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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Parties, Pools, Playgrounds and Tenancy

party

There are many valid reasons why a person chooses to rent instead of purchasing a home. But even if the house deed is not in a person’s name, everyone who leases wants to feel as if it’s their little castle and that they are living like royalty.

A renter should be able to do anything they want in a rented place, as long as it falls within the boundaries of the rental agreement between themselves and their landlord. If a person is especially social, hosting parties that might include fun activities such as trampolines, pools, or inflatable bouncy houses, should not be an issue.

Liability for Accidents and Injuries

In reality your landlord legally has the obligation to make sure that your rented home remains safe for you and your guests. Before you rent party fixtures or set up children’s playground equipment in the yard, you should understand why your landlord may disallow some installations on their property.

Even if you have renter’s insurance, your landlord may still be held legally liable if you or one of your guests gets hurt on the party equipment. Because they own the house and the property, the landlord may have the ultimate responsibility when it comes to paying for any medical or legal expenses incurred because of the accident. With that, your home’s owner may want to avoid this financial and legal risk by barring you from having this equipment on the property.

Insurance Policy Exclusions

Your landlord could be the most fun-loving person and have an affinity for bounce houses just like you do. Their reluctance to allow the equipment on the property may not so much stem from their dislike of parties and desire to avoid legal liability, as it does from their insurance company’s exclusion of coverage for such fixtures.

Many homeowners and renter’s insurance policies alike refuse to cover accidents on such equipment, which is why so many landlords cannot legally allow trampolines and other similar structures to be set up on their properties. The landlord knows that their tenants are entitled to certain rights if they are injured on their property and want to avoid this happening. Think about it – if someone were to get hurt, your landlord would be left to pay the bill without being able to make a claim against his or her own homeowner’s insurance policy.

 Your Rights as a Tenant

As the tenant you do have your own rights. You still might be in a position to either bypass the landlord’s rules or come to a compromise, depending on the state you live in and the lease that you signed. You could offer to provide reasonable compromises to ensure everyone’s safety at the party so that the liability for accidents will be greatly decreased.

One way to meet the landlord halfway could include erecting an above ground pool behind a fenced-in area, removing items like ladders that could allow young children access to the pool, or having your guests sign accident waivers prior to using the equipment. Keep in mind, though, you will probably never be able to sway your landlord to allow you to have a trampoline on the property – it’s one of the five main things that are never coveredby homeowner’s insurance.

Putting into place compromising measures may reduce the risk to your landlord and their insurance company. However, before you make an offer, you should first consult with a lawyer who specializes in renter’s rights and housing laws in your state. Your attorney can help you draw up a contract between you and your home’s owner to consider. This contract could deflect more personal responsibility for your guests onto you and away from the owner of your residence.

When you live in a rented home, you expect to be able to do whatever a person wishes to do in his abode. If hosting parties is something you do frequently, you may want to ensure that your plans for the events are in accordance with the terms that you and your landlord agreed upon. It is always important to keep relations between the lessee and lessor positive. By taking your landlord’s needs into consideration, you are proving that you are a responsible renter.

Nadine Swayne forwards this article to help renters gain knowledge of their rights. Choosing to rent over having a mortgage is a personal decision and understanding the legalities are in the best interest of both you and your landlord.

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Dog Bite Laws: What Renters Need to Know

 angrydog

Whether on a tree-lined street or in an apartment in the city, the threat of a dog attack is becoming more likely. The influx of aggressive dogs in rental housing has increased over the past years, either due to negligence of the landlord in assessing the nature of their tenants’ dogs or due to the tenants’ failure to train and monitor their pets. Data that has been collected by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicates that there are almost 4.5 million dog bite victims in the U.S. each year.  The vast majority of canines will never bite someone seriously enough to break the skin. However, that does not mean that you can be careless in dealing with unfamiliar dogs. Disclaimer: This is not intended to act as legal advice. Please seek a legal professional to assess your particular situation and advise you accordingly.

The reality is that each and every animal could bite a person under any circumstance. If you’re a pet owner, this could cause you serious legal, financial, and emotional consequences, including the possibility of your beloved pet being quarantined or put down. Alternately, as a potential dog bite victim, you could be in for a painful event. Fortunately, there are several steps both parties can take to help reduce your risk.

