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Renter insurance

If you rent an apartment or a home, consider buying renters insurance. Renters insurance covers your personal belongings and provides liability coverage similar to homeowners insurance.

The property owner’s insurance does not cover your personal property or liability. However, a renters policy will help protect you and your belongings. It can even cover additional living expenses (hotel, meals, and more) if a disaster causes the home or apartment to become uninhabitable.

Typically, renters insurance has a low premium, with most policies between $15 and $30 a month. When shopping for renters insurance, do not assume the cheapest quote is the best option. Make sure to compare both the price and the coverage options before purchasing a policy.

This page provides more information about renters insurance. You can also use this consumer guide to learn more about renters insurance and this renters insurance shopping tool to compare multiple insurance companies.

If you rent a house or apartment and experience a fire or other disaster, your landlord’s insurance will cover only the costs of repairing the building. You need renters or tenants insurance to financially protect yourself.

Most policies cost from $15 to $30 a month, depending on the coverage options. So, for less than your monthly coffee budget, you can protect your personal possessions and financial assets from fire, theft, and other disasters.

Yes, Oregon Revised Statute (ORS) 90.222 allows a landlord to require you to have a renters insurance policy. Landlords are not allowed to require that they be named as an additional insured on the insurance policy. However, they can be named as having an interest in the policy so that they are informed if you let the policy lapse. ORS 90.222 does limit the amount of liability coverage the landlord can require. Refer to the statute if you believe the landlord’s requirement is unreasonable.

Insurance companies often provide discounts on renters insurance if you have another policy with them – for example, car or business insurance.

You may also get a discount if you:

  • Have a security system, deadbolt locks, or smoke detectors
  • Have good credit
  • Stay with the same insurer
  • Are older than 55

Another way to trim the cost of the insurance is to have the highest deductible you can reasonably afford.

Three types of financial protection

Renters insurance provides three key types of financial protection. The frequently asked questions in each section will help you choose the right coverage for your specific needs.

1. Coverage for personal possessions

Coverage for your personal property is a key part of renters coverage, protecting you from theft, fire, and other events.

Purchase enough insurance to replace all of your personal possessions if a burglary, fire, or other covered disaster occurs. The easiest way to determine the value of your personal possessions is to create a home inventory – a detailed list of your belongings, along with their date of purchase and estimated value. You can take photos or videos or use an app to help you remember everything. Add the estimated cost to replace the items; if possible, that’s how much insurance you should buy.

Actual cash value policies will deduct for depreciation (the aging of an item). Actual cash value is what you would get if you sold the item today. Replacement cost coverage will pay the amount needed to replace the item. Replacement cost policies cost a little more, but pay out more to buy replacement items.

A deductible is the amount of money you pay before insurance coverage kicks in. For example, if you have a $500 deductible and a fire destroys $5,000 worth of furniture, the first $500 is your responsibility and your insurance company will cover $4,500.

Renters insurance deductibles are generally specified as a dollar amount, which can be found on the declarations page. The larger the deductible, the lower your insurance premium will be. An important way to save money on your premium is to get the highest deductible you can afford.

A floater is an endorsement to a renters policy. It is used to schedule valuable items that are worth more than the limits of insurance the policy provides. For example, if the policy limit for jewelry is $2,500 and your $10,000 ring is stolen, you get only $2,500 if the ring is not specifically listed on the floater.

It is important to know the policy limits. If you have expensive jewelry, furs, collectibles, sports equipment, or musical instruments, consider adding a floater to your policy to protect those items.

Most renters policies include off-premises coverage, which means belongings outside of your home are covered against the same disasters in your policy. For example, property stolen from your car or a hotel room while you are traveling would be covered.

Storage units do not usually come with insurance, so you need to purchase coverage yourself. Check your renters policy to see if it covers items in storage. Generally, you can add stored items using a rider if it is not already covered by your renters policy.

Renters insurance covers you against losses from fire or smoke, lightning, vandalism, theft, explosion, windstorm, and certain types of water damage (such as from a burst pipe or if the tenant upstairs leaves the water running in the bathtub and floods your apartment).

Like standard homeowners policies, most renters insurance policies do not cover floods or earthquakes. Flood coverage is available from the National Flood Insurance Program and a few private insurers. You can get earthquake insurance as a separate policy or have it added as an endorsement to your renters policy, depending on where you live.

2. Liability

Liability protection covers you against lawsuits for bodily injury or property damage unintentionally done by you or your family members. This coverage pays for the cost of defending you in court, up to the limit of your policy. Most liability coverage will include no-fault medical coverage. This means, if someone is injured in your apartment, they can submit the medical bills directly to your insurance company.

Liability does not typically include damage done to the property you are renting. So, if your aquarium breaks and water damages the apartment, your policy will not cover it.

Make sure the liability coverage provided by your policy will protect your financial and other material assets if a lawsuit occurs.

If you need a larger amount of liability protection, consider purchasing a personal liability umbrella policy. An umbrella policy kicks in when you reach the limit on the underlying liability coverage provided by your renters or auto policy. It will also cover you for things such as libel and slander.

3. Additional living expenses

Additional living expenses (ALE) coverage kicks in if where you live is destroyed by an insured disaster and you need to live elsewhere for a time. This coverage is found on many home and renters insurance policies.

The additional living expenses portion of your renters insurance policy pays for hotel bills, temporary rentals, restaurant meals, and other expenses you incur while your rental is being repaired or rebuilt. Essentially, it covers the expenses you would not have to incur if you were still able to live at home.

Most policies will reimburse the full difference between your additional living expenses and your normal living expenses. There are generally limits as to the total amount the insurer will pay or time limits specifying how long you are eligible for the ALE payments. Make sure you are comfortable with the limits of the policy you choose.

Renters insurance shopping tool

Use the renters shopping tool in this consumer guide to compare multiple insurance companies. First, decide how much coverage you need for each category. Put that amount in each section in the left-hand column. Ask each company to quote the same level of coverage so you can compare actual premium costs. It is not only about cost. Make sure the companies are licensed to do business in Oregon and check their financial strength and customer service.

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