What is renters insurance?



Renters insurance is financial protection for renters. It covers your personal property if it is stolen or damaged from a peril like fire, smoke, or vandalism. It also includes personal liability coverage and loss-of-use coverage.

Logan SachonKara McGinley

Logan Sachon & Kara McGinley

Published February 14, 2020


  • A typical renters insurance policy includes financial protection for your personal property, liability coverage, and loss-of-use coverage for if your home becomes unsafe to live in and they need to temporarily stay in a hotel

  • Renters insurance is affordable, it costs just $15 a month

  • You can add endorsements to your renters policy to increase coverage for expensive items or non-covered perils

  • When you file a renters insurance claim, you need to provide proof of loss. If your claim is approved then your insurer will reimburse you for your damaged or destroyed items

Renters insurance is financial protection for people who rent the home that they live in. It covers personal property damage, personal liability, and loss-of-use. If your Renters insurance is insurance for people who rent the home they are living in — whether it is a house, apartment, condo, or room share. If you pay a rental fee to a landlord or property manager (usually monthly), then you should consider purchasing a renters insurance policy so you have coverage for your belongings and personal liability. You don’t even have to be on a lease to qualify for a renters policy.

Renters insurance, also known as tenant insurance is financial protection for renters. It protects your personal property and belongings if they are stolen, damaged, or destroyed by a covered peril. Landlords have their own landlord insurance to cover the physical building structure that renters live in, but that insurance does not protect the renter or their belongings.

Whether or not your landlord requires you to purchase a certain amount of renters insurance coverage, you should still protect yourself with a renters insurance policy. Renters insurance is one of the most straightforward types of insurance you can buy — in fact, you can buy renters insurance easily and cheaply online. But before you buy, you need to know what you’re getting, and that means understanding how renters insurance works.

In this article:

What does renters insurance cover?

Renters insurance will protect your personal property if it is damaged by a covered peril. It will also protect your liability if you cause damage or harm, and any additional expense you accrue if you are temporarily removed from your home while it is being repaired.

Personal property coverage

Personal property coverage is financial protection for your belongings if they are stolen, damaged, or destroyed by a covered peril. If you file a renters insurance claim and your insurance provider approves the claim, then your renters policy will reimburse you the cost to replace your belongings, after you pay your deductible.Check your policy, but most renters insurance policies offer coverage during these events:

  • Fire
  • Lighting
  • Windstorms
  • Hail
  • Explosions
  • Riots
  • Damage by aircraft
  • Damage by vehicle (not your own)
  • Smoke damage
  • Vandalism
  • Theft (whether your stuff is in your apartment or not!)
  • 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

Liability coverage and medical expenses

Your renters insurance policy will protect your personal liability, so if you are responsible for an injury or property damage then your renters policy can cover the incurring costs. For example, if you break your friend's laptop then you can file a liability claim to help pay for their replacement. Liability coverage can also extend to your pets — so if your dog bites someone your liability coverage will help pay for any medical expenses or legal fees if they decide to sue you over it. Unlike your personal property coverage, liability coverage doesn’t require you to pay a deductible when you file a claim.

Loss-of-use coverage and additional living expenses

If your home is no longer safe to live in because of damage from a covered peril, like if there is smoke damage from a fire or your roof caved in, your loss-of-use coverage can help pay for you to stay elsewhere, like at a nearby hotel.

The coverage will also extend to additional expenses that you accrue, like if you need to start doing laundry at a laundromat or if you have to eat at restaurants every night because your hotel room doesn’t have a kitchen. You should keep all of your receipts while you’re displaced from your home so it’s easier to file a claim.

Adding endorsements to your renters insurance policy

Every insurance policy has limits, meaning the maximum amount your renters insurance will pay out for a covered claim. And some classes of items have sublimits, meaning the coverage limit is lower for certain valuables. So if you have expensive items, like jewelry or collectibles, then a basic renters insurance policy may not completely cover the cost if they get damaged or stolen. That being said, you can schedule an endorsement to your policy to up the amount of coverage for these specific items. For example, if you want to make sure your wedding ring is covered, you can schedule an endorsement on your policy to increase the coverage amount for it.

You can also add an endorsement for certain perils that renters insurance does not cover, like extreme weather. If you live in an area that experiences earthquakes or floods, you can add an endorsement to your policy to make sure these perils are covered by your renters insurance.

What does renters insurance not cover?

