Is Renters’ Insurance Really Worth It?

Roof on fire

By Jade Rich

If you are one of the 104.5 million people who live in a rental unit in the United States, it is imperative to be aware of your rights and responsibilities. For example, many people erroneously believe that their landlord’s property insurance covers their personal belongings in the event of a fire or flood, but this is not entirely accurate. Instead, you are required to obtain renters’ insurance if you want to make sure that you will never be put into the awful position of losing everything that you own due to a weather-related incident or the negligence of another renter.

A shocking 66 percent of renters are not currently covered by their own insurance policy, and the primary culprit behind this minimal level of protection seems to be a lack of understanding. For example, many people will refer to the myth that renters’ insurance is expensive as their reason for not buying it. However, industry statistics indicate that the average monthly cost is only $12 per month.

This basic level of renters’ insurance protection typically offers approximately $30,000 in property coverage, and it includes $100,000 in liability coverage. You can also add a larger amount of coverage for a nominal fee, and the vast majority of people who opt for a more extensive renters’ policy do not pay more than $25 monthly.

With that in mind, there are several good reasons to consider a renters’ insurance policy. Here are six compelling reasons to consider:

#1: Your Landlord Has No Legal Obligation to Help Out

If your apartment burns down tomorrow, your landlord has no legal obligation to help you or any other renters with the replacement of damaged or destroyed property. Additionally, they do not need to help you find a temporary place to stay, and they also typically have the legal right to void the rest of your lease term. However, if you have renters’ insurance, you can get assistance with replacing your lost belongings, and you will also have your temporary living expenses covered.

#2: Coverage for Your Mistakes

Anyone can make a mistake that could lead to a flooded apartment or a kitchen fire. To make matters worse, you can be held legally responsible for the damage that you cause to the landlord’s property. In other words, you won’t get a chance to debate hardwood vs. carpet in the living room, and instead you may have to pay to replace whatever flooring the landlord chooses. You could even end up being sued by any other renters who are hurt or lose property due to your negligence.

#3: Protection from Theft

No insurance policy can stop you becoming a victim of theft, but your renters’ policy will enable you to replace your items if someone breaks into your apartment. There are almost 2.2 million burglaries every year in the United States, and the average loss is $2,096. Therefore, even if you have a $500 deductible, you can still dramatically reduce your losses after a break-in if you are protected by renters’ insurance. And as an added bonus, your renters’ policy even covers theft of your personal belongings that takes place outside the home.

#4: Assistance with Disasters

Not all natural disasters are covered by every renters’ policy, but it is common for these policies to protect your belongings during a fire, snowstorm, explosion, lightning strike, electrical surge, smoke, and certain types of water damage.

#5: It Will Help You Avoid Financial Issues

Some people falsely assume that their items are not worth insuring, but this is not the case for almost every renter. After all, if your annual policy costs $150 and your deductible is $500, you would only need to lose $650 worth of stuff for your policy to be worthwhile. Unless the value of all of your belongings is actually less than $650, you need to have renters’ insurance. Also, do not forget that a renters’ policy will help you with liability issues.

#6: Protection from Injury Lawsuits

It’s important to note that if a visitor hurts themselves due to a building or property defect on the rental property, your landlord can be held responsible for their medical bills. Unfortunately, you cannot use your landlord’s property insurance if someone is injured due to an issue that you caused in your apartment. A prime example would be an injury that was caused by your television set falling on someone’s leg. The liability coverage portion of your policy will cover the bills associated with this injury up to your limit, which is usually at least $100,000.

As you can see, signing up for renters’ insurance is a smart move. An increasingly large number of apartment communities are making it mandatory to have one of these policies, but you should not wait for anyone to force you to buy it. Instead, take responsibility for your future by acquiring a renter’s policy as soon as possible. Keep in mind that many companies that offer automobile insurance also have options for renters, and this could even save you money due to a multiple policy discount. With the average renter having at least $20,000 worth of belongings, it makes absolutely no sense in most situations to decide against this affordable insurance option.

Jade Rich is a freelance writer and Social Services Director who currently lives in the Northeast Atlanta area. She has been a frequent renter in the past and gained valuable rental’s insurance know-how during her first tenancy in an apartment.  

