Renters Insurance for Unmarried Couples

Everybody says renters insurance is a 'must buy.' But is that still the case when two people in a relationship want to share one of these policies?

young couple in home with moving boxes

You’ve been in a relationship for a while now. You and your significant other live together. You share quite a few expenses. You’ve even bought furniture and other 'big ticket' items together. 

But if you're like nearly 60 percent of other renters, you don't have renters insurance. That should change. Buying renters insurance is a no brainer, and it's pretty cheap to boot.

That brings up the question: do you buy your own policy, or do you and your significant other share one? Although your gut may tell you to share one, most industry experts will tell you otherwise.

You’ll learn why they usually advise against sharing renters insurance policies in this article. You’ll also learn what to do if you decide to split this coverage, how you can protect yourself, what happens if the two of you part ways, and more.

First, though, let’s cover some of the basics related to renters insurance.

What is Renters Insurance?

This one’s pretty easy. Renters insurance protects you and your belongings while you live in a rental.

You might think that alone would make it popular with renters. In fact, it’s not. Despite its broad coverage and cheap price (more on that in a second), most Americans don’t have a policy. According to the Insurance Information Institute, just 41 percent had renters insurance as of 2016. Compare it to the 95 percent with homeowners insurance.

Why Would an Unmarried Couple Want to Share a Renters Insurance Policy?

Couples often want to share renters insurance because they think it’ll save them some money. Others want to do it because they own a lot of stuff together and want a single policy to cover all of it. And then there are those who already split quite a few expenses and bills, so why not split this one, too?

In other words, there are a ton of reasons an unmarried couple might want to share a renters policy. It’s hard to say any of them are bad reasons. But that also doesn’t mean sharing an insurance policy is a good idea. Keep reading for more on why that’s the case.

Can Two People Share a Single Renters Insurance Policy?

Yes, they can. Most, if not all, states allow people who aren’t related and who live in the same rental unit to be named on a single renters policy. Many insurance companies allow it, too.

Some don’t, though, so you may have to shop around a bit before you find one that allows you and your significant other to split a policy.

Should a Couple Share a Renters Insurance Policy?

Now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. Just because some insurers let unmarried couples (and other roommates) share a renters policy, that doesn’t mean you should share one.

Let’s start with why you shouldn’t share a renters insurance policy:

Your partner’s claims go on your record, too. Experts mention this regarding roommates who want to split a policy. Although it’s especially relevant for those folks, it’s still relevant for unmarried couples, too. Why? Because even though you’re in a relationship and you have a history, you might break up at some point. And if you do, sharing a renters insurance policy could prove just as annoying as if you were strangers living in separate rooms. If someone steals your partner's laptop and they file a claim for it, it’ll stay on your insurance record for some time. And having claims on your record leads to higher insurance premiums.

If you break up and forget to remove your ex from the policy, you may be in for some awkward conversations. If you file a claim and the resulting check from the insurer names both of you, you might have a hard time cashing it. (And if you do, you’ll need to get them to sign it to do so.) Another reason: many insurers require written permission before they’ll remove someone’s name from a policy. Do you really want to deal with that after you and your boyfriend or girlfriend have parted ways?

There’s no guarantee sharing a renters insurance policy will save either of you money. The limits of a renters policy don’t change just because it covers more than one person. Confused? Don’t be. Here’s an example: let’s say you own $10,000 of stuff. Your significant other’s stuff is worth $20,000. To protect all of your belongings, you need at least $30,000 of coverage. That’s going to cost a lot more per month or year than if you just bought your own renters insurance policy with $10,000 of personal property coverage. In the end, both you and your partner may well spend less if you get your own policies. 

As for why an unmarried couple should share a renters insurance policy, or why a couple might want to consider it, here are a few possibilities:

If splitting a renters policy will save you and your significant other a good amount of money, go for it. Especially if you don’t mind dealing with the potential hassles detailed earlier.

Sharing renters insurance also could be a good idea for couples who own almost everything together. If the only things you’ve bought on your own are clothes and a few personal items, splitting one of these policies isn't the worst thing in the world. As long as you accept you might have to have some awkward conversations if your relationship ends.

What Does an Unmarried Couple Have to Do to Share Renters Insurance?

For starters, you need to find an insurance company that lets two unrelated people get on the same renters policy. That shouldn’t be too difficult of a task, as many insurers allow it. Still, you might have to do some digging, so don’t give up if the first couple of companies turn you down.

Once that is out of the way, make sure:

  • Your rental lease names both you and your partner. Most, if not all, insurers require this before they’ll let you share a renters policy.
  • Whatever policy you buy names both of you, too.
  • The policy’s personal property coverage limit reflects the value of all your belongings. Don’t decide on this amount without giving it some serious thought. Even better: wait until after you’ve made an inventory of your belongings to settle on a limit. Need help? Read our article about how to create an inventory of your possessions for renters insurance claims.

Can I Do Anything to Protect Myself if I Decide to Share Renters Insurance with My Girlfriend or Boyfriend?

Yes, there are a number of things you can and should do to protect yourself if you decide to split a renters policy with someone.

