9 Common Questions About Renters Insurance

In this Jan. 29, 2014, file photo, parts of more than 1,000 summeries of sex-crime cases involving U.S. military personnel stationed in Japan. (AP photo)

Renters insurance can become an afterthought when you PCS to a rental, and most apartment dwellers never follow through with getting this much-needed insurance. In fact, the Independent Insurance Agents & Brokers of America (IIABA) found that nearly two-thirds of Americans living in U.S. rental properties don't have renters insurance and risk severe financial loss.

What's more, the Government Leased Housing Program will not reimburse or replace personal items lost due to theft or natural disaster, according to the Navy Recruiting Command.

So if you're the average U.S. renter with more than $35,000 worth of possessions in your apartment, you will want to get renters insurance. And, naturally, you'll have questions about the type of coverage you should have.

In an effort to help you find the policy that's best for you, here are a few questions and answers about renters insurance, published by the Navy Recruiting Command.

Q: Does renters insurance cover all my possessions?

A: It depends. Some possessions — jewelry, computers and expensive cameras — are often subject to a per-category theft limit (for example, some policies have a $5,000 limit for computers). When seeking information on policies, ask about the various category limits and how they apply to expensive items you own. You may purchase a personal property rider, providing additional coverage for specific items not included in your basic policy.

Q: Is my property covered away from home?

A: Yes, but coverage may be limited. Restrictions in terms and the amount of coverage might apply (from 10% of your personal property coverage to full value). Ask your agent for details. Your liability coverage does not change.

Q: What happens if my rented or borrowed items are stolen?

A: Items that are "in your possession" are covered under a standard renters policy.

Q: What if my insurance company does not respond to a claim?

A: Your state insurance department or local consumer protection office can answer questions on filing claims and also take complaints.

Q: Is my bicycle or car covered by renters insurance?

A: Your bike is protected by a standard renters insurance policy. Motor vehicles are not covered. A separate insurance policy is needed to protect your car, van or motorcycle.

Q: How do you buy renters insurance?

A: Start with taking an inventory. Before purchasing, make an itemized list of everything you own with price estimates, serial numbers, receipts (if possible) and purchase dates. Your inventory will help ensure that you purchase the right amount of insurance — not too much or too little. Also, an inventory will help make filing a claim easier. Make copies of this inventory and keep it in a safe place outside of your home (at work, in a safety deposit box or friend's house). Take photographs or a video of your property since this can be helpful when filing a claim.

Q: What should I ask my insurance agent about?

A: A lot of things! Among the topics should include information about theft limits, deductible options, discounts and about cash or replacement value. Policies vary. Examine as many options as possible.

Q: Should I shop around?

A: Yes! Find an insurance agent or insurance company representative with whom you're comfortable. Ask friends or relatives or consult the yellow pages. Call a variety of insurance companies and agents. Ask questions. Keep your inventory handy, so you can find the amount of coverage that is most appropriate for you ($16,000 is usually the smallest amount of coverage you can get).

Q: Do I really have to read the whole policy?

A: An insurance policy is a contract between you and your insurance company. Read the policy carefully. If you have questions or if something is unclear, call your insurance company representative. Don't sign the contract unless you fully understand the company's responsibilities as well as your own. An insurance policy spells out several obligations for both you and the company. For example, the company has a duty to defend the insured renter in court if the renter is sued for a covered loss. On the other hand, you must give the insurer complete, accurate and timely information.

Knowledge is power, especially when it comes to insurance. Take the time to make sure you’re getting the coverage you need.

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