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The typical renters insurance experience

Here’s what to expect from a typical renters insurance policy, from buying the policy to submitting a claim.

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Make an inventory of your assets and figure out your special requirements

    Inventory
    Use a free app or inventory service (we list some options in "Inventory 101") to create a record of everything you own. Be sure to add photos to help prove you actually own the things you list.

    Special Requirements
    Take a moment to note whether you own any special items that are difficult or expensive to replace. If you do business at home, separate your business assets from your personal assets in your inventory list, because renters insurance won’t cover most business assets.

Figure out the total cost to replace your belongings

    Using your inventory list as a guide, do some online shopping and figure out what it would cost today to purchase each item. This total is the approximate amount of coverage you want to buy.

    If you have unique items listed in your "special requirements" list (jewelry or fine art, for example), consider getting them professionally appraised. This will help you determine the amount of additional coverage you might consider buying, because most policies will only cover these items up to a specified dollar amount.

    You can save money if you choose a policy that only covers the actual depreciated value of your items instead of the replacement cost—but remember that this will reduce the size of any claim you make.

Comparison shop

    Armed with these two figures, start shopping for quotes. To make comparison shopping easier you should always request the same deductible amount.

    If you know you want extra coverage, you should ask the insurer to provide a quote for a personal articles policy floater or endorsement.

    "Why would I need a personal articles policy?"

    There are some items that most renters insurance policies will either partially cover or not cover at all. In those cases, you can purchase this add-on (usually called a floater or an endorsement) to increase coverage.

    Every policy is different, but here are some general categories that are usually excluded from full coverage:

    • Musical instruments
    • Art
    • Collectibles
    • Securities, money, gift cards, checks
    • Jewelry
    • Silverware
    • Furs
    • Firearms
    • Cameras
    • Golf equipment

Buy policy

    As with any insurance policy, store the contract in a safe place along with a printed version of your inventory, and all receipts and appraisal reports.

Also be sure to store an electronic version of your inventory off-site so that you can easily retrieve it no matter what happens to your home.

Renters insurance policies are renewed annually. Before you renew, you should update and review your inventory to make sure you maintain the right amount of coverage.

Something happens

    Take care of any immediate needs first: file a police report if you need to, and make any repairs necessary to prevent further damage. Be sure to save all bills, receipts and estimates from this period in case your insurer requests them.

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Contact 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.

    One thing to remember: if you plan on filing a claim, don’t wait. If your insurer determines that the damage was due to some long-standing issue that could have been repaired sooner, you may have problems with the claim.

Provide necessary documentation to support 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 appraiser 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.

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Insurer pays claim

    Once the agent has all of the necessary documentation, she’ll submit the claim for approval. If it's approved, the insurer will issue you a check or electronic payment for the claim settlement amount.

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How to Create a Home Inventory