What is renters insurance and how does it work?

Renters insurance protects your belongings in case of damage caused by fire, theft, etc., and covers you if someone is injured at your residence or sues you for negligence. It’s a common choice for people who rent apartments, condos, townhouses, and really any other type of rental property. Renters insurance doesn't cover the actual structure you live in — that's your landlord's responsibility.

How does renters insurance pay out?

If your stuff is damaged or stolen, or one of your guests injures themselves, you can file a claim – an insurance term that means asking for payment based on what’s protected in your policy. If your claim is covered, your insurer will pay for the damages or losses up to the specified limits on your policy.

Your policy will include a deductible, which is the amount you have to pay if you have a claim, separate from the policy premium. For example: You have a $500 deductible and a fire damages your $2,000 couch. You'll pay $500, and your insurer will pay the remaining $1,500.

See more on how your renters insurance deductible works.

The higher your deductible, the more of the repair or claim cost you'll have to take on. That means your out-of-pocket costs will be higher, but you'll have a lower overall rate, or vice versa.

What does renters insurance cover?

Renters insurance provides financial reimbursement for covered losses to your personal belongings. It also covers you in case you’re liable for someone else’s injuries in your home. Most policies will also compensate you for any temporary living expenses if your rental unit or home is damaged in a storm or fire.

Covered belongings

Most renters insurance policies will cover these personal possessions, as long as they don’t exceed your total personal property coverage limit:

  • Clothing
  • Electronics (TVs, Blu-ray/DVD players, computers, etc.)
  • Furniture
  • Decorations
  • Toys/other games (arcade systems, pool tables, ping-pong tables, etc.)
  • Tools/power equipment
  • Appliances you brought into your place (refrigerators, washers and dryers, etc.)

For more expensive items, you may exceed your insurer’s per-item limit. This is calculated as a percentage of your total personal property coverage. For example, if you have $30,000 in total coverage and a 10% per-item limit, the most you’ll be reimbursed for any single item is $3,000, minus your deductible.

For your most expensive items, such as jewelry, you’ll have the option to schedule an item (also known as adding a rider) to your policy. A rider can extend coverage beyond the limits of your policy.

Liability coverage

If someone is injured or their property is damaged, personal liability coverage will protect you if you’re liable. For example, if your babysitter falls down your stairs because of poor lighting, she’d be compensated for her injuries up to your policy’s limits. Additionally, your medical payments coverage could pay for her medical bills. This is a separate coverage that pays for medical bills if someone were to get hurt at your place.

If you’re sued, your policy's personal liability coverage may also pay for your lawyer and court fees. Some insurers may also offer personal injury coverage, which can protect you from other types of lawsuits and claims (slander or libel, wrongful entry, false arrest, and wrongful eviction).

If someone is injured or their property is damaged, personal liability coverage will protect you if you’re liable.

Additional living expenses (loss of use coverage)

If your place is damaged from a covered loss and you have to move out temporarily, this coverage pays for hotel or rent expenses plus food (above what you'd normally pay). For example: If you usually spend $100 on groceries a week but need to spend $500 to eat out, you'll get $400.

How does renters insurance work with roommates?

If you have roommates, renters insurance won’t cover their property, personal liabilities, or temporary living expenses unless they’re on your policy. While splitting the cost of a renters policy can help you save money, it’s usually not a good idea. Any claims your roommate files would also show up on your claims history. Additionally, if your roommate has more expensive possessions than you, they could actually drive up the cost of your policy. That’s why it’s usually best to stick with your own renters insurance.

Does renters insurance cover more than theft and fire?

Renters insurance typically covers theft and fire. But there are other events, also known as perils, that a renters policy can cover. The exact number of covered perils will vary by insurer and the type of policy. Here are the most common perils renters insurance covers:

  • Windstorms
  • Fire and smoke
  • Lightning
  • Hail
  • Tornadoes
  • Explosions (e.g., aerosol can or gas grill accidents)
  • Theft and vandalism
  • Car or aircraft crashing into your home
  • Falling trees or other objects
  • Weight of snow, sleet, or ice
  • Water damage*

*includes water damage from leaking roofs, water heaters, washing machines, dishwashers, or other appliances but not floods.

If you need coverage from floods, you can purchase a separate flood insurance policy.

What your landlord’s insurance covers

It’s likely covered under your landlord’s insurance if:

  • Your roof, ceiling, or walls are damaged from weather-related issues
  • A pipe bursts
  • Your home is defaced
  • Your lawn, garden, or tree is vandalized

Summary of what renters insurance does and doesn’t cover

Item or Situation Covered? Description
Your personal belongings Covered? Yes Description Highly valuable possessions should be added to your policy as riders.
Your liabilities for damages & injuries Covered? Yes Description Included with personal liability and medical payments coverage.
Your temporary living expenses Covered? Yes Description Included under your loss of use coverage.
Personal injury & other lawsuits Covered? Optional Description Covered legal situations may vary by insurer.
Your roommate’s belongings, liabilities, & loss of use Covered? No Description Your roommate must be on your policy for coverage to apply.
Fire, theft, and other perils Covered? Yes Description Coverage will vary by insurer and policy type.
Floods Covered? No Description You must purchase a separate flood insurance policy.
Property damage & vandalism Covered? No Description Your landlord’s insurance should cover any property damage you’re not responsible for.

Do I need renters insurance?

Renters insurance isn’t legally required, though certain apartment complexes and landlords may require it. As a result, only 37% of renters carry a renters policy, according to III.org. But regardless of whether it’s required, it’s always a good idea to get renters insurance to cover your stuff.

The average Progressive rental policyholder has $24,165 in personal property coverage. If you were robbed or lost all your clothes, furniture, and everything else in a fire, your landlord is not responsible for your belongings. Renters insurance covers what you've spent a lifetime accruing.

How renters insurance is priced

These factors and more can impact the price.

Location: A safer area with less crime generally means a lower cost.

Coverage limits: Selecting limits that accurately cover the value of your belongings and assets can help lower your cost.

Number of units in your building: More units often means a lower price.

See more on average renters insurance prices.

How to get renters insurance

Insurers offer various ways to buy renters insurance. Here’s how you can get insurance through Progressive:

Online

We’ll ask a few simple questions, then you’ll choose your coverages and start date.

Call a rep

You'll speak with a licensed renters representative who can walk you through everything.

Through an agent

If you want local advice, we'll connect you with a licensed independent agent near you.

Tips for quoting renters insurance

Knowing the following information can help you get a quick and accurate renters insurance quote:

  • Safety features & property details: Tell your insurer about any smoke detectors, alarm systems, and existing damage to your residence (walls, ceiling, roof, etc.).
  • The amount of coverage you need: A smart way to figure out how much coverage you need is to take an inventory of all your possessions and assign a dollar estimate to each one.
  • Your personal information: Your insurer may need your previous address to verify your identity. You’ll also need the names of any family members or roommates if you want them listed on your policy. Lastly, having your payment method ready will allow you to get coverage even faster.