Tips for Avoiding Dog-Related Legal Issues

State laws usually stipulate that any person who is legally visiting a private or public area can take legal recourse if bitten by a dog. In other words, if someone is visiting next door and is wounded by your pet (without provoking the attack), they would be able to sue you for all of the damages that they suffer.

Dogs that become classified as dangerous animals can be seized depending on their actions, and their owner will also face the possibility of fines and jail time. Some renters mistakenly believe that their landlord’s insurance will cover them, but this is not the case. The following are a few easy tips to protect yourself and your 4-legged companion:

1. Keep Your Landlord in the Loop – Renting a house comes with some responsibilities, including the fact that you need to ensure that all of your pets are legally allowed per the lease. This will protect you from being forced to make a decision between your pet and an eviction in the future, and it will also help your landlord stay safe when they visit the property. Make sure that you remind your landlord that you have a dog on the premises whenever they schedule a maintenance appointment. This level of open communication will dramatically reduce the risk of any unwanted incidents.

 2. Always Spay or Neuter Your Pets – Research indicates that most dog bites can be linked to an animal that was not spayed or neutered. Unfortunately, making the decision to skip this important medical procedure will result in a higher level of aggressive tendencies that can easily lead to an attack on a person or another animal. The ASPCA favors spaying, stating “unspayed females sometimes compete for the attention of a male dog by fighting. Spaying your dog can also eliminate the possibility of hormonally driven guarding behavior.”

3. Never Leave Your Dog Unattended – Some people think that it’s okay to stake their dog outside, but the truth is that this practice will make you much more likely to end up being liable for another’s injuries. If you do not have a fenced-in area for the dog to play, you will need to be with them at all times, and always keep them on a leash. Another factor for not leaving a dog tethered in an open area is that it could arouse an attack from another animal – potentially leading to a child or person being subject to harm in the frenzy of such a fight.

4. Focus on Proper Socialization and Training – Dogs might be touted as “man’s best friend,” but this does not mean that each of them is born prepared to live up to this title. You need to spend the proper amount of time training your pet and socializing them with other people. If you do so, they will respond in a gentler manner to future encounters with individuals who are not part of your immediate family.

Owning a dog is a large responsibility, so before you choose your favorite breed, do your research to figure out whether you are able to handle that breed’s tendencies. For example, huskies get separation anxiety, so that might not be the best choice for someone who works long hours. Similarly, border collies are high-energy dogs, which may not be suitable for small enclosed apartments especially if you are unable to provide them with the exercise they require. Also, be sure to plan on making the time and having finances available to invest in their proper upbringing. Fortunately, following these tips will make your pet much more likely to live a long and happy life without any violent incidents. As an added bonus, demonstrating a commitment to your dog via appropriate veterinary records and a good rental history will make future landlords more willing to accept you as a tenant prospect.

Photo Source: https://flic.kr/p/egemmZ

 

Burned Twice? Ways To Extinguish Denied Rental Fire Insurance Claims

firehouse

People who rent a house, apartment, or other type of dwelling sometimes make the mistake of believing that they do not deserve the same financial protection as homeowners. Renting a home or an apartment doesn’t mean that your belongings will be a lost cause in case of a fire, theft or flood damage. However, you can protect your belongings just the same as families who own homes, by investing in renters insurance.

Renters insurance is designed to safeguard many types of belongings inside a rented home, including electronics, clothing, and jewelry, from unforeseen disasters like flooding, lightening, fires, and theft. Even with this protection, however, some renters may still be left fighting for their financial futures when their claims are denied by their insurers. Rather than submit yourself to such monetary losses, you can fight a denial by knowing your renters insurance rights and by taking these proactive actions.

Make A List of Your Belongings

Insurers may deny you by simply saying that the items for which you filed the claim were never protected in the first place. After you buy a policy, it is vital that you make a thorough list of these items, take pictures and write down their full descriptions, as well as serial numbers for future reference. You should give a copy of the list to your insurance agent and then store your copy in a safe place, such as in a safe deposit box at your bank, in one of your email folders, in a cloud storage account, or at the house of a trusted friend or relative. If you need to file a claim at some point in the future, you can reduce the likelihood of being denied by using this list to prove what items you had insured.

