RENTERS INSURANCE AND WHY YOU CAN’T AFFORD NOT TO HAVE IT

I speak with a lot of tenants on a day-to-day basis. Many of the tenants I speak to have been displaced or had their personal property damaged or destroyed as a result of fires, flooding, or ongoing repair work. Inevitably I always ask them is “Do you have renters insurance?” Why? Because while your losses may form the basis for a lawsuit, you may not see any money for a year or more, and the consequences can be dire. In this months edition I address the importance of having renters insurance for Bay Area tenants.

Loss of Use / Relocation Assistance
If your building catches fire or floods there’s a good chance you’re going to have to move out – at least temporarily – and that you’re going to have to fork out some money for a hotel, clothes, food, toiletries etc. While depending on what caused the displacement your landlord may ultimately be on the hook for your damages, lawsuits can take a year or more to resolve, which doesn’t do much for you when you need a place to sleep or a change of clothes. If you live in the Bay Area, particularly in San Francisco or Oakland you know that finding a place to live on short notice is no easy task. If you have to move into another apartment or stay in a hotel while your place is getting fixed up how will you pay for it? Most renters insurance policies include relocation assistance which can be absolutely crucial if you find yourself out of a home and no place to go. Different policies provide different limits on relocation assistance, so be sure to look into the options when considering which one to go with.

Your landlord may not be on the hook for damages
Renters insurance also provides coverage for personal property theft, damage or loss depending on your policy. So if someone breaks into your place or a flood or fire destroys your belongings your items will be covered. Again the amount of coverage you get depends on the policy so make sure you match the coverage to the value of your stuff. Not only that, most insurance will cover your personal belongings (bikes etc.) in the event of theft even if it’s not taken from your home.

Your insurance company has a duty to fight for your interests, your landlord does not
While it may be clear that an incident that causes you to have to relocate or damages your property was your landlord’s fault, getting them to own up to it and compensate you is not always easy.  (For you landlords out there: I’m not picking on you – that goes for everyone when things go wrong, not just you).  Being right isn’t always enough; sometimes you have to hire an attorney or go to small claims court to get reimbursed for your losses, which can take time and money. To some degree a lawsuit may be unavoidable, but a good insurance company will go to bat for you and help hold your landlord accountable, rather than leaving you to go it alone.

It’s just too cheap not to have
In the end renter’s insurance isn’t a magic cure all, but given how affordable it is and how potentially devastating losing your home to a disaster can be, it is a no brainer.  Renter’s insurance runs around $12 – $20 a month and most insurance companies have policies where you can easily add it on with your existing insurance which can lower your policy costs. That’s a few hundred dollars a year to save you thousands.  In a place like the Bay Area where housing is hard to come by renter’s insurance might just be the difference between chasing the dream and moving back to mom’s couch