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General renters insurance questions

  • There is a floater (or rider or endorsement) on my renters insurance policy. What does that mean?

    A floater, also called a rider or endorsement, is an optional component you can add to your policy to protect property that might otherwise be excluded from coverage. Some examples would be a floater to protect jewelry, or an endorsement to raise the dollar limit for your laptop and computer equipment, or a rider to protect a valuable piece of art. Floaters cost extra, but they don't typically increase your deductible.

    Fun fact: the term “floater” is used because this kind of insurance was originally created to protect property while it was being transported over water.

  • Should I buy renters insurance if I’m a college student?

    If you’re in collegeyou’ll want to protect things like yourcomputer, textbooks, bike, clothing, and furniture, but there are a couple of things to note.

    First, there’s a good chance your parents’ homeowners or renters policy still covers you if you’re under 26, so check with them before you shop for your own policy.

    If you decide to shop for your own policy and you live in a dorm, be sure to confirm that the policy will cover on-campus “temporary” housing, as not all insurers include this type of coverage.

  • For renters insurance, how is the value of my stuff determined?

    Before you buy a policy, you should estimate the value of your belongings by looking up what they would cost if you had to buy them today. For items that are unique, collectible, or rare, you should have them appraised to determine their value. Use all of this information to decide how much coverage to buy.

    When you file a claim, your insurer will determine the current value of your items—either their replacement cost or their depreciated value, depending on which type of policy you have—and will also look at any related appraisal reports.

  • Should I buy renters insurance if I live in a dorm?

    If you're in collegeyou'll want to protect things like yourcomputer, textbooks, bike, clothing, and furniture, but there are a couple of things to note.

    First, there's a good chance your parents' homeowners or renters policy still covers you if you're under 26, so check with them before you shop for your own policy.

    If you decide to shop for your own policy and you live in a dorm, be sure to confirm that the policy will cover on-campus "temporary" housing, as not all insurers include this type of coverage.

  • What do I do if the insurance company rejects my claim?

    If the insurance company rejects your claim or pays you less than you expected, ask them for a reason. Be sure to take detailed notes. Then, if you still think the decision is unfair, contact the Department of Financial Services for your state and file a complaint.

  • For my renters insurance, how do I prepare an inventory of my belongings?

    Here are some great tips on how to quickly create a comprehensive inventory of your property.

    1. Choose an inventory app or service

    You can use a simple spreadsheet program, or one of the free services below.

    Websites

    Apps

    Please note that we don't officially endorse or guarantee any of the services listed here. You may also find similar free inventory services on some insurer websites.

    Tip! If your chosen inventory service doesn't export images, be sure to save a copy of them separately.

    2. Document everything

    • Go room to room in your home and make an entry for each item.

    • Take photos as you go.

    • Shoot close-up photos (or write down) any serial numbers.

    • If you know the original cost of the item, include it.

    • It's also a good idea to shoot an accompanying video walk-through. Just be sure to stop briefly at each item so that the video is easy to follow.

    3. Add the current value of each item

    For most things on your list, you can shop online to find what it would cost today to purchase an identical or similar item. Add that to each inventory entry.

    For unique or expensive items (such as jewelry or family heirlooms), have them appraised.

    4. Add all receipts, appraisal reports, and other proof of ownership.

    Include photographs or scans of these with your inventory. Store the paper versions with your other important documents for future reference.

    5. Save copy of inventory off-site

    Make sure you have a full copy of everything stored outside of your home, so that you can still access it no matter what happens.

    6. Update your inventory every 6 months

    The six month period is just a recommendation, but you should regularly update your inventory so that it's always accurate.

  • Should I get renters insurance if I have a roommate?

    Yes, you should get renters insurance whether or not you have a roommate, because your stuff is only covered if there's a policy with your name on it.

    If you already have a policy and you get a new roommate that you trust, you can usually add him to your policy at no extra cost. Similarly, if your roommate already has a policy and you don't, she might be able to add you to her policy.

