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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Kristine Lee

Insurance Analyst

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty
  • 4+ years of Experience in the Insurance Industry

Kristine is a licensed insurance agent who joined The Zebra in 2019 as an in-house content researcher and writer. Before joining The Zebra, she was a…

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Beth Swanson

SEO Content Strategist

  • Licensed Insurance Agent — Property and Casualty

Beth joined The Zebra in 2022 as an Associate Content Strategist. She is a licensed insurance agent whose goal is to make insurance content easy to r…

Filing a renters insurance claim

Whether or not you should file a renter's claim really comes down to whether the cost is worth the potential rate increase.

In many cases — especially for smaller losses — you'd be better off paying out-of-pocket. But if the value of your stuff exceeds your deductible, then it may be time to call up your renters insurance.

It's a decision you'll have to make relatively quickly since you typically have just a few days to file, but this may differ depending on your policy. Jump below for a step-by-step guide on how to file a renters claim.

Use the below guide to determine if filing a renters claim makes sense for your situation, along with tips and other considerations.

Key takeaways

  • Filing a renters insurance claim is worth it if the cost of the property lost or damaged exceeds your deductible.
  • Your rate for renters insurance will increase after a claim, especially if it was due to theft or fire.
  • Typically, you'll have two to three days (48 to 72 hours after the loss) to file a claim, but this may differ from policy to policy.
  • Taking an inventory of your valuables will help you get paid what you're fully owed.

Should I 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. We generally recommend getting your insurance company involved 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.

It's worth it to file a renters insurance claim when:

The cost of replacing your personal property exceeds your deductible

Look up your deductible in your policy and see if it makes financial sense.

If your $2,000 couch is damaged and your deductible is $500, it would make sense to file a claim as that amount more than meets your deductible. But if your couch is worth just $200, it wouldn't be worth filing a claim.

first claim
It’s your first renters claim (or your first in several years)

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.

Also, remember that property claims are stored in the same database. So a relatively recent renters claim can eventually affect your rate for homeowners insurance should you buy a home later on.

The cause of loss is 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 excluded. Remember that not every event is covered. Learn more about what’s covered by renters insurance.

If 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 to make a claim.

How to file a renters insurance claim

Before you contact your insurance company, you should immediately notify your landlord or property management company. If you're the victim of theft, file a police report. Make sure to save all of your receipts if you need to find alternative housing if your unit becomes unlivable.

You are not responsible for any structural damage to 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, being as specific as you can. If you’re not as specific as possible, insurance companies may reimburse you at the cheapest possible level. A detailed inventory, including information on the brand, size, color, style and even model number, will go a long way in accurately calculating your claim payout.

  2. Take pictures or videos of the damage. Your insurance company will request photo evidence of damage or destruction to personal items to verify your claim.

  3. 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. Your insurance company may ask for:
    • Your 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

  4. Follow through on filing your claim. A claims adjuster will contact you for more information at some point. You must keep these lines of communication open and remain proactive throughout the claim process.

  5. 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 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 evidence on your end will help the insurance company determine the severity of injury or damage.

  2. Give the other party your 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're responsible for covering any costs that exceed your liability limit.

Does renters insurance increase after a claim?

Your renters premium will increase after a claim settlement, but by how much will depend on the type of claim. The most impactful claims for renters insurance were for theft and fire, which typically comes with increases of about 25%.

Claim Type Average Annual Premium $ Difference
No Claims $246 -
Medical Claim $271 +$25
Liability Claim $305 +$59
Fire Claim $307 +$61
Theft Claim $308 +$62

The Zebra’s renters insurance data methodology

The renters insurance rates published in this guide are based on The Zebra’s annual analysis of average renters insurance premiums in every U.S. ZIP code. This data comes to us from Quadrant Information Services, which sources the latest approved rate filings across carriers in each state from S&P Global. Quadrant then uses an internal QA process to validate the information and build reports before the data is queried and analyzed by The Zebra.

These rates are based on a sample user profile: a single 30-year-old renter with an HO-4 renters policy living in a 1,000-square-foot apartment and carrying these coverage limits:

  • $50,000 for personal property
  • $100,000 for personal liability
  • $5,000 for loss of use
  • $1,000 for medical payments
  • $500 deductible

To provide insight to renters on how specific personal factors (like age, location and coverage level) can affect your premium, this base profile is then adjusted for different factors commonly used by insurance companies. For more information, see our full data methodology.

While the cost of renters insurance is much lower compared to auto and homeowners insurance, it's always worth shopping around for particularly after a loss. We've partnered with Lemonade, which prides itself on affordable yet customizable renters coverage and speedy claims resolution. Click below to get started on a quote.

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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

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.

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.

We recommend including the small stuff, too — even if they’re not worth much. If you’re having trouble meeting your deductible, these items can add up.

How are renters claims paid?

If you have an actual cash value policy (the most common), you will be paid what your personal property is worth minus any depreciation.

Replacement cost coverage doesn't deduct for depreciation and can be added to your policy as an endorsement for additional premium. However, it may take some additional steps to get the full amount owed — regardless of what policy type you have, insurance companies will typically give you a check for your items' actual cash value first. You will then replace your items and provide documentation to prove its value before being paid the difference.

Why was my renters claim denied?

We know how frustrating it can be if your claim is denied — especially when you need it most — so let's take a look at the reasons why this may have happened:

  • 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: summary

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. We advise keeping these things in mind if you're considering a claim:

  • It's generally only worth it if the loss surpasses your deductible.
  • You will have to decide if you're okay with a rate increase.
  • Making a detailed home inventory will save you a lot of trouble during the process.

In any case, you should be honest, truthful and factual when speaking to your claims adjuster and renters insurance company so your claim will be settled in a timely fashion and you can be paid what you're owed.

About The Zebra

The Zebra is not an insurance company. We publish data-backed, expert-reviewed resources to help consumers make more informed insurance decisions.

  • The Zebra’s insurance content is written and reviewed for accuracy by licensed insurance agents.
  • The Zebra’s insurance editorial content is not subject to review or alteration by insurance companies or partners.
  • The Zebra’s editorial team operates independently of the company’s partnerships and commercialization interests, publishing unbiased information for consumer benefit.
  • The auto insurance rates published on The Zebra’s pages are based on a comprehensive analysis of car insurance pricing data, evaluating more than 83 million insurance rates from across the United States.