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Searching for an Apartment: A guide for Tenants

for rent

Whether you’re an expert at locating the right apartment for you and your family or you’re a newbie, the search for the perfect apartment can be long, stressful, and often filled with hidden headaches and loopholes. Thankfully, the search for your apartment isn’t as hard as it seems, especially if you go over this handy guide before you start looking for your own perfect apartment

I.               Know What You Want

By starting your apartment search without really knowing how many rooms you want, which neighborhood you want in, or even if you want a condo or townhome, finding something will be an even more difficult job. Make out a list of everything you do—and don’t—want in your ideal apartment, then take that with you to your real estate agents, apartment managers, brokers, or owner, or keep close at hand when you search online for an apartment. Such questions to keep in mind:

  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms do you want? Or more to the point, how many do you need?
  • What closet space do you need? (Keep in mind that many apartments don’t have as many closets as most homes do. It’s also easier to invest in a few shelves and closet organizers than to pay a monthly premium on extra closet space.)
  • What area or neighborhood are you looking at? Is this a big issue for you?
  • What other features are important to you (crown molding, nice cabinets, carpeting or tile floors, large kitchen, etc.)?
  • Do you need parking space within a garage or are you ok parking on the street? How many cars do you have? Will you need to have the parking paid for by the landlord?
  • What kinds of amenities are essential to you? Many large apartment complexes have luxuries like swimming pools, exercise rooms, spas, in-building laundry facilities, or even sports rooms (for basketball, etc.).
  • If you have pets, you will most definitely need to be looking at apartments that allow pets, whether it’s a cat, a dog, or even a reptile like a snake.


II.            
Figure Out a Budget

Deciding on a budget can be just as difficult as searching for the apartment itself. You need to figure out a price that you can afford, and that includes monthly utilities, including water, lawn maintenance, laundry fees, cable TV, renter’s insurance, and more. Many landlords want their tenants to make three times the amount of the rent; for example, if the rent is $1,200, then they want the potential tenant to make at least $3,600, in order to include other bills as mentioned above. If possible, include as many small bills and utilities as possible in the budget in order to ensure you have everything covered before you even go out to look at an apartment. Once you have a budget in mind, DO NOT look at any apartment that goes over this amount. It will only disappoint you since you won’t be able to afford it. Or it may tempt you into making bad choices like getting an apartment that you can’t afford and going into debt over it.

III.           Where to Look

There are various places for you to search for an apartment; it’s really up to you and what works best for your family and/or schedule. Many people like to look online first, then contact the landlord or broker and schedule a time to go out and take a tour of the space. Many prefer to contact an apartment brokerage firm or real estate agent who specializes in apartments/townhomes/condos and go from there.

Other places to look for vacancies include local newspapers (check out the Classified or Homes sections), rental signs in front of duplexes or apartment complexes, online bulletin boards like Craigslist or Rentalroost.com, and other online websites that list apartments that are for rent, or going to be for rent in the near future. Also, be sure to ask friends and family to keep you in mind if they hear of any upcoming apartments that will be for rent soon.

IV.           How to Stay Organized During Your Search

Because you probably have so many things to keep track of (budget, how many bedrooms/bathrooms you need, parking space info, etc.), it’s essential to be organized when you begin calling agents and looking at different apartments. Before starting your search, write out your wants and needs, your budget, how much you have to put down as a deposit, how many pets (if any), what amenities you want, etc.

Once you begin your search, you will need to maintain a new list to keep track of the apartments you look at and notes about each property. Here are some things you should write down after talking to an agent or touring a property:

  • The apartment’s address
  • Name of the landlord, owner, broker or real estate agent and their contact information
  • How many bedrooms and bathrooms the apartment has, as well as the total number of square footage
  • Any pros and cons you see right away
  • Any additional notes you want to remember (such as promises the landlord made, what amenities the property has, specific things about the neighborhood, etc.)


V.            
Understanding apartment lease and rent agreements

Finally found the perfect apartment that fits both your budget and your needs? Great! Now it’s time to start reading the notorious lease agreement and try to make heads or tails of it. Fortunately, it is not as difficult as some may think it is. Here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  • The lease. First off, you should understand what a lease is. This document is defined as a legally binding contract of the renting of land, buildings, etc., to another. Before signing any lease, make sure you understand all the terms in the document (and if you don’t, please ask!). Generally, the lease is usually written in simple language that can be easily understood.
  • The security deposit. This will most likely be touched upon both verbally by the landlord/agent/broker and also in the lease. This deposit is the money that is given to the landlord when first renting the property and is supposed to cover any damages that might incur over the course of renting the apartment. The amount of the security deposit is subject to many things, including what state the apartment is located in and what the landlord wants. Generally, it is equivalent to one month’s rent.
  • Terms of the lease. If the terms of the lease do not match what you and the landlord/agent/broker have already gone over (i.e. people named on the lease, date the rent is due, amount of the rent or security deposit, etc.), immediately bring it to their attention so it can be fixed before you sign it. Once the contract is signed, it is binding, so it may not do you any good to argue about incorrect facts then.

Pros and Cons of Renting an Apartment

apartment image

While there are those who see renting as simply wasting money, there are certain benefits to renting an apartment versus purchasing a home, condo or townhome. And just as there are advantages, renting does have its disadvantages as well. If you’re looking at renting an apartment, take a look at this list of pros and cons to help you decide whether renting is right for you and your family.

