What is renters insurance?
Renters insurance is an agreement between you and your insurance company that covers your stuff, injuries at your place, lawsuits against you, etc. It doesn't cover the structure you live in—that's your landlord's responsibility. When you get renters insurance, you're purchasing “coverages,” which are essentially things your insurer agrees to pay for.
In a nutshell: It's kind of like paying a little now to avoid potentially paying a lot later. You should consider renters insurance if you're renting an apartment, house, or condo.
How does renters insurance work?
When you buy, your insurer or agent will ask a few easy questions about you and your place. Then you'll have some options when picking coverages. All of this can impact your price. Generally, the more coverage you want, the higher your price will be. Then if your stuff is damaged/stolen or something else happens, you can file a “claim.” That's just an insurance term asking for payment based on what's protected on your policy. If it's covered, they'll pay for the damages or losses up to the specified limits.
Generally, more coverage means a higher price.
Do I need renters insurance?
Renters insurance isn't legally required. But, certain apartment complexes and landlords may require it. Either way, it's always a good idea to get renters insurance to cover your stuff.
The average renter has nearly $28,000 in personal property, according to ASI, one of our network renters insurance carriers. 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 to get renters insurance
Insurers offer various ways to purchase renters insurance. Here's how you can buy insurance through Progressive:
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.
These are the coverages offered in most states, but coverages can vary by state. Keep in mind, insurance doesn't cover maintenance or general wear and tear.
Personal property: You're covered even if your belongings are damaged/stolen away from your place (storage units, your car, etc.). For example, if your cell phone and golf clubs were stolen from your car, your renters insurance pays to replace them.
- Electronics (TVs, DVD players, computers, sound systems, etc.)
- Toys/other games (arcade systems, pool tables, ping-pong tables, etc.)
- Tools/power equipment
- Appliances you brought into your place (refrigerator, washer/dryer, etc.)
Belongings that aren't fully covered: Insurers have a per-item limit that is a percentage of your total personal property coverage. This means that certain expensive items may not be fully insured. For example, you have $30,000 in personal property coverage, but the limit for any single item is 10% of the total coverage. If your $5,000 TV is damaged, you'll only get a payment for $3,000, minus your deductible. If you have expensive items like art and collectibles contact your insurer to get the right coverage. You'll then add them as individual items to your policy, called scheduling an item or adding a rider.
Personal liability: If someone is injured on your property due to your fault or an insured causes damage to the property of others, this coverage will compensate them for damages. For example, if your babysitter falls down your stairs because of inadequate lighting, she would be compensated for her injuries. Or, if you're playing catch in the backyard and the ball breaks your neighbor's window, your insurer will pay to replace the window.
If you are sued, your policy's personal liability coverage also pays for your lawyer and court fees.
Temporary living expenses
Loss of use: If your place is damaged from a covered loss and is uninhabitable, this coverage pays for hotel/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.
Injuries at your place
Medical payments: Pays medical bills if someone else is hurt at your residence.
When you're covered
Perils: A common misconception is that renters insurance only protects you against fire and theft. There are many covered events, which may vary depending on your insurer and the type of policy you choose. In insurance terms, these are called perils. Here are some commonly covered perils:
- Fire and smoke
- Explosions (e.g., aerosol can or gas grill)
- Theft and vandalism
- Car/aircraft crashing into your home
- Falling trees or other objects
- Weight of snow, sleet, or ice
- 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.
Your out-of-pocket costs
Deductible: This is simply the amount you have to pay if you have a claim. 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.
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 and vice versa.
See more on how your renters insurance deductible works.
These are the extra coverages you can add.
Backed-up sump pumps or plumbing systems
Water back-up: This is an optional coverage. Sometimes plumbing/sewer systems or sump pumps can get backed up, which can create a lot of damage and an expensive mess. This coverage pays for damage to your belongings.
Not all insurers offer this coverage.
Other lawsuits and situations
Personal injury: This covers other lawsuits and situations that your liability coverage (which is automatically included) does not cover. The lawsuits and situations covered by personal injury aren’t very common but can be expensive:
- Libel or slander lawsuits (something you say/write that damages a person's reputation or business)
- False arrest, detention, or imprisonment
- Wrongful eviction
- Lawsuits against you, such as wrongful entry and malicious prosecution
What your landlord's insurance covers
It's likely covered under your landlord's property Insurance if:
- Your roof, ceiling, or walls are damaged from weather-related issues
- A pipe bursts
- Your home is defaced
- Your lawn/garden/tree is vandalized
How renters insurance is priced
These factors and more can impact your price.
Location: A safer area with less crime means a lower cost.
What you're renting: Typically renting an apartment is more affordable than a condo or home because theft is not as common.
Number of units in your building: More units often means a lower price.
See more on average renters insurance prices.