Document Valuable Items

Your insurer might deny you as well by saying that your assets were not that significantly damaged or valued at less than your appraisal. Rather than settle for less money than you are entitled to, you should take pictures or videos to document the full extent of the damage to solidify your claim or submit your copy of an appraisal report if you have this proof on hand. With substantiated documentation, your insurer may be less likely to deny you and instead give you the financial help you need to rebuild your life.

Get Legal Help

Many people forget that they can hire an attorney to help them fight a denial. When your insurer refuses to back down, you should  consult with a legal professional to guide and advocate for you. Once you have an lawyer by your side, your insurance company may be more willing to compromise. Most insurers do not like going to court and would rather settle if possible. With a lawyer to fight for your rights, you can close your case sooner and get back to living your life with the insurance money you need to replace your valuables.

Do You Know Your State Laws?

With an attorney to counsel you, you can know your rights as they pertain to your state. For instance, the tenant and landlord laws in Pennsylvania may be totally different than say, Washington state. Being a renter does not mean that you have less legal standing or importance in the eyes of the law.

The law recognizes that you have the same right to housing and assets as anyone else. You also have the right to make a claim against a policy for which you have been paying regularly. Your lawyer can make sure your rights are protected and advocated for throughout the legal process.

Renters insurance can be an invaluable asset when you rent a house or an apartment. However, when your claims are denied, you can get the money you need to move forward and protect your belongings by taking these assertive steps.

Knowing the importance of documentation for insurance policies enables Nadine Swayne to offer these tips. If you unfortunately have a fire in your home, it is vital to have an existing list so you can take stock of your damaged items when filing a claim with your insurer. Whether you rent or buy a home or apartment, know your rights!

What One Shouldn’t Overlook When Renting an Apartment

85861896_417351848a_zWe all know that finding an apartment can often be overwhelming, not only for the fact that there are seemingly endless options to choose from, but also because you will have to sign a long-term lease that will hold you to this place for an entire year. Because of all this, you should establish what exactly are you looking you for before you begin the search. These hints should help you in your quest to find a new place.

Location

It goes without saying that the location is the first thing to consider when looking for a new place. Whether you want to live in particular neighborhoods or you are searching for an apartment which is close to specific points of interest or, you should determine the general area for your new place. In case you have a particular area in mind, examine, make sure to get a good sense of the overall character of the surrounding areas, getting acquainted with the environment and absorbing the feel of the neighborhood, prior to making your decision. Do some research by, for instance, visiting the area, talking to your friends, reading online discussion boards, or checking out local websites. Once you have narrowed down your search to a specific area, you have to decide where exactly you want to live in that area. Think of particular points of interest you want in your vicinity. Do you want to be within walking distance of, say, work or nightlife, or you need a park in which you can walk your dog? Identifying specific points of interest will further narrow down your searching area.

Rent

The next thing to consider is the rental fee you are willing to pay each month. You have to establish a price range, setting a maximum amount for the rent. Searching within a particular rent range will enable you to look only at viable options. This range should be determined based on the constraints of the lowest maximum if you are planning on sharing the place with others. Now establish the length of your rent, as many landlords will require of you to stay at least 6 months or a year. In case you want or need a month-to-month rental for any reason whatsoever, know that your options are likely to be reduced and expect higher fees, as well.

 

Amenities

The type and size of a rental building can significantly affect the range of amenities available. For this reason alone, you should specify the amenities that are important to you, making sure to distinguish your wants from your needs. First, establish what features must be there for you to even consider renting a place, ruling out all properties that can’t provide for your needs. Now, think of the features you would like to have, but could easily live without. If you successfully separate your wants from your needs, it will be much easier to determine what a desired place absolutely must have. It can be helpful to further sort the required amenities according to their degree of importance.

 

Potential Problems

When you visit the place you are considering, don’t forget to examine the condition of the appliances, plumbing fixtures and cabinetry. In case something is not in good condition, this can give rise to additional expenses. If a tap is leaking, for instance, you’ll pay more for the water bill than you actually have to. Even the smallest issue that you notice can easily lead to a bigger one with the passage of time, so it is better to learn about all potential problems before signing the lease.

 

Author Bio: Lillian Connors is a blogger and home improvement enthusiast ever so keen on doing various DIY projects around her house. She is also an online marketing consultant, closely collaborating with a number of companies from all over the globe.

 

Disclosure: Some of the info for this article was provided by Permanent Plumbing Solutions.  

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.