Renters insurance FAQs

All the most commonly asked questions about renters insurance, answered.

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Colin LalleyContent Director, Home & Auto InsuranceColin Lalley is the content director for home and auto insurance at Policygenius, where he's been writing about insurance since 2015. His insights have been featured in Inc. Magazine, Betterment, Chime, Credit Seasame, Zola, and the Council for Disability Awareness.

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What is renters insurance?

Renters insurance is a type of insurance policy that pays out in the event that your belongings need to be repaired or replaced due to damage or theft.

Who needs renters insurance?

Any renter who has possessions they can’t afford to repair or replace – or simply don’t want to foot the full bill for after an incident – should have renters insurance. Think of all of the stuff you have, and how much it would cost to replace everything in the event of, say, a burst pipe. That can add up quickly, and renters insurance can help protect against any unforeseen expenses.

What’s the difference between renters insurance and homeowners insurance?

Renters insurance and homeowners insurance are similar – both protect your possessions – with one key difference. Homeowners insurance also protects the structure – the building itself. Renters insurance primarily covers belongings. You also generally get some liability coverage, but the policy doesn’t protect the apartment. The building’s landlord will have their own insurance to cover damage to the building.

Is renters insurance required?

Renters insurance isn’t legally required — in fact, 56% of young adult renters don't have coverage. However, it’s not unusual for landlords to require renters insurance as a condition of signing a lease. They are allowed to do this, so when you’re filling out a rental application be ready to buy renters insurance if you haven’t already.

Can roommates share renters insurance?

Technically, yes. You may be able to add a roommate to your renters insurance policy. However, think hard about it before you do. You’ll essentially be doubling (or more) the amount of belongings that are being covered, so you might reach your coverage limits quicker. Plus, if you or your roommate move out, you’ll need to untangle your policies – especially tricky if you don’t leave each other on good terms. Renters insurance is affordable, so it’s worth each roommate having their own renters insurance policy that covers their own belongings.

What is a home inventory?

A renters insurance home inventory is an inventory of everything you own that would be potentially covered by your renters insurance policy. This is helpful when filing a claim, as some insurers may request proof of ownership of an item. There are many home inventory apps that let you photograph and document items straight from your smartphone.

How much does renters insurance cost?

Compared to other types of insurance, renters insurance is relatively cheap. The cost of a renters policy depends on the collective value of the property you’re insuring, where you live, your credit score, and the type of policy you buy (explained below). The Insurance Information Institute reports the average renters insurance policy costs $300 a year.


What’s the difference between actual cash value and replacement cost renters insurance policies?

Actual cash value renters insurance will pay out based on the current value of an item. So if you bought a laptop five years ago for $1,000 and it gets stolen, you’d receive considerably less than that today.

Replacement cost renters insurance, on the other hand, will pay out what it costs to replace the item. So if you need to replace that same laptop, you’ll get $1,000 to buy a new one.

Because replacement cost policies pay out higher amounts than actual cash value policies, they typically cost more in terms of premiums.

What are the different parts of a renters insurance policy?

A standard renters insurance policy is made up of a few different types of coverage. Here’s an overview of how renters insurance works:

  • Personal property damage coverage – Replacing or repairing belongings that are damaged or stolen.

  • Personal liability coverage – Legal costs from damage or injury.

  • Medical payment coverage – Medical expenses for anyone injured in your apartment.

  • Loss of use coverage – The cost of lodging, food, and more if your apartment becomes unlivable due to damage.

Your policy also includes a premium, paid in regular installments (i.e., monthly, semi-annually, annually) and a deductible, the portion of costs the policyholder is responsible for before the insurance company contributes.

Can my renters insurance claim be denied?

Renters insurance claims are rarely denied, but it can happen. However, it will usually only occur if there’s an explicit violation of the policy. For instance, some breeds of dog will not be covered be a renters policy, so if you’re trying to file a claim involving an ineligible breed of dog, your claim will be denied. If you have a named perils policy (see below) and your claim doesn’t involve one of those perils, your policy won’t cover it. If you’ve reached your coverage limits, the insurer will not pay out. Your claim will also be denied in cases of fraud. That’s one of the reasons why it’s important to keep a home inventory: it will be easier to prove your case during a claim.


What’s the difference between a named perils and an all risk renters insurance policy?

A named perils policy covers any incidents stated in the policy. An all risk policy will cover anything that isn’t explicitly excluded in the policy.

What does renters insurance cover?

Renters insurance will cover items damaged or lost due to one of the following:

  • Fire and lightning

  • Windstorm and hail

  • Explosions

  • Riots

  • Damage by aircraft

  • Damage by vehicle (not your own)

  • Smoke damage

  • Vandalism

  • Theft

  • Volcanic eruption

  • Falling objects

  • Weight of snow, ice, sleet

  • Damage from steam-heating/water-heating appliances/systems

  • Leakage or overflow of water or steam

  • Freezing of plumbing, heating, air conditioning

  • Short-circuit damage caused by electrical appliances

Your renters insurance policy may also cover medical and liability bills, the costs for temporary relocation, and costs associated with credit card fraud.

The exact coverage will depend on whether or not you have a named perils or all risk policy.

What does renters insurance not cover?

Your policy won’t cover damage from most natural disasters, like earthquakes, flooding, or tornadoes. Pest damage also isn’t covered, and neither is damage from terrorism or war.

Finally, for high ticket items, coverage may be limited. You can go here to learn more about what renters insurance does and doesn’t cover but there are also some more details below.

Will renters insurance cover jewelry?

High-ticket items like jewelry, electronics, art, and more are covered by your renters insurance policy but typically have category limits. So if your policy only covers up to $1,500 in jewelry loss and you want to make a claim on your $2,500, you won’t receive the full amount.

However, there are ways around this. Renters can schedule items with floaters on their policy, which allows them to increase the coverage amounts. In the case of jewelry, a separate jewelry insurance policy can help provide extra protection.

Does renters insurance cover pets?

Renters insurance can cover damage and injury caused by pets, but you should check your policy to see which pets are covered. Some breeds of dog will raise the cost of the policy, and other breeds will cause you to be denied coverage entirely.

Does renters insurance cover bed bugs?

As mentioned, pests aren’t covered by renters insurance, and that includes bed bugs. Bed bugs are considered standard maintenance. However, renters can buy separate bed bug insurance policies or include riders to their renters policy at an additional cost.

Does renters insurance cover stuff outside of my apartment?

Yes! Renters insurance covers your stuff no matter where it is. So if something is stolen while you’re on vacation, it will still be covered, as will anything you keep in a storage unit. As always, what exactly is covered depends on the specifics of your policy.