    Be careful about adding another person to a renters insurance policy, because any claim will be paid to both names.

  • Does my renters insurance cover my belongings if I’m on a trip or away from home?

    Renters insurance typically covers your personal property if it’s on your body and you’re not at home, for example if you are robbed while on vacation. Check the policy’s lists of perils and exclusions to make sure.

  • How do I file a renters insurance claim?

    Here are the general stages of filing a claim.

    1. Immediately take necessary steps to prevent further damage or loss of use.

    You may run into problems with your claim if the insurer determines that the damage was due to some long-standing issue that could have been repaired sooner.

    2. Contact your insurer

    Call your insurer and explain your situation. An agent will send you one or more forms to fill out and give you further instructions.

    3. Provide necessary documentation to support your claim.

    In addition to any paperwork you have to fill out, you'll be asked to provide an inventory report. Other required documents might include a police report or repair estimate depending on the claim. The insurer might also send an adjustor to your home to determine the full scope of the damage.

    If your claim includes special high-value items (such as jewelry), your agent may also ask for appraisal reports or receipts, so be sure to keep them stored with your inventory list.

    4. Insurer reviews and pays claim.

    Once the insurer has all of the necessary documentation, your claim will be reviewed and, if everything is in order, approved, and payment will be issued immediately, minus your deductible.

    If for some reason your claim is denied and you disagree with the decision, ask for the reason for the denial, then contact the Department of Financial Services for your state and file a complaint.

  • Does my renters insurance cover my laptop?

    Renters insurance covers your electronics, including computers and laptops. However, some policies will only cover these items up to a set dollar limit, so you should check the coverage details for each policy you're comparing. If you want more coverage than what's offered, you can pay extra for a rider (also called a floater or endorsement).

  • Can I take my renters insurance with me if I move?

    Yes, you can typically take your renters insurance with you if you move. But you’ll need to update the address on your policy (which is also the insured location). Contact your agent or the insurance company for help with this.

  • Do I need to update my renters insurance policy if I acquire new belongings?

    If you acquire new assets after you've purchased a renters insurance policy, you don't have to buy more coverage or change your policy. But there are some cases where you might want to, for example if your new assets are subject to dollar limits under your current policy, or if you just don't feel you have enough coverage anymore.

    One thing is certain: you should immediately update your inventory records to include the new items, and be sure to include photos as well as any serial numbers, receipts, or appraisal reports.

  • Does my renters insurance change if someone moves in with me?

    Your renters insurance remains the same if you take in a roommate, but their belongings will not be covered under your policy unless you call your insurance company (or agent) and add their name to the policy. In most cases you can add another person to a policy without issue. However, you should only add someone you trust because any claim that's paid will be paid to both names on the policy.

  • Does renters insurance cover flooding?

    Flooding is not covered by renters insurance (or homeowners insurance, for that matter). If you live in an area at risk of flooding, you should buy a separate flood insurance policy. Don't rely on your landlord's insurance—whatever flood protection she has won't cover your belongings in the event of a flood.

    You can check whether you need flood insurance at the National Flood Insurance Program's FloodSmart website.

    Keep in mind, though, that your renters insurance policy probably covers water damage due to burst pipes, overflowing bathtubs, and similar situations where water damage is not caused by a natural flood.

  • Does renters insurance cover earthquakes?

    Earthquakes are usually not covered by renters insurance (or by homeowners insurance, for that matter.) As with flooding, if you live in an area at risk of this kind of damage, you should buy a separate earthquake insurance policy. Don't rely on your landlord's policy because it won't cover your belongings.

Renters insurance policy terminology

  • My renters insurance policy mentions “additional living expenses”. What are those?

    Additional living expenses (also called loss of usage) describe the expenses you incur if you are forced to leave your home. For example, if you have to stay in a hotel because of a fire in your home, your policy may cover the cost of the hotel and meals as additional living expenses.

  • My renters insurance policy mentions “exclusions.” What are those?