The first is to have a conversation with your significant other about what you’re about to do. Are both of you ready for such a commitment? It may not seem like such a big deal if you just look at it as another bill to split. It could become a big deal, though, if you split and have to worry about your partner’s claim ending up on your insurance record.

After that, go through all of your belongings. Add up what you think it would cost to replace them if they were damaged, destroyed, or stolen. Make sure the policy’s personal property coverage limit is above or at least around that figure. How much you receive for damaged, destroyed, or stolen possessions depends on the type of renters insurance policy you buy. For more information on this, read our article, 'Actual Cash Value vs. Replacement Cost for Renters Insurance.'

Finally, make a plan. As in, talk with your boyfriend or girlfriend about what you’ll do if things turn sour. It’s not a fun thing to chat about, of course, but it’s important if you want to avoid some of the nastier outcomes. You don't want to be unable to cash claim checks or be unable to remove the other from the policy if you split. 

Questions to Ask Yourself Before You Agree to Share a Renters Insurance Policy with Your Significant Other

Can I afford my own policy? And if you can afford your own policy, why are you thinking of sharing one with your significant other? Is it just for the sake for convenience? Or maybe the two of you see it as the next logical step in your relationship? Considering the potential pitfalls tied to sharing a renters insurance policy, you should think about buying your own policy if you can afford it. It could save you a headache or two down the road.

How much stuff do I own? You should answer this question whether or not you decide to split a renters insurance policy. Why? Because it’ll give you a sense for all the things you have to protect. It’ll also help you figure out how much renters coverage you should buy – on your own, or with your significant other.

What will I do if we break up? Again, if you think you’ll have a hard time approaching your current girlfriend or boyfriend if you break up, do what you can now to make that conversation as easy as possible. Otherwise, you might have to deal with even more difficulties, like not being able to cash claims checks.

So, Should You Share a Renters Insurance Policy, or Shouldn’t You?

If you clicked on this article wondering if you can share a renters insurance policy with a boyfriend or girlfriend, you now know the answer. You can – assuming you’re able to find an insurance company that’ll let you do it.

If you came here wondering if you should share a renters insurance policy in this way, well, only you can make that decision. Most experts will tell you it’s not the best idea, but that doesn’t mean there’s no way to make it work.

Your best chances for achieving success: know what you’re getting into, and do what you can to plan for what’ll be done if you and your partner ever part ways.

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

Not that you know the ins and outs of sharing renters insurance with your partner, let's talk policy specifics. A typical renters insurance policy covers three things.

It covers the loss (through theft) or destruction of personal items like clothing, furniture, and electronic devices. Specifically, it reimburses you if any of the following damage or destroy your possessions:

  • Fire or smoke
  • Lightning
  • Explosions
  • Wind or water (aside from floods)
  • Vandalism

It also covers repair bills for damage you (accidentally) cause to someone else’s property. And it covers the medical bills of guests injured while in your rental unit. Insurers call this liability coverage. To learn more about it, read our article, 'What is Rental Liability Insurance and Why Do I Need It?'

Finally, renters insurance covers various 'additional living expenses' you rack up if your apartment, condo, or house ever becomes temporarily uninhabitable. There’s a lot more to this form of coverage than meets the eye. Get up to speed on it by checking out this article: 'Renters Insurance and Additional Living Expense Coverage.'

What Doesn’t Renters Insurance Cover?

Renters insurance offers a lot of coverage for a surprisingly small amount of money, but it doesn’t cover everything.

For example, most standard renters policies don’t cover damage caused by flooding. (You need separate coverage for that, as our article 'Flood Insurance for Renters' explains in detail.) They also usually don’t cover earthquake damage.

Something else you shouldn’t expect your renters policy to cover: damage or destruction that’s your landlord’s fault. Maybe he or she failed to keep up with regular maintenance and, as a result, a water pipe broke and flooded your apartment. Your landlord has to pay for any repairs in that kind of situation, not your renters insurance.

Your renters insurance also may not cover personal business items if you work from home. To learn why, see our 'Renters Insurance Basics' article. And read our article about 'What Renters Insurance Doesn’t Cover' for more information on this topic, too.

How Much Does Renters Insurance Cost?

Not much, as you may have heard. To be more specific, renters insurance policies can cost as little as $10 per month, or just over $100 a year. That’s the low end, of course. Even on the high end, though, you probably won’t pay more than $30 a month at the absolute most, or around $350 per year.

If that sounds like too much, consider how much protection that relatively small amount of money provides. Add up what you paid for your TV, computers, phones, game systems, and other electronic gadgets. How much would you have to spend to replace them? In that light, even $350 a year sounds pretty cheap.

Want to know how insurance companies determine what to charge you for a renters policy? Check out our article about renters insurance rate factors.

Am I Required to Have Renters Insurance?

U.S. law doesn’t require anyone to buy renters insurance. Some landlords do require it, though. And if you don’t follow through and get a policy, they can break your lease and kick you out.

Given that, carefully read through your lease before signing it. If that doesn’t make it obvious whether or not renters insurance is a requirement, ask your landlord for clarity.

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