worth insuring. That’s also demonstrably false.
If you own a bunch of expensive stuff that isn’t covered by your landlord’s policy and renters insurance is pretty cheap, why haven’t you swiped up a plan yet?
That’s a question we home insurance experts think every renter without a policy should answer today.
No, it doesn’t. Landlord insurance only covers buildings, not the stuff inside.
Renters insurance can be as cheap as $5 per month, but prices generally fall between $15 and $20 per month.
We advise having a policy if you rent. You never know how well your landlord is maintaining the property you’re renting or when an accident may strike.
No, it doesn’t. Pet damage is on you.
Yes, you can. But the default cap is usually $1,000, so if you’ve got an expensive item, you’ll need to pay a higher monthly premium to get complete coverage.