Your renters insurance may reimburse you for the cost of spoiled food if your refrigerator or freezer breaks due to a power outage
If there is a residential power outage in your building or neighborhood, you might also be able to file a “residential spoilage claim” with your utilities company
Adding equipment breakdown coverage to your renters policy will increase the coverage for your appliances, including your refrigerator and freezer. This coverage may extend to the contents of your fridge and freezer, too
Renters insurance is a relatively cheap way to protect your personal property and liability — and it may also cover food spoilage or loss in certain circumstances.
Food is usually considered part of your insurance policy’s personal property coverage. If there is a fire in your rental apartment, or your refrigerator breaks from short-circuit damage, you may be able to get back the money you lost replacing its contents by filing a renters insurance claim.
It might not seem like a big deal, but the value of all the food and condiments in your refrigerator or freezer can end up being costly. Since power outages can last for days, it’s not uncommon for food to spoil when the power goes out. Your insurance policy may be able to reimburse you for your food loss up to your policy’s limit if it goes bad due to a power outage.
Renters insurance will only cover your personal property and belongings – so if your roommate also has food that spoils in the fridge and they don’t have their own renters policy, then their food won’t be covered.
You should try to keep your receipts when buying expensive groceries so you have a better idea about how much you are owed. However, there are also some instances when your insurance policy will not cover the cost of replacing your food.
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Renters insurance coverage will reimburse you the cost of replacing food that spoils or is ruined in your refrigerator or freezer due to a covered peril or power outage caused by an incident off your rental premises.
Power outages are a common cause of food spoilage. There are few circumstances when a power outage will be considered a covered peril, and your spoiled food would be covered by renters insurance:
Short-circuit damage caused by electrical appliances
The power outage is caused by an incident off your rental premises, like if a tree falls on a power line in your neighborhood
Renters insurance coverage typically does not extend to power surge damage unless it is caused by a different covered peril. So if a power surge from a faulty outlet knocks out power to your fridge and all your food goes bad, that might not be covered, but a power surge or outage caused by lightning hitting your rental, that would be covered.
In some instances, your insurance policy will reimburse food expenses you accrue if you are displaced from your home. Renters insurance policies include loss-of-use coverage, so if your home becomes uninhabitable due to a covered peril, your insurance policy may pay for you to stay at a nearby hotel. This goes for additional living expenses as well, so if you are eating at restaurants every night because your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen, your insurer can reimburse you for those expenses.
While spoiled food can be covered by renters insurance under specific circumstances, there are also instances when your renters insurance policy will not reimburse you for the cost of spoiled food. Those include:
Your refrigerator or freezer breaks from normal wear and tear over time
Maintenance breakdown due to negligence
However, just because your renters insurance policy won’t reimburse you for food spoilage in some circumstances doesn’t mean there’s no chance of getting covered.
If there is a residential power outage in your apartment complex or neighborhood, you might be able to file a “residential spoilage claim” with your utilities or electric company over your spoiled food or medication.
Most utilities companies require you file a residential spoilage claim within 30 days of the outage. You should check your company’s website to learn the process of filing a claim with them. However, most have a form you will need to print out and mail to the company directly.
A renters insurance policy deductible usually costs either $500 or $1,000 out of pocket when you file a claim. You would have to pay your deductible in order for your renters insurance coverage to kick in. If your food spoils due to a covered peril that caused other damage, like if your fridge and TVs are damaged due to lightning striking your rental, then it is probably worth it to include your food loss when you file a claim for rest of your personal property and belongings.
However, if you’re considered filing a claim just for the food in your fridge and nothing else was damaged or lost, you should consider whether it’s worth it. If you have under $500 worth of food in your fridge and your deductible is $500, it’s more cost effective to just buy new food yourself rather than file a claim.
Equipment breakdown coverage is a renters insurance endorsement that covers home appliances from hazards that aren’t normally covered, like electrical or mechanical failure. This coverage may also protect the contents of your refrigerator or freezer.
Equipment breakdown coverage can protect your refrigerator or freezer if they are damaged or broken due to the following incidents:
Accidental breakdown due to improper installation
An artificial electrical current, like electric arcing
Mechanical breakdown, including rupture or bursting that’s caused by a centrifugal force
If your insurance company offers equipment breakdown coverage, you can usually add it to your policy for a small premium.
Kara McGinley is an insurance editor at Policygenius, specializing in home, auto and renters insurance. She previously worked as a freelance writer and copywriter, and has been writing about insurance since 2019. Kara is an expert at making complicated topics like property insurance simple to understand. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, and more.
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