Pros

  1. Amenities and other added features. Many renters of apartments enjoy such options as swimming pools, exercise facilities, tennis courts, game rooms and even movie theaters. If you’re searching for an apartment to rent, make sure to ask about what amenities the apartment complex or community has to offer, and whether usage of these facilities is included in the rent.
  2. Maintenance and repairs. Unlike homeowners, renters have the luxury of having someone else take care of all those pesky little things that can go wrong – from broken appliances, leaky faucets, clogged toilets, and major repairs like cracks in the wall, or a broken water or heat pump, renting means that the landlord has to take care of these repairs and also offer regular maintenance. Larger complexes and apartment communities even offer a special department just for repairs and maintenance. Those who rent apartments also don’t have to worry about snow removal or yard maintenance.
  3. Freedom and mobility. Many people who rent apartments do so because of relocation due to their jobs, to be closer to family (due to caring for a sick parent, etc.), or wanting to live in a better neighborhood than they can afford if they would have to purchase a home. Renting an apartment makes it a lot easier to move than if you owned a house; you would have to wait until the house sold before moving to wherever you need to go. However, with an apartment, you can give appropriate notice to the landlord and then move without too much hassle or long wait time.
  4. Lower initial costs and fees. Compared to the amount of money you have to dish out when you first purchase a home, renting is definitely less expensive in the beginning. Renters usually pay a few hundred dollars for a security deposit, whereas those who are buying a house can pay thousands of dollars upfront in a down payment.
  5. Save money. Especially in a down economy, renters can save money when home values are plummeting. Even though it would make sense to purchase a home when the prices are low, if you wait until the values are getting ready to rise, you can save money in the long run.
  6. Smaller space, less hassle. Many renters seek to rent an apartment due to downgrading from a larger home, and find that a smaller space is easier to maintain. Seniors, empty nesters, singles and college students can all benefit from renting a small- to medium-sized apartment, giving them the advantage of having to take care of less space.
  7. Location. Ultimately, many people who rent apartments do so because it’s located in a particular area or neighborhood where they can’t afford to buy a home (or there just aren’t many homes available for sale). Whether the area is close to a job, a good school, or near family, many people find that renting is just a better option, especially if the housing market or economy is in a downward slump.
  8. Taxes and insurance. Renters don’t have to worry about real estate taxes, and the only insurance they need is renter’s insurance, which is much cheaper than homeowner’s insurance. There are no taxes for renters, but homeowners sometimes have to pay thousands of dollars a year in different taxes (such as property taxes, state and county taxes, school taxes, and local taxes).

Cons

  1. Parking. Many renters have problems with parking, especially if their apartment is located in a busy area of the city. Paying to park is a perpetual expense, and if your landlord has no designated area for parking, then you have to find a spot on your own, often quite a distance away depending on the area and how busy it is. This is a definite con for many of those who are looking to rent an apartment, especially in major metro areas.
  2. Decorating. If you love to personalize your living space, especially with lots of bold paint colors, many renters find that they are not able to decorate to their liking, since many landlords will not let their renters paint walls, or do any heavy decorating projects like you can in your own home. Decide if this is a deal-breaker for you when choosing to rent or not. Even if you do have a lenient landlord, make sure you first ask for permission to make the changes you desire. If you thoroughly enjoy home renovation projects and prefer to spend your free time working on decorating your home, renting may not be the best option for you.
  3. Pets. There are numerous landlords and property managers out there that don’t allow pets of any kind, the majority of restrictions being on dogs and cats. Landlords are generally under the impression that these types of pets will destroy their property, no matter how well mannered they may seem. If you have pets, you might have a hard time finding a rental, therefore making your search a longer and more cumbersome one. Also, landlords who do allow pets always want a pet deposit upfront, making the expense of renting a bit higher.
  4. Noise. If you like a quiet environment, then renting an apartment may not be for you, since many apartments might have loud neighbors and/or thin walls. Many renters have to deal with noisy neighbors, barking dogs, parties, etc., while living in an apartment. You may want to think of an alternative if you really need peace and quiet where you live.
  5. Rule enforcements. One of the most disconcerting reasons that many tenants move out of their apartments is living in a complex where rules were not enforced as they should be. The landlord may have “special” or favored residents who break rules and get away with anything, while the other tenants are forced to maintain those rules or get in trouble. There really is no way to know if a landlord may favor certain residents over others, so you always run the risk of renting a property where you may be treated unfairly compared to other tenants.

Regardless of what the pros and cons may be, you may sometimes have no choice but to rent an apartment. You can make the best of any situation by searching for your perfect rental unit based on your own lifestyle – pet-friendly or kid-friendly or just in a fantastic neighborhood that suits all your wants and needs! To find your perfect rental, go here.

