Contemplating Renter's Insurance - Anything I should watch out for?

Hi all,

So, judging by the screaming in the hallway of my apartment building today, my neighbor’s apartment was broken into. I probably should have bought renter’s insurance a long time ago, but honestly, I don’t have that much stuff and I just never got around to it. Plus, I’ve never taken out insurance of any kind before (well, okay, I have health/dental insurance, but it was required by my grad school and I just had to sign the paper, no deep thought involved.) and I’m unclear how this works.

What should I watch for? I live in an itty-bitty little efficiency apartment. All I really own is my clothes/bedding/dishes, some books, a few used DVDs, my laptop/camera and some personal stuff (homemade magnets, plants, teddy bear, pictures, etc.) No valuable jewelry, no TV, or anything else. Is there any specific policy I should look for? Clauses to watch out for? What is standard for renter’s insurance anyway?

I’m kind of more worried for my cats. Everything else can be replaced, but I don’t know what I’d do if they escaped because some jerk broke in. This is not a good area for sheltered indoor cats to explore. But I can’t think what I could do to possibly protect them, and they are going to live with my parents for a couple months in a few weeks anyway.

I’m rather grateful I’m moving in seven months. Oh! Can I get a policy for less than a year? I’ll graduate in May '09. Will they let me do that?

Ask a broker if you can get a policy for less than a year. I’m not an insurance broker, but I would imagine that it is possible. If not, I’d imagine that you can buy a year’s worth, cancel it when you need to, and get a refund for the unused premium. But make sure you read the fine print on how to cancel a policy.

As for your question, I’d ask the broker about a “tenant’s package.” When I lived in an apartment, this is what I had. It’s a policy designed for people who rent apartments, and generally covers theft, fire, and liability–for example, if your bathtub overflows, and damages your floor/the unit below’s ceiling, you’re covered for the damages caused and the ensuing repairs. I don’t recall my tenant’s package as being terribly expensive, although they were priced according to how much stuff you had, and I didn’t have much. Even so, when I made a claim after a break-in, the insurer was good about settling the claim (minus the deductible, of course). Anyway, this might be something you should look into.

See if you can get “replacement value” for your stuff. Renter’s insurance is so dirt cheap as a rule, it shouldn’t be a deal breaker.

Actually, be sure you get replacement value. Consider if you had a fire and lost everything; you’d have to (among other things) completely replace your wardrobe, including underwear, shoes, overcoats, casual outfits, work outfits, etc. etc. It adds up really fast. Or your computer, which an adjuster might value at half your purchase price if it’s a year or two old – but you still have to buy a new one for twice that. And furniture. Dishes. Towels. Bed linens. Even your DVD collection. When you’re building it up piece by piece over years it doesn’t seem like much, but trying to replace everything all at once can very quickly put you into 5-digit territory.

Renter’s insurance is cheap (and I actually don’t think I ran across a policy that wasn’t replacement value, but I suppose they’re out there). Usually around $12-25 a month, depending on the value you declare for your stuff and a few other things (you get discounts for being within X distance of a fire station, for example).

They do occasionally ask weird questions when you apply, though. Mine asked me how my building’s roof was constructed. Hell if I know… it’s a fairly standard apartment building, it has a flat roof, I have no way of going up there to check out what material it’s roofed with. I ended up just giving her my landlord’s phone number so she could ask him.

Also make sure you get the agent to go over the complete list of what you’re getting policy-wise, and what discounts she applied, before you agree to anything or give them money. My insurance company sent me a bill for another 80 bucks three months later because they “discovered” the building didn’t have a burglar alarm. Funny, I never said it did. She never even asked. Apparently she just randomly applied the discount anyway. (The price difference was enough that if she’d quoted me correctly I’d probably have gone with a competitor, but three months later I already had the policy, and it would have been too big a hassle to cancel and get my unused premium back whenever they might deign to return it and go quote-shopping all over again. :mad: )

IAAInsurance Agent, and I do property and casualty, including renter’s.

