Renters insurance is a smart investment for renters of all kinds to protect their personal property and liability — renters insurance can reimburse you for damaged or stolen items in your home, and pay the costs if you’re responsible for someone else’s injury or damage to their property. If your rental becomes uninhabitable, your renters insurance policy will also cover the cost of staying elsewhere, like at a nearby hotel.
To be reimbursed for a loss, you’ll have to go through the claims process. When filing a renters insurance claim, you will need to provide your insurance company with a decent amount of information about the loss, including the value of the damaged or stolen belongings, reports from police, and photographs or eyewitness reports about the damage or theft.
You should start this process well before you have to file a claim. When you sign up for renters insurance, you should make an inventory of your belongings and how much each item is worth. It’s also helpful to have photos of your belongings. When it comes to making a home inventory, you don’t need to worry about photographing every pair of socks that you own. You should stick to your more valuable items, like furniture, electronics, jewelry, home decor, cookware, and your more valuable clothing.
To determine how much the replacement cost of your damaged or stolen items is when you file a claim, the insurance company will need to reference any documentation you made of your belongings before the damage or loss took place. A lot of times it’s easiest to just provide your insurance provider with the receipts from the purchase of your belongings. However, it’s understandable that not everyone keeps their receipts on hand. It’s still possible to file a renters insurance claim without receipts.
What does renters insurance cover?
A renters insurance policy is made up of three coverage categories.
Personal property: Personal property coverage protects your stuff in the event of damage or theft both inside and outside of your home.
Personal liability and medical expenses: Liability coverage protects you from legal expenses if a guest gets injured in your apartment. It can also help pay for the medical expenses if your guest needs medical attention from the incident, and can cover the costs if you cause damage to someone else’s property
Loss-of-use coverage: If your dwelling becomes uninhabitable from a covered peril, your renters insurance may pay for you to stay elsewhere.
Some covered perils include:
Fire and smoke damage
Hail and windstorm damage
Short circuit damage from an electrical appliance
Damage by aircraft
Damage by vehicle (not your own)
How to file a renters insurance claim with receipts
If your personal property is stolen or vandalized, you should call the police and file a police report before you notify your insurer. You should also contact your landlord to let them know of any damage caused by a burglary or vandalism, or any other damage that affected your rental unit. After you’ve done that, you should begin the renters insurance claim process.
Claims usually need to be filed between the first 24 to 72 hours from the incident. To make the process easier you should have your policy number or declarations page on hand. You should also provide your insurance company with a phone number where they can reach you easily.
You can file a claim in a few ways:
Through an app
Over the phone
Most insurance companies will require you to show proof of loss when you are filing a personal property claim. This means you need to prove that your item was stolen or damaged by a covered peril.
Once you begin your claim, you should scan or photograph the receipts for your damaged belongings and attach them to your claim file along with photographs of the damaged items or a police report indicating they were stolen. This will usually suffice as proof of loss for most insurance providers. They will then determine, based on your receipts, photographs, and the amount of damage, how much you will be reimbursed.
How to file a renters insurance claim without receipts
As we mentioned, you can usually file a claim through your insurance providers website, app, or over the phone. Once you file the claim, you will be assigned a claims adjuster who will go through the process of investigating your situation.
If you don’t have receipts for every single one of your belongings, don’t panic. Most insurance companies are understanding of this.
There are still a few ways you can prove a loss of personal property and indicate what the value of your items was even if you don’t have a receipt.
Document your belongings
If you’re not one for keeping or printing receipts, or if you receive your valuable items as a gift, you should document your item as soon as you get it. You can do this in a few ways.
Photograph everything: You can photograph new valuable items after you buy them and time stamp the photo. This way you can prove to your insurers the condition it was in after purchase. Another good idea is taking a picture of the pricetag.
Video record all your belongings at once: If you go on a shopping spree and don’t feel like taking a photo of every item, you can just take a quick video of them on your phone — just be sure there is a time stamp.
This can seem like a lot of work, but it’ll save you trouble in the long run. You can easily upload these photos or videos to a file on your computer, or a Google Drive or Dropbox that you share with your insurer.
Check your bank and credit card statements
If you recently bought an item that’s since been stolen or damaged, you can check your bank statement or credit card statement online, on an app, or in person. Your bank or credit card statement will have a record of the purchase, which you can then send to your insurance provider.
Even if you purchased your item a long time ago, if you have the same bank account or credit card and can remember when you bought the item you should still be able to search for the purchase on your statement.
Research your items online
Another way to prove the value of your items is to research them online. If you know the brand or remember where you bought the item, it should be easy to simply type that information into an online search and see how much it’s worth.
You can also try taking a photo of the item and reverse image searching it online. You might get lucky and find a match of the item you're looking for or at least one of similar value.
Get an appraisal
If you have expensive furniture, antiques, collectibles, art, or jewelry, it’s probably a good idea to get a professional appraisal before anything bad happens to them. The appraiser can then give you a copy of their evaluation that you can send to your insurance provider. Make sure you go to a professional appraiser and not one who is trying to buy your items off you, because you may not get an accurate evaluation for your needs.
How will you get reimbursed for your renters insurance claim?
Once your claim is approved, you have to pay your deductible before your coverage kicks in. This means if your deductible is $500 and you have a loss worth $2,000, you need to pay your insurance provider $500 before you’ll be reimbursed for the remaining $1,500.
There are two different types of policies that will determine how you would get reimbursed in the event of a covered claim.
Replacement cost policy: A replacement cost policy will reimburse you the amount of your item as if it were bought new. However, this policy results in higher premiums.
Actual cash value policy: An actual cash value policy will reimburse you the depreciated amount of your item. This means the age and condition of your item will be factored into its value.
If you have a replacement cost policy and your couch gets ruined in a fire, your replacement cost insurance policy will reimburse you as if the couch was new, up to your policy’s limit. But if you have an actual cash value insurance policy, your policy will pay you a depreciated amount for the couch, taking into account the age of the couch and regular wear and tear.
Basically, actual cash value policies pay you what your item might cost at the time you file your claim, meaning the value now that its considered a used item. So if you’ve had your couch for 10 years, they are going to reimburse you for the price of a similar 10-year-old couch — up to your insurance policy’s limit.
How long will it take for your claim to be processed?
Once you file a renters insurance personal property claim, your provider will assign a claims adjuster to investigate the damage or theft, either in person or remotely. The claims adjuster will determine how much money you should receive in reimbursement. The claims adjuster will make sure that your claim is eligible and valid under your policy description.
The claims adjuster then sends their findings onto your insurance company. Some investigations can take weeks and some can take days. You should contact your insurance provider to ask for an estimated timeframe so you have a better idea of how long this will take. You should also be able to track the status of your claim through your provider’s website or mobile app.
Filing a personal liability claim
Just like when filing a personal property claim, you should document all the damage done when filing a personal liability claim. If someone is injured in your home and you need to file a claim, you should document what happened and how the person was injured. You should also document statements from any witness that were present when the incident took place. You’ll need medical bills from them, and information from their doctor or any medical professionals who treated them for the injury.
The victim can file a claim with your insurer, and your liability coverage will cover the legal fees from a lawsuit or the medical expenses of the injured person up to your insurance policy limit. Your documentation can also serve as evidence and prove whether you are liable for their injury or not.
If the claim is approved, some insurance providers will provide you with a lawyer to represent you or to reach settlement. However, if any of the cost exceeds your coverage limit, you will be responsible for paying the remainder, as well as any deductible.