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Renters Insurance with Roommates: Is Everyone Covered?

Sharing apartments with roommates is becoming more common as housing prices skyrocket. But can tenants share their renters insurance?

roommates sharing renters insurance

Renters insurance does not cover your roommates unless they are listed on the policy. Roommates can sometimes purchase a joint renters insurance policy together, but it’s probably not a good idea because claims and coverage can become complicated quickly. We recommend that each tenant in a rental unit purchases their own policy. Here's why.

Does renters insurance cover your roommates?

Renters insurance only covers the people listed on the policy, so if your roommate isn’t named, they are not covered. This is true for all renters insurance coverages, including personal property, personal liability and additional living expenses. So if you and your roommates’ property is damaged in an apartment fire, insurance only covers the property of the policyholder and listed individuals.

Renters insurance does not protect unlisted roommates because covering more people increases the insurance company’s risk. To reflect this risk, your rates will likely rise if you add another individual to your policy. Additionally, renters insurance does not cover theft by a roommate or intentional damage to property caused by your roommate.

It is not always possible to add roommates to your renters insurance policy, especially if you and your roommate are not relatives. States have different regulations and insurance companies have different policies. Therefore, it is frequently impossible for roommates to purchase a joint policy, even if they want to.

Does each tenant need renters insurance?

You are not legally required to have renters insurance, but your landlord can require it as part of your lease agreement. Therefore, every tenant is not required to have renters insurance by law, but every tenant can be required to purchase renters insurance by the landlord. Even if your landlord doesn’t require it, we still recommend buying a policy because renters insurance provides great value.

Why separate policies are better

There are a handful of reasons why roommates shouldn’t share a renters insurance policy. Here’s what we think are the most compelling arguments for separate policies:

1. Claims go on the policyholder’s record

If a property claim is filed under a renters insurance policy, it is recorded in the policyholder’s CLUE report (Comprehensive Loss Underwriting Exchange). Insurers use CLUE reports to assess their customers’ claims history, and that in turn factors into insurance rates. That means if you’re the policyholder and your roommate needs to file a property claim, it will go in your insurance history. Having a claims history usually results in higher insurance rates, which applies to other insurance products like homeowners insurance and auto insurance.

If you or your roommate file a claim that the insurance company agrees to reimburse you for, the claims payment usually goes to the policyholder. This can create an unpleasant situation, as you and your roommate will have to decide how to split the claims reimbursement.

2. Liability protection extends outside the apartment

Renters insurance includes liability insurance, which protects people on the policy in and out of the house. That means by including a roommate on your policy, you are taking partial responsibility for your roommate’s actions in the sense that a liability claim against your roommate could affect your CLUE report.

For example, if your roommate’s dog bites someone on a walk, the legal and medical bills could come back your way. Or imagine your roommate’s guest is injured in your apartment. Once again, the aftermath could result in a claim on your policy and show up on your CLUE report.

3. Unequal coverage needs

Policy limits are shared between individuals on an insurance policy. That means if your policy has $25,000 of personal property coverage, $25,000 is the maximum amount the insurance company will cover — not $25,000 per person.

You and your roommates’ coverage needs are likely to differ. For example, what if your roommate has a jewelry collection, but you don’t? Your roommate might want to add a jewelry endorsement to increase the coverage limit, but that will raise your rates. In cases like this, a combined policy can make splitting the cost tricky.

4. Removing your roommate can be difficult

If your roommate moves out, you’ll have to remove them from the policy. This can be a headache because you’ll have to negotiate new rates and coverage with your insurance company.

But won’t separate policies be more expensive?

Maybe, but renters insurance is one of the most affordable insurance policies around. According to the National Association of Insurance Commissioners, the average renters insurance premium in the U.S. is just over $15 a month, which means that a shared policy between two roommates would only save each roommate about $93 a year.

Joint renters insurance: when it makes sense

There are some situations when a joint renters insurance policy makes sense, for example, if you live with a relative, spouse or long-term partner.

In order to share a renters insurance policy with your roommate, all of the following criteria must be true:

  • Your state laws permit it.
  • You are both on the lease.
  • The insurance company allows it.

For example, by law, unrelated roommates in Florida cannot share a renters insurance policy. On the other hand, spouses and dependent family members are almost always eligible to be listed in your renters insurance policy. Unmarried couples can be more complicated from an insurance perspective, but it may be possible to add a partner to a policy. In order to understand your options, we recommend contacting a local insurance agent.

How to add someone to your policy

If you decide to add another individual to your policy, here are some steps to take to ensure everyone is adequately protected:

  1. Increase your property limits

    There are limits to how much an insurance policy will reimburse you after a loss, and adding a roommate to your renters insurance policy won’t automatically raise these limits. Because the policy will cover more personal property, you should increase your property coverage limits.

  2. Make an inventory of your property

    In order to know how much protection you need, you first need to know how valuable your belongings are. You may not think you require much coverage, but think how fast your belongings add up: the value of your kitchen equipment, clothes, TV, phone, other electronics and bed can individually outweigh the cost of one year of renters insurance. In fact, Esurance states that the average renter owns $20,000 of personal property.

    Making an inventory of your property is a great way to get a sense of how much coverage you need. This can help ensure that you aren’t underinsured and that you don’t overpay by purchasing coverage you don’t need.

  3. Be honest with your insurance company

    If you find a company that allows roommates to share a policy, make sure that you are completely transparent with them. In order to receive the coverage you pay for, you should be honest in your discussions with your agent or company. After a loss, your insurance company may send an adjuster to inspect the apartment. If things don't add up, your claim may not be approved, or you could get into trouble with insurance fraud.

Bottom line

Renters insurance does not cover your roommates unless they are listed on the policy. However, QuoteWizard recommends that each tenant purchases their own policy. Additionally, state and insurance company regulations may prevent you from adding roommates to a renters insurance policy.

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