Renters Insurance Pays Off

When she first got married, Paula Klein heeded her parents’ advice: You must buy renters insurance.

It was a good thing she listened. After living in their New Milford, N.J., apartment for a few months, the Kleins, who now live in Tomkins Cove, were robbed.

Their luggage and bikes were stolen from their garage, and within weeks of filing an insurance claim, they received a reimbursement check.

As luck would have it, a few months later their garage and the others surrounding it, burned down. They submitted a claim for the bikes and luggage they had just replaced, and were again reimbursed.

“It was nice that we had insurance because at the time as young people we did not have a lot of money to invest in those items again,” Klein says. “There were a number of people in the complex who didn’t have insurance. They were out of luck.”

Between electronics, clothing, books, CDs and furniture, many renters have accumulated thousands of dollars worth of belongings. But most don’t have renters insurance. A 2000 survey by the Insurance Research Council found that only about 24 percent of renters are covered. That’s partly because unlike auto and homeowners insurance, it’s not required, leaving scores of renters vulnerable to a wide range of situations that can leave them responsible for replacing theirs and others’ belongings.

“It’s a myth that the landlord provides them coverage,” says Madelyn Flannagan, vice president of education and research at the Independent Insurance Agents and Brokers of America. “Typically the landlord’s insurance only covers the building. You need to cover your own liability. If a dog bites the UPS guy, or if your bike falls down and it causes damage to someone else, you’re responsible. If the person has lost wages if someone can’t work because of that, you’re responsible.

“The worst kind of story is people who don’t have renters insurance and they cause a fire that burned the building down. You could be responsible. You need to read the lease, especially if you live in a single family home, to make sure you have adequate liability insurance.”

Renters insurance is relatively inexpensive. On average, having between $20,000 and $30,000 worth of content’s coverage and $500,000 to $1 million in personal liability costs between $250 and $350 a year. Consumers who write their renter’s insurance policy with the same company that provides car insurance usually get a discount. There’s often a deductible of about $250. The average cost of renters insurance in New York State is $207, according to the Insurance Information Institute.

Katie Martin figures she has to have renters insurance. She’s a single mother with two children renting a four bedroom house in Stony Point. Replacing the kids’ clothing, electronics and computer would be virtually impossible.

“After a number of years of saving I bought a nice living room set,” she says. “That was a big deal for me because if something else happened I wouldn’t be able to replace it.”

That’s why she’s had renter’s insurance as far back as she can remember. It costs about $25 a month.

Karyn Smith, property manager at Bank Street Commons Apartments in White Plains, where there are two buildings totalling 502 apartments, recently started requiring all tenants to have renters insurance when they move in.

Before Bank Street Commons required its tenants to get renters insurance, Smith said a tenant was running water for a bath and left the bathroom to take a business call. He forgot about the running water and the bathtub overflowed. He didn’t have renters insurance, and it cost him $600 to repair his apartment and $400 for the apartment below.

At the last complex she worked at a pipe burst and ruined a tenants $1,600 laptop computer. With no renter’s insurance, he had to shell out $1,600 for another computer.

“These aren’t catastrophic but renter’s insurance can help out,” Smith says.

Corey Anthony, owner of State Farm Insurance Mount Vernon recalls a fellow broker telling him about a group of guys drinking alcohol and watching the Super Bowl. They were throwing a football indoors and tackling each other. One of the guests got injured and needed medical treatment.

“When you’ve got alcohol and the football game on, reason gets thrown out the window,” Anthony says. Since the apartment renter had renters insurance, his medical bills covered the cost of doctor’s visits.

Don Franchino, a broker with Allstate Insurance in New City, offers this thought about why renters should be covered: “With communal living, you don’t know what your neighbors are doing. They could be smoking in bed.”

Renter’s Insurance Benefits

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