What is HO-4 insurance?

HO-4 renters insurance is coverage for your personal property, liability, and temporary living expenses.

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Kara McGinleySenior Editor & Licensed Home Insurance ExpertKara McGinley is a former senior editor and licensed home insurance expert at Policygenius, where she specialized in homeowners and renters insurance. As a journalist and as an insurance expert, her work and insights have been featured in Forbes Advisor, Kiplinger, Lifehacker, MSN, WRAL.com, and elsewhere.

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Key takeaways

  • HO-4 insurance is a fancy way of saying renters insurance. Renters insurance protects your personal property as well as liability if you’re responsible for damage or if someone is injured in your home

  • An HO-4 insurance policy won't cover perils like natural disasters, meaning if you want additional coverage for things like earthquakes you will need to purchase as an add-on to the regular policy

  • Most HO-4 insurance providers allow you to apply online or through an app, and the process can usually be completed quickly

HO-4 insurance, or renters insurance, is coverage for your personal property. It can also cover your personal liability and temporary living expenses if your home becomes uninhabitable. Basically, HO-4 is like a safety net for your stuff. HO-4 insurance will cover your belongings, but not your physical building.

Many property managers require their tenant purchase an HO-4 renters insurance policy, but even if they don’t it’s still a good idea for renters to buy HO-4 insurance. It will protect your belongings if they ever get ruined or stolen, so that way you won’t be responsible for paying for them twice.

In this article:

What is HO-4 insurance?

HO-4 insurance is another way of saying renters insurance. HO-4 insurance policies are typically made up of three different parts:

  • Personal property coverage

  • Personal liability coverage

  • Temporary housing coverage

HO-4 insurance covers you if a covered peril damages or destroys your stuff, or if you’re liable for damage to someone else’s property or injuries to others, both on or off your property.

HO-4 insurance will also reimburse you for a covered peril that destroys your personal property. For example, if there is a fire in your building and your furniture gets destroyed, you can file a claim with your HO-4 insurance provider and they will reimburse you for your loss after you pay your deductible.

Your deductible is the amount of money you have to pay when you file a claim before your coverage will kick in. You set your deductible amount when you buy your policy. The cost of your deductible will affect the price of your premium, which is the payment you will make to the insurance provider either monthly, semi-annually, or annually to keep your policy in force. If you stop paying your premiums, your coverage will lapse and you’ll no longer be protected.

You can read more about renters insurance premiums here.

Who needs HO-4 insurance?

HO-4 insurance is for anyone renting a house, apartment, condo, or even a room. Some property managers or landlords will require their tenants to purchase a certain amount of renters insurance, but this isn’t always the case.

Whether living alone or with roommates, renters insurance is a smart investment to protect your things. You can add roommates to your policy, but that will increase the cost of your premiums since the value of their belongings will be factored in. HO-4 insurance comes in handy if you live in an extreme-weather area or in a ZIP-code where there are high break-in rates.

You can add your landlord as an additional interested party to your policy, so that they can be notified if anything changes with your policy, including if you stop paying. Adding your landlord as an additional interested party will not change your coverage or the price of your deductible or premiums, and they can’t make payments on your behalf.

HO-4 insurance insurance is a relatively cheap way to protect your belongings in case of fire, leak, break-in or other perils. Personal liability coverage is also included in an HO-4 insurance policy, meaning if someone gets hurt while in your rental, your policy will help pay for their medical bills. HO-4 insurance will even cover your belongings when they’re not in your home, like if your car is broken into and someone steals your cell phone.

Ready to shop for renters insurance?

What does HO-4 insurance cover?

HO-4 insurance is made up of a few different components. If something you own isn’t covered, you can always add more coverage or riders to protect them.

Personal property coverage

A basic HO-4 policy includes personal property coverage. Things like your clothing, furniture, and appliances are all covered. If any of your belongings get stolen, lost, damaged or destroyed during a qualifying event, your insurance policy will reimburse you for them. Most insurance providers consider these qualifying events:

  • 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

Like we mentioned, HO-4 insurance will also protect your belongings outside of your home. So say if your laptop is stolen while on vacation, then your insurance policy will reimburse you for some or all of the price, depending on your coverage limits. Your policy may place specific coverage limits on certain types of items. For example, expensive jewelry might have a coverage limit lower than the jewelry’s cost. If that’s the case you should look into additional riders to add to your HO-4 policy.

Liability and medical expenses

An HO-4 renters insurance policy also protects your personal liability. This means if someone gets hurt in your apartment, your renters insurance will help pay for the cost of their medical bills or your legal fees if they sue you. The liability coverage can be extended to your pets, too. Say, for example, your dog bites someone, then your HO-4 policy can help pay for their stitches. Liability coverage also covers you if you damage someone else’s property, like if you break your aunt’s glass vase.

Temporary housing coverage

If something happens to your dwelling and it becomes uninhabitable because of something like smoke damage or a pipe breaking, then your HO-4 insurance will pay for you to temporarily live elsewhere. Whether or not your policy will pay for you to stay somewhere else all depends on what caused the damage.

For example, if there is mold in your apartment as a result of water damage from a pipe breaking your HO-4 policy will pay for your temporary housing. But on the other hand, if your rental becomes uninhabitable because of a non-covered peril, like a flood, your HO-4 insurance will not pay for temporary housing. This is why it’s a smart idea to buy extra coverage if you live in an area with extreme weather.

Additional coverage

You can add more coverage to your policy to protect your items from different perils. For example, if you live in an earthquake prone area then you can add an earthquake rider to your policy. You can also add coverage for specific items, like expensive jewelry or an art collection.

What does HO-4 insurance not cover?

Most HO-4 policies are named peril policies, meaning all covered perils will be included in your policy’s declarations page. Generally speaking, most HO-4 renters insurance policies will not cover your belongings or liability under these circumstances:

  • Natural disasters: Most HO-4 policies will not reimburse you for your belongings if they get ruined by a natural disaster like a flood or earthquake. However, you can buy additional riders and coverage if you live in an area with extreme weather.

  • Damage caused by pests: Your HO-4 policy will not reimburse you for any damage caused by a pest. This includes rodents, vermin, and bed bugs.

  • Expensive or rare items: Items of high value usually aren’t fully covered by HO-4 insurance policies. Things like rare jewelry or antiques have specific coverage limits, sometimes as low as $1,000. If your items exceed this cost you might want to purchase additional coverage.

How to get HO-4 insurance

There are a few steps to take and considerations to make before you start shopping for an HO-4 insurance policy:

  • Take an inventory: First you should itemize your belongings and take an inventory of them to see how much each specific item costs. This will help you determine your total value cost of your belongings and how much coverage you want.

  • Choose a policy: Most insurance carriers offer you the choice of two categories, a replacement cost policy or an actual cash value policy. Replacement cost policy will cover the price of replacing your items. For example, if your laptop is stolen your payout will cover the cost of the laptop or a laptop that is of similar value. Actual cash value replaces items at their depreciated value, meaning the age and condition of your stolen laptop are factored into how it’s valued for a claim.

  • Consider the premium: Your premium depends on different factors, like your coverage limits and deductible amounts.. The higher your deductible the lower your premiums.

Once you take these steps and considerations, you can start shopping around for an HO-4 renters insurance provider. Some insurers make it easy and allow you to apply via an app or website, while others you will be required to speak over the phone. You can get quotes from multiple insurers and compare coverage and prices to choose the best one for you. An independent agent can also help you shop around for HO-4 insurance policies.