When and How to File a Renters Insurance Claim

Should you file a claim with your renters insurance company? Our guide to renters insurance claims will give you all the info you need.

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The two primary protections a renters insurance policy provides are coverage for a renter's liability and personal property. The liability portion of renters insurance coverage protects you if you’re found responsible for bodily injury or property damage suffered by another person or their property. The personal property segment of a renters insurance policy protects your possessions — like clothing and furniture — if they’re damaged or destroyed from a covered loss occurring at your rental property.

If you’re familiar with filing insurance claims — whether for auto or homeowners insurance — you might be familiar with the considerations to keep in mind before completing a claims form. Use the below guide to determine if filing a renters claim makes sense for your situation and to learn how to maximize your payout and replace your damaged items.

Renters insurance claims — table of contents:
  1. How to file a renters insurance claim
  2. When to file a renters insurance claim
  3. Tips on how to maximize your claim payout
  4. Reasons why your claim could be denied
  5. Renters insurance claims: summary

 


 

How to file a renters insurance claim

Suffering losses to your personal possessions — through no fault of your own — is mentally and emotionally taxing, especially after events like natural disasters. If you were displaced from your rental property after it became inhabitable, leading to you finding accommodations elsewhere, make sure to save all of your receipts.

You should also immediately notify your landlord or property management company. You are not responsible for any structural damage for your rental; those damages should be covered by your landlord.

How to file a renters insurance claim for property damage

  1. Gather an inventory of the damaged items.If you haven’t already created a home inventory of your possessions, it’s important that you make this list. Without this, your renters insurance company won’t know what exactly needs to be replaced. If you’re the victim of theft, file a police report.
  2. Be as specific as you can when you make a home inventory.This is incredibly important. If you’re not as specific as possible, insurance companies may reimburse you at the cheapest-possible level. For instance, if your couch needs replacing, but you don’t specify that it’s a designer sectional made of fine leather, you risk receiving a smaller payout matching the cost of the cheapest possible replacement couch. A detailed accounting of your personal belongings, including information on the brand, size, color, style and even model number, is integral for your insurer to accurately calculate your claim payout.
  3. Take pictures or video of the damage. Accurately documenting what happened to your personal property is important. Your insurance company will request photo evidence of damage or destruction to personal items to verify your claim.
  4. Find a copy of your renters insurance policy.It should provide details on how to file a claim — usually, claims can be filed online or by phone. Consult your renters insurance company's website to get an idea of what the claims filing process entails, and gather all of the materials you need.Your insurance company may ask for:
    • Your renters insurance policy number
    • A testimony from you about what happened
    • Photos or videos of the damage inside your rental unit
    • An inventory of damaged or destroyed personal property
  5. Follow through on filing your claim.Whether you file online or by phone, a claims adjuster will contact you for more information at some point. It’s important that you keep these lines of communication open and remain proactive throughout the claim process. If your insurer can’t get a hold of you, you’re risking your payout and there may be delays.
  6. Submit any receipts or requested documentation.If you had to stay at a hotel because your apartment became unlivable, Additional Living Expenses coverage from your renters policy could reimburse you for these costs, up to the coverage limit.

 

How to file a renters insurance claim for personal liability

  1. Document the damage with photos or video.In the case of liability coverage in renters insurance, the person who sustained bodily injury or property damage caused by you will be the one filing a claim with your insurance. Having some sort of visual evidence on your end — whether you’re the victim or perpetrator — will help the insurance company determine the severity of injury or damage.
  2. Give the victim your renters insurance policy information. As with auto insurance claims, exchanging insurance information is a part of this process.
  3. Take note of your liability coverage limit.Once the claim is filed, your insurance company could provide a lawyer or representative to try to reach a settlement or represent you in court. If a payout is made to the victim, you are responsible for covering any costs that exceed your liability limit.

 


 

How to determine when to file a renters insurance claim

You'll need to first figure out if filing a renters insurance claim will be worth it, as opposed to simply paying out-of-pocket without involving your renters insurance company.

