Charles Baisden

As a tenant, you’re not responsible for insuring the building you live in. That’s the landlord’s responsibility. But you are responsible for taking out renters insurance to protect your personal belonging and provide liability coverage. 

While not legally required, most renters should seriously consider obtaining renters insurance to protect themselves and their property.

What is Renters Insurance?

Renters insurance (also known as tenants insurance or HO-4 renters insurance) is an insurance policy you take out when renting a property to protect your personal belongings and provide liability coverage. 

It is similar to homeowners insurance because it covers the same scenarios (e.g. fire and theft), but renters insurance is significantly less expensive because it only ensures your belongings and not the physical building.  

The liability portion of renters insurance protects you against losses if anybody is injured on the property you rent. 

If the injury is due to a structural issue with the building, the landlord’s insurance will step in and cover any losses. 

However, if the injury is due to non-structural issues (for example someone tripping over a loose piece of wood on the lawn of a house you’re renting), then your renters insurance policy will cover the losses. 

What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

Renters insurance not only covers your personal items, but it also pays your reasonable expenses if you have to temporarily relocate due to building repairs, includes liability insurance, and includes medical payments to anybody injured on the property (as long as the injury isn’t due to a structural issue with the building). 

Your renter’s insurance policy will reimburse you for the cost of your personal items due to specific events listed in your policy. 

Most policies include the following events:

  • Fire and smoke damage
  • Lightning, windstorm, hail damage
  • Explosion
  • Riot or civil unrest
  • Damages caused by aircraft or vehicles
  • Vandalism
  • Theft
  • Volcanic eruption
  • An object falling on your property
  • Damage from snow, ice, and sleet
  • Accidental discharge (i.e, water) from certain household systems
  • Household appliances or systems freezing
  • Accidental damage from artificially generated electric currents

An important thing to note about renters insurance is that it protects your belongings whether or not you’re in the building. 

If a fire starts in the building you’re renting while you’re at work, your renter’s insurance will still cover the losses of your personal belonging even though you were away from the building when the fire started. 

Optional Renters Insurance Coverage

If you need insurance for less common events that aren’t included in the standard renter’s insurance policy, you can add optional add-ons to your policy. 

You can add insurance coverage for things like earthquakes, floods, or a sinkhole endorsement if you live in an area where these events are more common.

You can even increase the amount of your renter’s insurance coverage as an optional add-on. 

You should speak with your insurance provider about any optional add-ons you want in your renter’s insurance policy. 

Not every policy provider provides every add-on, so you may have to seek out a different insurance provider to get the extra coverage you want.

What Renters Insurance Doesn’t Cover 

As with any insurance policy, your renter’s insurance has exclusions.  There are four main exclusions to most rental insurance policies:

  • Flood damage
  • Earthquake damage
  • Infestations
  • Your roommate’s belongings

If you want coverage for those four events, you have to purchase additional optional coverage.

Depending on your state laws, you may be able to add a secondary insured on renters insurance, but it is best practice for each person to get their own individual policy. 

Frequently Asked Questions 

Is renters insurance required by law?

No.  Renters insurance is not required by law; however, many landlords require their tenants to have renters insurance as part of the lease agreement.

You should always read the lease agreement closely before signing to ensure you’ve met all the requirements and that there are no requirements you don’t feel comfortable with.

Is there pitbull-friendly renters insurance?

Unfortunately, there is a lot of prejudice against pit bulls, and owning a pitbull makes it more difficult to be approved for renters insurance. 

Technically, your renter’s insurance will provide liability insurance and cover any damages related to your pitbull biting someone, but there is a catch.

When completing your renter’s insurance application, you’re asked what breed of dog you own.  If you answer pitbull, most insurance providers will decline your application.

The only insurance company that currently doesn’t ask about your dog’s breed and universally approves renters insurance for pit bull owners is State Farm.

Does renters insurance cover trampolines?

Whether or not your renter’s insurance covers a trampoline depends on the company.  Some insurance companies will approve you for renters insurance if you disclose you own a trampoline and others won’t.

Even if the insurance company approves your application, your premiums will be higher if you own a trampoline. 

Trampolines are viewed as dangerous, and the more risk an insurance company takes on when insuring you, the higher your premiums are.

If you purchase a trampoline after you’re approved for renters insurance, it is your responsibility to notify your insurance provider that you purchased a trampoline. 

Your renter’s insurance policy could potentially be voided if you don’t notify your insurance company that there is now a trampoline on the property. 

How much renters insurance do I need?

The amount of renters insurance you need depends on how much the personal belongings you’re insuring are worth.  You can use a renters insurance calculator to figure out how much your belongings are worth and how much renters insurance you need.

The average renter’s insurance policy includes $100,000 worth of liability insurance, which should be enough for the average person.  You do have the option of adding more liability coverage if you wish.

How much does renters insurance cost?

The cost of your renter’s insurance depends on your level of coverage and where you live. 

In the United States, the average annual cost of renters insurance is $168.  Louisiana has the highest average annual cost at $262 and renters insurance in Wyoming is the least expensive at only $101 on average per year. 

All things considered, renters insurance is very affordable, and it is worth paying a little bit of money to protect yourself. 

How do I get renters insurance?

It is easy and straightforward to get renters insurance.  Nearly every insurance company providers renters insurance, and you can normally complete an application online. 

Some insurance companies offer a deal if you purchase both your car and renters insurance through them, so you may want to contact your car insurance company when getting quotes for renters insurance.

No matter what you should always shop around and find the best deal on renters insurance.  According to US News, the cheapest renters insurance providers include Nationwide, State Farm, and Farmers. 

Can you backdate renters insurance?

No.  You cannot backdate renters insurance- especially if you’re trying to obtain coverage for a loss that already happened.  If there was no coverage in place at the time of the loss, you can’t get coverage for it now. 

It is important that you obtain your renter’s insurance policy as soon as you move into a rented home to ensure you’re properly protected from the day you move in. 

You also need to make your monthly or annual payments on time to ensure your coverage is maintained throughout and there are no gaps in coverage.

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