Don't Go Without Renters Insurance

Water damage to a building
FEMA Photo by Adam DuBrowa

Many servicemembers are covered by military insurance, but re-check the limits. First, take a quick inventory of your belongings, especially items such as computers, clothing, TVs, video games, music collections and general household goods. Next, calculate what you would pay to replace these items in the event they were destroyed. Most likely, these costs would exceed military coverage limits. Also, bear in mind the cost to replace higher-value belongings such as jewelry, heirlooms and guns.

To add insult to injury, renters and condo-dwellers are sometimes at greater risk of loss than homeowners — they're subject to actions and accidents in their neighbors' homes, as well as their own.

Luckily, insurance for renters who live in multifamily housing is less costly than homeowners insurance, because it doesn't cover structural repairs. Those costs are the landlord's or homeowners association's responsibility. However, those policies don't cover your personal property. What's more, the landlord isn't responsible for your liability if a guest slips in the bathroom and wants you to pay medical expenses.

These liabilities can be covered with renters or condo owners insurance for residents of private or privatized military housing. Policies typically are inexpensive, often ranging from $150 to $350 per year for tens of thousands of dollars in coverage. They're also simple to obtain.

Here is what to consider before you buy a policy:

  • Compare private and military coverage. Sometimes military coverage is available, but it may not cover full value of your possessions. Be sure the policy you choose covers you adequately.
  • Choose replacement value. Be sure your policy will pay replacement value for your goods. (That is, youA?ll get enough money to be able to buy new versions of your belongings.) Some policies cover "cash value" or "fair market value" instead, which refers to the money you'd receive if you sold your (used) belongings on the open market.
  • Check geographic limits. Some policies have territorial limits. A policy without this restriction will allow you to take it with you wherever you're posted.
  • Take evidence. Photograph the contents of drawers and cabinets, and take snapshots of your electronics and furnishings. Save the photos in an electronic file and back them up electronically. Or, put them on a CD in a safe deposit box, so you can access them if your residence is inaccessible.
  • Choose the right deductible. Consider a low deductible, because you're most likely to need coverage for theft. If a thief steals your $2,000 flat-screen TV you may not want to pay a $1,000 deductible to have it covered.
  • Know your condo policy. Condominium owners need to know what is covered by the building policy versus the unit owner's policy (such as fixtures, cabinets and carpet). Also, ask about coverage for unit assessment fees resulting from a loss to the building.
  • Check for water-damage coverage. Many policies will not cover damage from a flood without special flood insurance. A more likely cause of water damage for condo owners is water backup. Ask about a policy that covers damage from sewer/drain malfunction or backup.
  • Request a discount. Most insurance companies give discounts for multiple policies, so check with the agent who issued your auto insurance — you may get the best rate from the same company. Also, you're likely to get better rates if you install deadbolt locks, fire extinguishers and smoke alarms.

When you purchase a renters or homeowners insurance policy, youA?ll know your belongings are safe at home and, in many cases, on the road. The right coverage will let you relax knowing you're protected wherever the service takes you.

For more information about renters insurance visit's Insurance channel.

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