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5 Surprising Things Covered by Renters Insurance — and 4 Things That Aren’t

by Natalie Daher

Photography by Unsplash

Even the most scrupulous of us don’t read the fine print of renters insurance. There are so many words, and such small font. But you should because depending on your renters insurance policy, coverage often extends far beyond your pad, with some specific exceptions. The nuances of your renters insurance policy could save you lots of time. And money. And headaches.

So you should read the thing. But you probably won’t. And we don’t blame you. That’s why we’re here. To help.

We called up Maxime Rieman, head of insurance at Value Penguin in New York, to get her thoughts. She’s an expert, after all.

The first thing she told us is that it’s important to understand the three basic categories of renters insurance coverage: property, liability and loss of use. Each category has its distinctions or optional add-ons, depending on factors like your personal inventory, the company, and the coverage different policies offer.

Renters insurance covers some surprising things that don’t include items burned in an apartment fire, but excludes some other common losses that consumers might not expect. From volcanic misfortunes to a rowdy kid, your renters insurance policy could conveniently have you covered—or devastatingly could not.

What’s Often Covered (But Make Sure to Ask)

Storm damage A storm can cause city dwellers immediate or subtle damages. “The weight of snow, if that causes damage, that would generally be covered,” Rieman says. Also covered are frozen pipes or heating systems.

Stolen bikes, laptops or other property Your bike is stolen from an outdoor rack, or your laptop is gone after you briefly stand up at the coffee shop. “What's great is you’re covered when your property is outside your home as well,” Rieman says. “Often, even if you're on vacation and your book bag is stolen or something, that can be covered by renters insurance.”

Your hotel costs, meals & travel If your home is temporarily uninhabitable—from a nearby volcano eruption, perhaps—renters insurance will often cover temporary housing costs, which may include additional costs of commuting and eating. It might even cover others in your household, according to Rieman.

Injuries or accidents outside your home The people on your policy are covered even outside of your residence. You are, for example, on a playdate at a friend’s house, and your child “causes damage to their home or injury to their kids, you are generally covered,” Rieman says.

Volcanic eruption, theft, and other perils

These are perhaps unlikely, but it’s nice to know regardless, right? “[Disasters] can happen in which case you would be protected,” Rieman says. Commonly covered disasters include fire, hail, riots, damage by aircraft, vandalism and theft, and, yes, volcanic eruption.

What’s Not Often Covered (But Could Be)

Your roommates or live-in significant other Joint renters insurance will often only apply to married people, unless you add cohabitants who aren’t your family to your policy at an extra cost. Rieman recommends keeping a clear inventory that your insurance company knows which items—televisions, couches, rugs—belong to you. “If only one of you is listed on the policy, you definitely want an inventory of everything that is your property versus theirs,” Rieman says. “You don't want your claim be denied.”

Jewelry, art, furs A typical limit for the dollar amount of belongings covered is usually around $1,000 to $1,500, according to Rieman. Your policy might require you to seek additional endorsements for expensive items, like camera equipment. “The thing is some items that are commonly owned nowadays are included in that category nowadays,” Rieman says.

High-quality items Materials such as a premium set of golf clubs or an expensive violin might exceed your limit on property coverage, so Rieman recommends double-checking with your carrier.

Hospital expenses Some policies allow you to add medical expenses endorsement or a supplement, and the limits are usually slightly lower and around $5,000, according to Rieman: “You can add some coverage for it but it's not something that's commonly included across all policies. You'd have to definitely ask your renters insurance policy before you lost coverage.”

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