FROM HOMEOWNER TO RENTER:
What You Need To Know About Renterís Insurance

As the economy downturn continues, more and more people are losing their homes to either foreclosure or financially motivated downsizing. In fact, foreclosure filings increased by 5% in October, a 25% increase from October 2007.

As homeowners, most people carry a mortgage and, therefore, have no choice but to purchase homeowners insurance as a requirement of their loan. But, for renters, the choice is their own ó and many people facing financial uncertainty might choose to go without renterís insurance, even though they have many of the same risks as homeowners when it comes to protecting possessions or being liable for accidents at home. Some of the most common misperceptions include:

  • ďRenterís insurance is too expensive, and I already have enough bills to pay.Ē The average renterís insurance policy costs between $15 and $30 per month. Replacing all of your possessions or being liable for an accident on your premises will cost much more.
  • "I donít have that many valuables; renterís insurance isnít worth the cost.Ē Renterís insurance policies can cover everything from electronics to clothing to household appliances. Even a minimal number of items could add up to thousands of dollarsí worth of merchandise, which can all be covered in a basic policy.
  • ďMy landlord has insurance, so Iím already protected.Ē Your landlord has insurance for structural damage to the building, and might even be protected against damage caused by tenants. However, this coverage does not extend to your personal property, nor does it protect you from being liable for damage you might cause to the building inadvertently (e.g., a kitchen fire or a plumbing mishap).

Consumers used to having homeowners insurance may not understand the differences between the two types of coverage. The National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) offers these tips for former homeowners who are now renting:

1. How much renterís insurance do you need? Talk to your insurance agent or company about the property you want to protect and the property hazards you would like to be insured from. Your agent can give you coverage policy specifics based on your state and the type of policy you want. They will answer any important questions you have about:

  • What hazards are included in your plan and if you need a separate policy for specific circumstances
  • If your insurance plan affects your roommate(s), if any
  • How you should determine value for your items
  • What some of the insurance terms mean or what they include
  • What optional coverage might be available to you
  • How much liability coverage is included in your plan

2. Can you get a discount on renterís insurance if your residence has particular safety features, like a burglar alarm? Many insurers will reduce your premiums if you have fire or burglar alarms, fire extinguishers, sprinkler systems and/or deadbolts on exterior doors. Some companies might also offer discounts if you have more than one policy with them. Be sure to ask about any discount you might be entitled to.

3. Are you covered in the case of a flood or earthquake? These natural disasters are not generally covered by a renterís or homeowners insurance policy. Ask your insurance agent or company if your policy fully protects you or whether you need to purchase additional coverage.

4. Could owning a pet cause your premium to be higher? Certain municipalities require that owners of select breeds of pets have insurance policies to cover damages and/or injuries caused by the animal. This liability might be covered under a standard renterís insurance policy, but some insurance companies might require the purchase of additional coverage. Talk with your insurance agent or company about the options and how they might affect your premium costs.

5. Does renterís insurance only cover you when youíre at home? Many policies do not limit protection to home-based situations. For example, items you have insured often are covered if they are stolen by someone who breaks into your car or if they are damaged while not on your property.

6. Is personal liability included? A renterís insurance policy covers your property and your personal legal responsibility (or liability) for injuries to others and/or their property while they are on your property.

7. Will you receive additional living expenses if you have to live somewhere else while your apartment is being repaired? If there is damage to the building you are renting and you must live elsewhere while the building is being repaired, you will have coverage for additional living expenses incurred during the reconstruction period.

8. How do you expedite your renterís insurance claim? A home inventory Ė along with photos and proof of ownership Ė make it easier to file an accurate, detailed insurance claim in case your home is damaged or destroyed in a disaster. A home inventory can also help determine how much coverage you need from your renter's insurance. Go to www.naic.org/index_disaster_section.htm to download a free home inventory checklist.

Get More Information

If you have questions or are confused about your insurance policy, you can seek the help of your state insurance department. Visit www.NAIC.org and www.InsureUonline.org to find answers to your questions or to find contact information for your state insurance department.

* Source: RealtyTrac

December 2008

 

The National Association of Insurance Commissioners Headquartered in Kansas City, Mo., the National Association of Insurance Commissioners (NAIC) is a voluntary organization of the chief insurance regulatory officials of the 50 states, the District of Columbia and five U.S. territories. The NAIC's overriding objective is to assist state insurance regulators in protecting consumers and helping maintain the financial stability of the insurance industry by offering financial, actuarial, legal, computer, research, market conduct and economic expertise. Formed in 1871, the NAIC is the oldest association of state officials. For more than 135 years, state-based insurance supervision has served the needs of consumers, industry and the business of insurance at-large by ensuring hands-on, frontline protection for consumers, while providing insurers the uniform platforms and coordinated systems they need to compete effectively in an ever-changing marketplace. For more consumer information, visit InsureUonline.org.


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