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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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.  

Questions a tenant should ask before signing a lease

Signing a Lease? Ask These Questions Before You Move In

Are you the type of person who enjoys reading lengthy contracts? I’m willing to bet the answer to that question is “NO”. Agreeing to a serious contract without first reading the fine print, however, could put you in a sticky situation. There are many factors at play when deciding on leasing a property. When you’re responsible for maintaining physical property that’s not yours, you better know what’s at stake. Besides, just because your landlord is running a background check on you doesn’t mean you can’t ask him or her a few questions in return. Here are some helpful tips to keep in mind before signing your name on the dotted line.

Understanding lease length

Before you begin looking for a new rental, it’s important to know how long you plan to live in the desired location.  There are two types of leases, fixed-term or month-to-month. Fixed-term leases require the tenant to fulfill the contract for a specified amount of time. Sometimes it’s as low as 3-months and other times it’s as high as 18-months or 2 years. Some condo and apartment complexes encourage renters to sign longer fixed-term contracts by offering reduced monthly rent.  Furthermore, if the renters intend to leave before the contract’s end, they’ll likely incur a hefty fee to break the lease.

Where fixed-term contracts lock in renters, month-to-month contracts offer better flexibility. However, where month-to-month rentals require less commitment, they typically cost more to maintain and landlords may choose to incrementally increase rent over consecutive months.

Does the landlord allow renters to sublease?

Let’s say, for instance, you moved into an apartment with a one-year fixed-term lease and during that first year you receive a job offer of a lifetime in a different city that is too far away for commuting. Let’s also assume that the company that has hired you doesn’t offer you a relocation package, forcing you to pay the fee to break your lease. It’s a bittersweet position to find yourself in, but don’t lose hope quite yet. Some landlords will allow you to essentially “replace” yourself, but that responsibility is yours, not theirs. Subleasing is fantastic because sometimes it can get you out of a bind and save you from having to pay the fee to break the lease.

Ask about pro-rating

This question is rather simple, but if asked and agreed upon, can save you a good chunk of change. Pro-rating involves only charging a percentage of the monthly rent relative to the amount of time you actually lived in the place for that same month. So, if you moved in on the 15th, you should only be charged about 50% of that month’s rent.

How are maintenance requests handled?

Many major apartment and condo complexes have procedures in place on how maintenance requests of renters will be handled. Many of those complexes even have full time personnel on their staff who take care of all maintenance and emergency issues. As a tenant of a standalone unit or home it is very important to ask the landlord how maintenance and repair issues will be handled and in what time frame. Sometimes the landlord will expect you as a tenant to contact a repair service directly. In other cases, the landlord will contact the repair company themselves. Either way, find out ahead of time how maintenance requests will be handled.

Another question you might want to ask your landlord is if and when regular inspections will be conducted? Personal privacy is a sensitive matter and you probably don’t want someone barging in unexpectedly.

Utilities: who pays what? What about deposits?

Utilities are expensive. Gas, electricity, cable, water and garbage disposal costs all add up. Ask your landlord about the diffusion of payment responsibilities. Besides utilities, association fees are quite common. Buildings with pools, workout facilities and business centers all come with added costs. Are these fees included in your rent or do you have to pay them as part of your monthly association fees?

When signing a lease you are usually required to put down a deposit. Deposits serve as upfront insurance policies for property managers and will usually be returned to you after you move out and you have left the rental unit in good condition. Unless you have a dishonest landlord or absolutely obliterated the property, getting this deposit money back shouldn’t be an issue. Assumptions aside, always find out the deposit return policy.

Inquire about move-in details

Before hiring Boston’s best moving company to move you into your new home, know what you need to take care of before walking in the front door with all your gear in tow. Many landlords require insurance policies but can sometimes skim over whether or not you’ve submitted or transferred yours. Some large complexes have rules on what time of the day moving in and out is actually allowed. Another important thing to find out before moving day arrives is to make sure that all the utilities have been transferred and turned on. The last thing you want to find out while you are moving is that the electricity has not been turned on!

Renting a new apartment or house can be a very exciting time in someone’s life, but before signing the lease, please make sure you know what responsibilities you have as a tenant and what you can expect from your landlord. This will prevent many common “renter problems” in the future.

Author Bio: Mark Healey writes about moving, home improvement and DIY projects. Sometimes he writes about other things, too.