Is renters insurance responsible for covering natural disasters like earthquakes, hurricanes, wildfires, and floods?
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It's important to understand what your renters insurance policy covers — and doesn't cover — to protect yourself from financial loss in the wake of a natural disaster — the majority of which are not covered by renters insurance. Renters insurance offers liability coverage, protection for your personal property if it's damaged as a result of a covered peril, and loss of use.
Any property damage to the rental unit itself is not covered by renters insurance — that's for your landlord and their rental property insurance policy to sort out. If the rental unit in which you're living is made uninhabitable via natural disaster, your renters insurance policy should cover your additional living expenses if you need to find alternative accommodations.
Renters insurance only protects your personal property if your things are damaged or destroyed by one of the following perils:
Fire and lightning damage is one of the core perils protected against by renters insurance coverage — this includes wildfires. If you live in a wildfire-prone region, like many parts of California, double-check with your insurance company that your policy covers damage caused by fires and wildfires. In some especially vulnerable locations, insurance companies withhold wildfire coverage because of the elevated risk and the likelihood of facing damages too expensive to cover via total loss claim payments.
Windstorms and hail damage are common side effects of hurricanes. Though renters insurance never covers hurricane damage as a whole, your renters policy may cover damage sustained via wind or hail. For example, renters insurance would cover your bike if it were damaged in a hailstorm, but not if it was damaged due to a hurricane. You'd need to prove to your insurer that the hail caused the damage.
As smoke and fire go hand-in-hand, standard renters insurance will also cover damage to your possessions if they're damaged by smoke. If a fire that started in your kitchen caused smoke to permeate through your rental and damage your furniture, it would be covered.
Renters insurance will cover damage to your personal property — but not the structure of your rental unit — if your stuff is harmed in the aftermath of a volcanic eruption. Like wildfires, if you're in an area prone to volcanic eruptions, you should verify damage is covered as companies might write exclusions based on extreme risk.
If your belongings are destroyed when the weight of snow causes a roof collapse, your renters insurance policy would cover the cost of the goods — but not the damage to your roof. The roof is considered part of the structure of your rental, which is a matter for your landlord's insurance to handle.
Insurance claims stemming from the effects of natural disasters tend to be total losses, which is why insurers are reluctant to cover most of the historically catastrophic events, like:
Also known as "ground movement" to insurers, earthquake damage is exempt from coverage by renters insurance. You may be able to find a separate earthquake policy, however. If you're a renter in California, you can purchase an earthquake insurance policy through the California Earthquake Authority (CEA).
Renters insurance does not cover damage sustained from hurricanes. But if you can prove that your personal belongings were destroyed by a related covered peril, like wind or hail, it's more likely you'll get your things covered.
Water damage or destruction from flooding is never covered by renters insurance, especially if the source of the flooding is from a natural disaster, like hurricanes. Your renters policy will only cover flood damage if the source is from faulty plumbing or appliances. But if you live in a flood-prone area, you may be able to get additional coverage for flood insurance through a private insurer or the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP) offered by Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
Like earthquakes, mudslides and landslides are considered to be "earth movements" by insurance companies, an excluded peril that's not eligible for coverage.
Also considered "earth movement," sinkholes are not covered by renter insurance. However, you may be able to get an endorsement for additional coverage.
Looking for renters insurance? Have questions about what renters insurance covers?