When it's worth it to file a renters insurance claim

When the cost of replacing your personal property exceeds your deductible

Consider how much your deductible is, and if it makes financial sense to have your renters insurance step in. Insurance is generally most useful for catastrophic or large losses for your property, but taking an inventory of your losses will help you determine whether it’s worth filing a claim.

For example, if you sustain $2,000 worth of property losses in your rental and your deductible is $500, it would make sense to file a claim as that amount more than meets your deductible. But if you sustained just $200 worth of losses, you’d be losing money by going ahead with a claim without meeting your deductible.

When it’s your first renters claim (or your first in a number of years)

This has to do with the way renters insurance companies handle clients deemed to be “risky.” Spacing out your claims as much as possible is the best way to avoid being dropped from your insurer when you need them most. Try to avoid filing more than one claim every five to 10 years. Otherwise, you could have trouble finding an insurance company willing to cover you, and coverage can be much more expensive if you have a recent history of claims.

When the cause of loss is definitely covered

Verifying that an event qualifies under your coverage by checking the details of your policy will save you from the disappointment of later finding out your loss is actually excluded. Remember that not every event is covered. Learn more about what’s covered by renters insurance.

Not everything in insurance is cut and dry, however. If you read your renters policy and you're still unsure whether an event is covered or not, give them a call to ask before filing a claim. Be clear to them that you're not calling to file a claim — you simply have questions about your policy. Some companies can misinterpret your intentions when you have questions about whether a loss is covered, even if you don't intend on making a claim.

 


 

How to get the most from your claim payout

Before you call up your renters insurance company to file your claim, keep these tips in mind to ensure your payout is fair.

Be as factual as possible without blaming yourself

You want to be as honest as you can when you’re providing your side of the story to your insurance provider. Claims adjusters could dispute your claim if they think you could have done something to prevent the loss, or if it’s revealed that your negligence played a role in your claim. Don’t lie or be argumentative with your claims adjuster; stay polite and avoid blaming yourself or others about what happened.

Keep a detailed inventory of your property losses

Don’t expect your insurer or claims adjuster to do the legwork for you; wherever possible, insurance companies will always seek to save money and lessen your payout. By keeping a detailed inventory of your losses, ideally with brand names, any special features, model numbers and more, you are more likely to recuperate what you’ve lost — minus any depreciation as personal property is usually paid out on an actual cash value basis. Replacement cost coverage doesn't deduct for depreciation and can be added to your policy as an endorsement for additional premium.

Make sure to include the small stuff, too — even if they’re not worth much. If you’re having trouble meeting your deductible, these smaller items can add up.

 


 

Why was my renters claim denied?

The four most common reasons claims for renters insurance can be denied are detailed below.

  • Fraud:If your claims adjuster catches even a whiff of a fraudulent claim, you can be denied. Don’t inflate the values of your lost or damaged possessions, and don’t try to claim items you never owned in the first place.
  • You waited too long to file a claim:You must file a renters insurance claim within the time period specified in your policy — the sooner, the better. Check your policy documents for this information.
  • Not communicating and/or failing to provide evidence: Once your claim is filed, you must respond to any requests for information or documents from your claims adjuster to get the process going and successfully get paid for your claim.
  • The damage or loss isn’t covered: The event may specifically be excluded from coverage. In other cases, your insurer could rule that negligence was to blame for the loss, and thus the insurance company won't be held responsible for paying your claim.

 


 

The renters insurance claim process summarized

While personal property coverage and personal liability protection are important parts of your renters insurance policy, not every loss is worth filing a claim over. Taking extra care to understand your renters policy will ensure you won't lose money in the long run or endure elevated rates for years.

Making a detailed home inventory of your personal possessions within the first month of holding your renters insurance policy will come in handy, but this can also be done right before filing your claim to calculate your losses. Documentation plays an important role in the renters insurance claims process, providing evidence to back up your claim. In any case, you should be honest, truthful and factual when speaking to your claims adjuster or renters insurance company so your claim will be settled in a timely fashion.

 



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Kristine Lee LinkedIn

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent and one of The Zebra’s in-house content strategists. With a background in copywriting, she covers the ins and outs of the home and car insurance industries. She has contributed to numerous publications focused on the nuances of insurance, including Automoblog, USInsuranceAgents.com, and BestCompany.com.