Renter’s insurance is dirt cheap. I think my policy runs $20 a month and I’ve got extras on it that you probably won’t need.

I won’t contradict anything anyone else has said, but if you can, find an agent who deals a lot with college students, because they can give you some insights into what kind of coverage you need relative to the problems you’ll likely encounter.

That said, you can transfer your policy to a new address. For example, if you move in with your parents after graduation, the renter’s policy will cover your stuff if something happens to your parents’ house; it’s cheap enough to keep and your parents’ homeowner’s insurance company may decide you’re really a tenant and not cover your belongings. Seriously. My P&C manager told me about a case like that; the adult child got screwed. Even if you move to another place on your own, you can transfer the policy to that address.

Oh, yeah. Review your policy once a year or so to make sure you’ve still got what you need. It’s a short period out of your life and it’ll prevent you from getting screwed later.


Yeah, renters insurance is so cheap. I was living dangerously without it because I didn’t think I had anything worth value until one day I got a call at work saying my whole complex was on fire. It was the most scared I have ever been driving home. The thought of everything you own completely lost is horrifying. I literally went from checking on my apartment (it was okay) to a State Farm agent to get renter’s insurance.

I would just recommend getting replacement value and have a decent idea what it would cost to replace all of your stuff. Don’t get cheap and say $15,000 when you have $40,000 just to save $3 a month in premiums. It’s so cheap anyways compared to auto insurance that there’s really no excuse to live dangerously by not having. Heck, you could forget an iron or stove on and burn other people’s stuff down or someone could steal stuff from you. It happens everywhere all the time.

Yes, round up your guesstimate of the value. I had no idea how much stuff the average person has until I had to clean out my dad’s (small, one bedroom) apartment after he died. Try counting up everything in your kitchen (including cups, silverware, brooms and other cleaning supplies, condiments, food basics that hang around for years, sponges, tin foil - the list goes on and on), and you’ll see what I mean.

Thanks everyone! I did end up rounding-up my guessestimate, based on the advice here. So, now I have renter’s insurance. I’m still not convinced I own 15k worth of stuff, but whatever. I’m probably going to end up getting rid of most of my stuff when I move anyway, but this was pretty cheap.

I was talking to the guy who was robbed - it’s odd. The thieves stole the door plate - not the lock itself, the metal plate on the door frame, and the metal strip that runs at the base of the door (I’m sure there are technical names for these things, but heck if I know them). I have no idea why anyone would do that. Very strange.

So, Thanks again!

I also don’t own much, and I have more than enough cash to replace it with in any case.

I have renters insurance for the LIABILITY coverage. Someone break in and nab your cats? That’s a lot cheaper than forgetting something on the stove and burning down your kitchen, for example, or someone slipping and breaking their hip on your premises and then suing you for damages.

ahh see…but that presumes that (a) I cook. and (b) that I have company over.

My apartment is tiny enough that having company isn’t really realistic, unless we are, uhm…close friends.

And I really rarely cook. I lack motivation and (usually) am pretty busy. I do iron stuff, but my plug is such a place that I couldn’t leave it on by accident.

I mean, I guess it could happen. It’s just rather unlikely. With my neighborhood, theft is the most likely scenario, it appears.

The liability coverage follows you wherever you go, it’s not restricted to just stuff that happens in your premises.

When your apartment is gutted by fire you will be asked to describe the property you have lost. Got CDs? Movise? Clothes? etc? Wouldn’t hurt to take some time & just run a video camera or just take pictures of your stuff, list the titles of your mucis/movies, etc. This will help you to remember what you had (as your head is spinning from the recent disaster) as well as to support your claims that you had the stuff in the first place.

A renter’s policy will usually get you a discount on your car insurance too if you have both policies with the same company. Often the car insurance discount is so deep that it actuall covers all or some of the cost of the renter’s policy. Pretty cool huh?