What Renters Insurance Doesn't Cover

You've made the smart choice to buy renters insurance. But do you know what your policy covers—and more importantly what it doesn’t?

things renters insurance does not cover

Many people don't bother buying renters insurance because they think it will cost too much and isn't worth the money. But it can cost as little as $13 a month and does more than protect the items inside your apartment.

It covers the cost of a lawsuit if someone gets hurt in your house. It’ll help pay for your belongings if they're stolen or damaged outside of the house. If you damage your friend's furniture, you'll also have coverage. Renters insurance even pays for expenses if you need to find temporary housing during apartment repairs.

What it covers

The best way to find out exactly what your insurance covers is to read your policy. In general, renters insurance pays for damages due to:

  • Theft
  • Fire
  • Windstorm
  • Vandalism
  • Hail
  • Lightning

Renters might assume insurance will protect their items no matter what happens. But renters insurance doesn’t cover everything.

What it doesn't cover

Floods

Floods are the most common natural disaster in the United States. Despite this, renters insurance won't cover your belongings if they're destroyed in a flood.

Instead, you'll need to buy a separate flood insurance policy. Luckily, it's easy and relatively cheap to buy a flood policy. Flood insurance doesn't kick in until 30 days after it's purchased, so it's best to get covered as soon as possible. If you buy flood insurance because a hurricane is about to hit your city, you won’t have coverage.

Even if you don't live in a high risk area, flood coverage is a good idea. According to the National Flood Insurance Program, 20 percent of flood claims come from people in lower risk areas.

Check out our guide to flood insurance for renters to learn more.

Earthquakes

Despite being common in the United States, earthquakes aren't usually covered by renters insurance. Like flood insurance, you'll have to buy a separate policy.

If you live in a high-risk earthquake area, coverage can be pricey. You can learn about your risk level using the USGS Hazard Map. You may see higher premiums if you live in these areas:

  • California
  • Oregon
  • Washington

Risk level determines rates. How close you live to a fault line or if you live on a hill or a valley will affect your rates.

Vehicles

Cars aren't covered under this type of policy. To protect your vehicle, you must buy separate car insurance. By law, you need at least liability insurance. To protect your car from events like vandalism or a falling tree, you'll need comprehensive coverage.

But renters insurance will cover the cost of items stolen from the car. Bikes and other sports equipment are also protected.

Roommate's belongings

Your roommate may live with you, but your insurance won't protect their belongings. Protection only extends to their things if they're listed on your policy. Depending on your insurer, you may have the option to share a policy with your roommate.

Some people might consider having a joint policy with their roommate to save money. Yet, most of the time the coverage will cost the same whether you have a separate policy or not. It's generally recommended that people have their own renters policy.

Personal business items

Items used for business purposes aren't protected. For example, your renters insurance will cover your guitar if you play as a hobby. But your renters insurance won't cover any damages to it if you play in a band that you profit from.

You need to buy business property insurance if you want to protect these items.

Expensive items like jewelry or art

Insurance companies place restrictions on what they'll reimburse for items like jewelry, art, and antiques. On average, policies cover jewelry up to $1,500.

To add protection to an expensive item, consider purchasing a floater, also known as a rider. You can buy a floater to cover an item for its full value. It is a separate policy. You may need to have the item appraised to prove its value.

Not sure if you need a floater? Find out more here.

Bed bugs, termites, rodents, and other pests

Renters insurance doesn't typically cover damages from pests like:

  • Rats
  • Termites
  • Bed bugs
  • Cockroaches

It also doesn't cover extermination costs.

Landlords need to keep their property habitable, but the specifics can differ from state to state.

Landlord's responsibility

Some renter claims aren't covered because they refer to something that was the landlord's responsibility. Imagine that a landlord failed to fix something, leading to damage to your items.  An insurer wouldn't cover the replacement costs.

If your landlord neglected to repair your plumbing, causing a leak that ruins your couch, you wouldn't have coverage. Or if the cause of a fire was due to faulty electrical wiring that wasn't properly maintained by your landlord.

Acts of war and terrorism

Unfortunately, terrorism has become higher profile in recent years. There is more concern about coverage for this type of event than in the past.

Acts of war aren't covered in a standard renters policy, including terrorism. This includes invasion and revolution. According to the III, insurers won't cover, "nuclear, biological, chemical, and radiological events."

In the past, coverage included terrorism protection at no extra charge. But after 9/11/2001, insurers started to sell this type of coverage on its own. You can buy separate war risk insurance to add to your renters policy.

Sinkholes

As "ground movement," sinkholes fall into the same category as earthquakes. According to the USGS, around 20 percent of the country is prone to sinkholes. Typically, your belongings aren't protected from sinkholes. There are some exceptions depending on the state you live in.

Most sinkholes occur in the following states:

  • Alabama
  • Kentucky
  • Florida
  • Missouri
  • Pennsylvania
  • Tennessee
  • Texas

People living in a high risk area can buy sinkhole coverage. According to the III, Florida insurance companies must offer optional sinkhole coverage and insurance for catastrophic ground cover collapse. Tennessee is also required to offer optional sinkhole coverage.

If you purposely damaged your belongings

If you destroy your belongings and try to seek replacement from your insurance company, you're out of luck. The insurance company won't reimburse you for suspicious claims. Insurers thoroughly investigate before shelling out any money. Plus, destroying your belongings to get money from your insurer is insurance fraud. You could be criminally charged.

Frequently Asked Questions

Q: Are there any specific items that my policy won't cover?

A: Renters insurance won't cover all items that you own for its full value. For example, it won't cover your car. You'll need to buy car insurance to protect your vehicle.

You would also need to buy a separate business property policy to insure items you use for business purposes. This means if you use a computer as a freelance graphic designer—and make a profit—the computer won't be covered.

Your valuables such as jewelry and antiques are insured up to a certain value. But to insure these items for their full value, you'll need to buy a special rider or floater.

Q: Are floods and earthquakes covered by my renters insurance?

A: No, although floods and earthquakes are common occurrences in many parts of the United States, they are not included in a renters policy. If you want protection from these natural disasters, you'll need to buy a separate flood and earthquake policy.

Q: Should I get a joint policy with my roommate?

A: Some people might think it is easier and cheaper to have joint renters insurance coverage with their roommate. But having a joint policy usually makes things more complicated, and often doesn't affect the cost of premiums.

If you share insurance, cashing a claim check will require both your signature and your roommates. And if your roommate decides to move out, it can be challenging to remove someone from a policy.

Q: How much will renters insurance cost?

A: Costs vary depending on how much coverage you buy and the company. In general, though, expect to pay $150 to $300 a year for $15,000 to $30,000 worth of coverage. That works out to only about $12 to $25 a month.

To save on renters insurance, consider bundling policies. If you need car insurance as well, buy both products from the same insurer to get a discount.

Another option to lower your costs is to compare renters quotes from multiple insurance companies. Policyholders should shop around often to make sure they're getting the best rates.

Q: If I don't have a lot of stuff, do I really need renters insurance?

A: Even if you don't own a lot of things, renters coverage is still a good idea. In some cases, your landlord might even require it.

People are often surprised as to how much their belongings are actually worth. Even if you live in a studio apartment, your combined value of any electronics (like a phone), computer, clothes, jewelry, books, movies, and furniture is probably substantial.

Besides covering the cost of your belongings, renters insurance is useful for several other reasons. It gives you liability coverage if someone hurts themselves in your apartment. It also pays for expenses if you have to live in temporary housing while your apartment gets repaired.

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