What Does Renters Insurance Cover?

Does your renters insurance policy offer enough protection?

What incidents does renters insurance protect against?

 

Renters insurance covers you, your liability, and your belongings in the event of a covered loss.

Below is a list of incidents typically covered — and not covered — by renters insurance policies. Renters insurance coverage is broken down into four coverage types: personal property coverage, personal liability, additional living expenses, and medical payments.

This article defines these coverage options, how much coverage they include, and what they cover.

Covered by Renters InsuranceNot Covered by Renters Insurance
Fire and lightningOrdinance of law
Wind and hailstormEarth movement
ExplosionWater (flood damage)
Riot or civil commotionDamage caused by power failure
AircraftNeglect
VehiclesWar
SmokeNuclear hazard
Vandalism or malicious mischiefIntentional loss
Falling objectWear and tear
Weight of ice, snow, or sleet 
Accidental discharge or overflow of water or steam* 
Freezing of HVAC system 
Volcanic eruption 

*Damage from plumbing, heating, air conditioning, or automatic sprinkler system.


What does a renters insurance policy cover?

  1. Personal property renters insurance: what's covered?
  2. Liability protection
  3. Medical expenses and payments
  4. Additional living expenses
  5. Optional renters coverage
  6. What's not covered by renters insurance?

 

Personal property coverage

Renters insurance covers personal belongings up to a predetermined coverage limit. The amount of renters coverage is defined by the insurance policy and may total 10% of the policy's personal liability coverage. For example, a policy with $100,000 of liability coverage would include $10,000 of personal property coverage.

"Personal property" is a vague term. It can refer to clothing, furniture, art, electronics, or anything else owned in a rental house or apartment. This coverage may come with restrictions, called "special limits on liability."

Policy documents should detail these restrictions. Below are a few common restrictions.

Sub-limitPropertyLimitations
$200Money, coins, gold 
$1,500Jewelry, watches, fursTheft only
$1,500Watercraft, trailersTheft only
$2,500Firearms 
$2,500Silverware 
$2,500Business propertyOn-premises
$500Business propertyOff-premises
VariesElectronics 

On- and off-premises refers to the address listed on the policy. Renters insurance partially covers the insured party away from their rental property. Off-premises coverage typically only protects against theft.


Personal property not covered by renters insurance:

While you can find a full list of exclusions here, the following items of personal property are excluded from coverage, regardless of the source of damage.

  • Animals, birds, or fish
  • Motor vehicles and any equipment used solely in the vehicle
  • Aircrafts
  • Watercrafts
  • Property of anyone living in the residence, but not on the policy
  • The physical structure of the unit


Renters insurance liability protection

In the same way that personal property protects belongings, liability coverage protects you. If you cause bodily injury or damage someone’s personal property, liability coverage can cover the costs — including legal fees. Liability protection covers damages up to the liability policy limit, which is variable. A typical liability limit is $100,000. This coverage follows the insured party around the world at the same coverage amount.

 



Medical payment coverage renters insurance

This coverage pays for the medical expenses of an injured party — not the insured — if the injury occurs on the insured’s rental premises or as a result of the insured’s actions.

Renters medical payment coverage includes:

  • Medical bills and payments
  • Surgical costs
  • Cost of X-rays
  • Dental procedures
  • Ambulance and hospital fees
  • Nursing care
  • Prosthetic devices
  • Funeral services

The medical payments limit — which may vary — exists on a per-person basis. A typical limit is $1,000.

 
What is not covered by medical payments to others?
  • Any damages deemed intentional
  • Damages suffered by an employee working for the insured party's business 
  • Injuries suffered in relation to watercraft, vehicles, or war

 


 

Additional living expenses renters insurance

If the apartment or house you rent is deemed unlivable as a result of a covered loss, additional living expense coverage will cover the costs of residing elsewhere, up to the policy's coverage limits. Depending on the insurance provider, this coverage could be referred to as "loss of use."

 



Optional renters insurance coverage

The coverage options listed above are standard in many renters’ policies. However, optional coverage options are worth considering.


Replacement cost coverage

Most insurance companies have an option to upgrade reimbursement coverage from Actual Cash Value (ACV) to Replacement Cost. An ACV policy considers depreciation in reimbursement. Replacement cost pays the current market value of personal items. An ACV payout will usually be worth less than a replacement cost payout.

Who needs replacement cost coverage?

Individuals with expensive personal items.


Earthquake coverage in renters insurance

Depending on location and insurance company, earthquake coverage is an optional addition to a renter's policy. If you live in an earthquake-prone location, speak to an insurance agent about adding this coverage.

Who needs earthquake coverage?

Renters residing in earthquake-prone locations.


Sewer or drain backup insurance for renters

If your rental unit is damaged by a sewer backup, you likely will not have coverage without this option. This covers the damage caused by water from a sewer or drain. If a sump pump breaks and causes your living room to flood, this coverage would kick in and cover repairs to your personal possessions.

Who needs drain backup insurance?

If you have an aging sewer system, live in a city with known pipeline issues, or have tree roots near your plumbing.


Riders and endorsements for renters insurance

A rider — also known as a floater or endorsement — extends the special limits of liability on your personal items. If you have expensive items such as jewelry, coins, or art, consider this coverage. If you have valuable items, such as an engagement ring, add a scheduled endorsement to your policy. A scheduled endorsement requires an appraisal but is essential for high-value items.

Who needs this?

Renters who own fine art, jewelry, firearms, or other valuables.

 


What is not covered by renters insurance?

A handful of perils are not covered by renters insurance. Below are common exclusions and what you can do to get coverage.

 

Ordinance of law

If a law requires something in your apartment to be updated, your renters insurance will not cover the updates. For example, if you have an outdated electrical system that is damaged in an incident and a new city ordinance requires it be updated with different materials, your renters insurance policy would not cover the cost of these new materials or labor costs. While you can add this coverage to your policy with an endorsement, this is much more common if you're a homeowner.

 

Earth movement

This is a broad term for earthquakes, mudslides, sinkholes, and landslides. In order to have coverage for these events, you need to add supplementary coverage. Depending on your location, you may be able to add this coverage to your renters coverage. In some locations, you will need a separate earthquake insurance policy. 

 

Water/flood damage

While your renters policy does cover some water damage, damage caused by a severe weather event will not be covered by a renters policy. In order to get coverage for flash floods or hurricanes, you need to add a National Flood Insurance Policy via the federal government. Learn more here.

 

Neglect

If you fail to take care of your apartment, your renters coverage will offer no protection. This can include bug infestations — such as cockroaches, bed bugs, and rats. In the eyes of an insurance company, it is your primarily responsible to take care of your apartment — not theirs.

 

"Vicious" dogs

Dogs are covered by renters insurance if they bite someone or damage their property — unless your company views the breed as "dangerous" or "vicious." The definition of a "vicious" dog varies but may include German Shepards, Rottweilers, Pit Bull mixes, and Doberman breeds. If your furry friend falls into this category, you can shop around for an insurance company that will cover you, exclude your dog from coverage, or purchase a supplemental policy specifically for your dog. Learn more about pets and renters insurance.


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