While renters insurance covers a number of common perils that could destroy or damage your belongings, there are some threats that aren’t covered by a standard renters insurance policy, including:

  • Natural disasters like tornadoes, earthquakes, floods, or sinkholes
  • Pests and vermin (including bed bugs* Terrorism and acts of war

Most renters insurance policies also don’t cover your belongings if they’re simply lost (only if they’re stolen) and it also won’t cover items that are damaged by general wear and tear.

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How much does renters insurance cost?

Renters insurance is one of the most affordable insurance types you can buy. Policies can cost just $15 to $20 a month, though specific costs vary on where you live and how much coverage you want.

Additional riders for expensive tech equipment, high-carat bling, or priceless artwork can make that number creep up alongside the level of protection, while security enhancements like sprinklers or burglar alarms can offer you discounts.

Average Annual Premium by State, 2017

StateAvg Annual Premium
District of Columbia$158
New Hampshire$149
New Jersey$165
New Mexico$187
New York$194
North Carolina$157
North Dakota$120
Rhode Island$182
South Carolina$188
South Dakota$123
West Virginia$188
United States$180

How to buy renters insurance

The renters insurance application process is one of the easiest and fastest of all the insurance applications. Here’s how it works:

  • Create a home inventory: You should start by itemizing your personal belongings. Create an inventory to see how much your belongings cost and how old the items are. This will help you determine the total value of your personal property to determine how much personal property coverage you need.
  • Choose the type of policy you want: Renters insurance generally offers two types of policies: replacement cost policy or actual cash value policy Replacement cost policies will reimburse you for your damaged belonging as if it were new. So if your TV is destroyed by a covered peril, a replacement cost policy will pay you out the value of a new, similar TV. Actual cash value policies reimburse you the depreciated value of the item. If your TV was six years old,d the amount you would be paid out would factor in the age and condition of your TV. Replacement cost policies pay you more, but they also cost more so your premium will be higher.
  • Start shopping: Find out the best renters insurance companies and explore which companies offer policies in your neighborhood.
  • Apply: To get a quote online, you’ll need to share your name, address, and birthday; how much coverage you want (that’s why the inventory is the first step!); and some info about your home and claim history.
  • See if you qualify for discounts: If you have sprinklers, a burglar alarm, or other home safety and security equipment, you could be eligible for discounts. Share what you have to see what you save! One note here: Always be totally honest. If you say you have a deadbolt and you don’t, and your apartment gets broken into you, your claim may be denied.
  • Add endorsements: Basic renters insurance policies just cover the basics. Once you find a policy that works for you, you can add endorsements (also known as riders or floaters) to cover more of your stuff and more perils, although a standard renters insurance policy may be sufficient.

Learn more about how renters insurance works.

How do you file a renters insurance claim?

When filing a renters insurance claim, you will have to provide your insurance company with as much information as possible and proof of the loss before the claim can be approved.

If your home is broken into or vandalized, the first thing you should do is file a police report. You should then contact your landlord to let them know what happened. Next, you should document all the damage that you can by taking photos or videos. Do not throw out any damaged or destroyed personal belongings because you may need them during the claim process.

There are a few things you will need on hand before contacting your insurance company to file a claim.

  • Your policy number
  • Police report if you filed one
  • Documentation of the loss (photos, videos, receipts, your home inventory)
  • A phone number for your insurer to reach you

Most insurance companies require that you file a claim within 48 to 72 hours of the incident, so don’t wait too long. Next, you will have to:

  • Fill out claim forms: Be honest, be thorough, and share all the photos, videos, and other documentation you have.
  • Speak with the claims adjuster: Some claims will require a visit from a claims inspector, who will inspect your home to survey the damage to determine if the claim is covered or not.
  • Pay your deductible: If your claim is approved you will need to pay your renters insurance deductible before your insurer will begin covering the rest of the loss. For example, if you’re filing a claim for $3,000 in losses and your deductible is $500, you will need to pay your renters insurance company $500 and then they will pay out the remaining $2,500.

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About the authors

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon

Insurance Expert

Logan Sachon is the co-founder of The Billfold, a groundbreaking personal finance site for millennials that was named one of Time's 25 Best Blogs of 2012. Her work has been published in New York Magazine, Glamour, The Guardian, BuzzFeed and more.

Insurance Editor

Kara McGinley

Insurance Editor

Kara McGinley is an Insurance Editor at Policygenius. She previously worked as a freelance writer and a copywriter for various startups. Her work can be found in Teen Vogue, The Culture Crush, Mask Magazine, and more.

Policygenius’ editorial content is not written by an insurance agent. It’s intended for informational purposes and should not be considered legal or financial advice. Consult a professional to learn what financial products are right for you.

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