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

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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

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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.

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