Make Your Commute Easier!

Do you currently live far from work? Driving for hours each day to and from work not only causes you more stress and frustration, but it also takes up valuable time that you could otherwise spend on your hobbies or with your friends and family! The solution – move somewhere close to work or somewhere near public transportation so that you can utilize your commute hours engrossed in a good book or knitting your latest creation rather than navigating heavy traffic in frustration.

RentalRoost’s proprietary public transit search function can help you find a home within walking distance to public transportation! First, go to the Find Properties tab and select the city in which you want to search for a rental. Next, select the Public Transit dropdown menu and pick the train line that is closest to your work. The map will highlight available rental properties near each stop on the line. You can zoom into a particular location to focus your search or browse all stops to widen your search to different cities along the train line. Say goodbye to lengthy boring drives!

Public Transit 1

On the off chance that you cannot move into a more commute-friendly location, here are a few ideas to make your daily drive a bit easier:

  • Subscribe to some fun new podcasts. You can learn new languages, discover amazing scientific facts, or just listen to some incredible stories. A few favorites: Coffee Break Spanish, Stuff You Should Know, and This American Life.
  • Invest in a nice Bluetooth device to catch up on your calls. Between work and afterwork events, it seems like you don’t have enough time in the day to catch up with all the important people in your life – your college friends, your siblings, your parents, your buddies from yoga class, and your high school besties. You can use this time to check in with your friends. But remember – DON’T TEXT AND DRIVE! And even if you use a Bluetooth device, pay attention to the road and not your conversation!
  • Catch up on your music. Build a great playlist of new artists you’ve been meaning to listen to or just create a great playlist of your perennial favorites. This will help you start to unwind from the moment you get into your car.
  • Play the alphabet game by yourself. Or the license plate game. This will not only entertain you, but it will also help you pay more attention to everything happening on the road.
  • Create a carpool. Find co-workers who live nearby and form a carpool. This will give you some friends to connect with on the road, and it will also give you a much-needed break from behind the wheel, at least a few times weekly.

Finding Your Perfect Neighborhood

New to town? Have no idea where to start looking? Or has your lifestyle or needs changed? Perhaps your family is expanding. Or maybe you want to live in an urban environment with a younger demographic. The best way to find a home in a neighborhood that meets your lifestyle needs is to start exploring neighborhoods.

After signing in to Rental Roost, go to the Explore Neighborhoods tab. From the drop-down menu, select the city you’re search in and what criteria is the most important to you. If you are living in a big city like San Francisco, I would suggest starting with the Walkscore® option to help you find the most pedestrian-friendly neighborhood. If you eschew the idea of cooking and you prefer to dine out, try selecting the Fine Dining option.

neighborhoods 1

The results will be sorted according to your selection. For example, if you selected Walkscore, then the neighborhoods will be sorted by the highest Walkscore. Play around with different search options to find the neighborhoods which have everything you’re looking for.  And this can help narrow down your search for your perfect home!

Assessing the Security of a New Apartment

An important step in searching for a new apartment is to evaluate its security. From high-tech security cameras to armed security guards, there are clear indicators of how secure an apartment building is from potential burglars and other criminals. Rentalroost.com factors in the crime rate when calculating how kid-friendly a neighborhood is. Otherwise, use the following tips in making your own assessment:

  1. First, search online for the apartment building or complex’s website. Many apartment complexes now have websites with detailed information on the apartments themselves, and some even have comments from past and present tenants. See if they also give any information regarding the security features of the building.
  2. Drive around the apartment complex to see for yourself what kind of security measures there are. Visit the building at different times of the day to see how quiet (or loud) the neighborhood is, check out the amount of light available in the building’s parking lot, see if the windows are barred (indicating a rougher neighborhood or trouble with break-ins), and keep an eye out on the amount of garbage on the street.
  3. Keep a list of questions to ask the landlord when you call or visit the apartment. For example, ask if they have security cameras, security staff, deadbolts and locks on all the doors, carbon monoxide and smoke detectors, fire extinguishers, and adequate lighting in hallways, the parking lot and any covered walkways. Also make sure to ask if there are sprinklers in all of the apartments.
  4. If there is a garage for tenants, make sure it is safe and secure just as the apartment complex should be. Ensure that the parking garage is well-lit, features a security guard or some other form of precaution to keep non-residents out, security cameras, sprinklers, fire alarms, and an alarm system.
  5. Does the lobby have safety measures to make sure someone off the street cannot access the apartments? This is very important and a tenant should definitely ask the landlord this question before renting the apartment; make sure the lobby can be accessed only via a key or access code, or that it has a guard on duty at all times.