    Renters insurance doesn’t cover every type of peril, and doesn’t provide the same amount of coverage to every type of property. These limitations are listed under the “exclusions” portion of the contract. Be sure to read this part of the policy carefully to make sure you’re getting the coverage you expect.

  • What does the “dollar limit” on my renters insurance policy mean?

    A dollar limit is a cap on the amount of coverage offered for certain types of property, for example a pair of earrings. Dollar limits are usually applied to rare, expensive, or fragile items.

    If you own property that's subject to dollar limit and you want more coverage for it, you can usually buy a floater (also called a rider or endorsement) for your policy that will increase the dollar limit for that specific item.

  • My renters insurance policy mentions “named perils.” What are those?

    Perils are the causes of loss or damage to property. Some examples of perils are fire, burglary, and water damage caused by a burst pipe.A “named perils” policy is a policy that covers only the perils specifically listed. (The other type of policy, “all risk,” covers any peril that's not listed under “exclusions.”) A "named perils" policy provides more limited coverage than an "all risk" policy.

  • My renters insurance policy mentions “perils.” What are those?

    Perils are the causes of loss or damage to property. Some examples of perils are fire, burglary, and water damage caused by a burst pipe.

    Not every policy covers the same perils, so be sure to read both the list of covered perils and the list of excluded perils before you buy a policy. If you're not sure about a specific scenario, ask your agent to show you where it's addressed in the policy (don't just take her word for it).

  • What is an “all risk” renters insurance policy?

    Perils are the causes of loss or damage to property. Some examples of perils are fire, burglary, and water damage caused by a burst pipe.An “all risk” policy is a policy that covers all perils other than the ones listed in the “exclusions” or “limitations” portion of the contract. (The other type of policy, “named perils,” only covers those perils specifically listed.)

    Although an all risk policy may sound comprehensive, you should still read the list of exclusions carefully to make sure you're getting the coverage you expect.

  • What is the difference between a replacement cost value policy and an actual cash value policy?

    There are two different ways a renters insurance policy can determine how much to pay.

    A “replacement cost value” (RCV) policy, which is the more expensive option, will pay you the amount it would cost to replace your belongings if you had to buy them again. In other words, if your sofa originally cost $2,500 six years ago, the policy would pay you $2,500 or higher (minus your deductible) because that's what it would cost to replace the sofa today.

    An “actual cash value” (ACV) policy (also known as an "actual cost value" or "depreciated" cost policy), which is the cheaper option, will pay you the current value of your belongings after depreciation. For example, if your six-year-old sofa cost $2,500 but its current resale value is only $500, the policy will pay you $500 (minus your deductible).

  • What is an “actual cash value” (ACV) renters insurance policy?

    There are two different ways a renters insurance policy can determine how much to pay.

    A “replacement cost value” (RCV) policy, which is the more expensive option, will pay you the amount it would cost to replace your belongings if you had to buy them again. In other words, if your sofa originally cost $2,500 six years ago, the policy would pay you $2,500 or higher (minus your deductible) because that’s what it would cost to replace the sofa today.

    An “actual cash value” (ACV) policy (also known as an “actual cost value” or “depreciated” cost policy),which is the cheaper option, will pay you the current value of your belongings after depreciation. For example, if your six-year-old sofa cost $2,500 but its current resale value is only $500, the policy will pay you $500 (minus your deductible).

  • What is a “replacement cost value” (RCV) renters insurance policy?

    There are two different ways a renters insurance policy can determine how much to pay.

    A “replacement cost value” (RCV) policy, which is the more expensive option, will pay you the amount it would cost to replace your belongings if you had to buy them again. In other words, if your sofa originally cost $2,500 six years ago, the policy would pay you $2,500 or higher (minus your deductible) because that’s what it would cost to replace the sofa today.

    An “actual cash value” (ACV) policy (also known as an “actual cost value” or “depreciated” cost policy),which is the cheaper option, will pay you the current value of your belongings after depreciation. For example, if your six-year-old sofa cost $2,500 but its current resale value is only $500, the policy will pay you $500 (minus your deductible).