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Renter’s insurance for roomates

You might be able to share insurance with your roomie — but that doesn't mean you should.

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Renters insurance can protect any belongings in your apartment from a number of perils. But how to choose a policy if you have roommates depends on which insurer you choose and where you live.

Can I share renters insurance with my roommate?

It depends on where you live. Some states don’t allow unrelated people to share a renters insurance policy, and some insurers don’t allow it even in the states that do.

If you live in a state that allows joint renters insurance for roommates, you’ll need to talk with your insurer about adding a roommate before purchasing a policy. Don’t assume that your roommate’s belongings are covered just because yours are — you’ll both need to be listed on the policy to be covered.

Will renter’s insurance cover shared belongings?

Yes, you can get coverage for shared belongings, like living room furniture and kitchen equipment you bought together. The best way to do this is to make sure that both you and your roommate are covered, so that everything in your apartment is covered.

Keep in mind that if only one of you has renters insurance and the apartment is destroyed, the insured person can only file a claim on items they own. So if you have renters insurance and you bought a couch, it’s covered. But if only you have renters insurance and your roommate bought the couch, it may not be covered — even if you use it.

What’s covered by renter’s insurance?

While the exact coverage provided will differ between insurers, a comprehensive renter’s insurance policy will usually include coverage for:

  • Personal belongings damaged by a covered peril, like a fire or storm
  • Theft and burglary
  • Vandalism
  • Credit card theft
  • Legal liability if an accident occurs at the insured address
  • Temporary accommodation costs if the property is unlivable following an insured event

You’ll need to document any item you want to cover, so remember to keep your receipts, take photos of items and keep track of anything else that could home in handy if you need to prove your ownership of an item or its value.

Items that renters insurance can protect

Renter’s insurance can cover any personal belongings you — or anyone listed on the policy — own, that are usually kept in the home. Here are some examples of covered items:

  • Artwork
  • Collectibles
  • Frozen or refrigerated food
  • Electronics
  • Furniture
  • Jewelry
  • Money and credit cards
  • Precious metals and stones
  • Clothes
  • Camera equipment

Events that renters insurance can protect you from

The risks covered by renter’s contents insurance differ depending on the policy you select, so check the fine print for details of the coverage available. However, here are some events that may be covered by renters insurance include:

  • If someone breaks in and steals your laptop, smartphone and other personal belongings
  • If a severe storm rips the roof off the property and your furniture suffers rain damage
  • If a pipe bursts and your room is flooded, damaging your possessions
  • If the house and all your belongings are destroyed in a fire
  • If your home is damaged by fire, storm or other insured event and is unlivable while it is being repaired, renter’s insurance can pay for temporary accommodation costs
  • If a burglar steals your wallet and you become a victim of credit card fraud

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How to add extra coverage for expensive items

Renters insurance policies usually impose limits on individual items, as well as sublimits on groups. For example, while you may have $20,000 worth of coverage, your insurer may only cover up to $1,500 for any one item or up to $2,500 total for all of your jewelry. These limits will be listed in your policy.

If you have expensive items, like jewelry or camera equipment, you may want to consider adding scheduled insurance. This means that you’re adding on extra coverage for a specific item so that it’s insured for its full value.

When scheduling an item, it needs to be insured under the name of its owner. So if you have a diamond ring, it’ll need to be insured under your name — it can’t be added on to a roommate’s policy.

What’s not covered by renter’s insurance?

Exclusions will vary from between insurers and will be listed in your policy documents. But you generally won’t be covered:

  • For loss or damage due to wear and tear
  • If you fail to properly secure your rental property
  • If your claim results due to your or a roommate’s negligence
  • For loss or damage as a result of electrical or mechanical breakdown
  • For loss or damage caused by rust, mold or mildew
  • For loss or damage caused by vermin or insects
  • If your claim results due to your involvement in illegal activity
  • If your home is unoccupied for an extended period
  • If your roommate steals something from you
  • For deliberate damage by you or a housemate

How much renter’s insurance do I need?

The right level of renter’s insurance coverage will depend on your belongings, your financial circumstances and your risk tolerance.

To decide how much coverage you need, take some time to itemize all the important items you own. How much would it cost to replace all those items if, for example, your apartment caught fire?

Ideally, you’ll want to choose a policy that can replace everything in your home. But if it’s out of your budget, choose a policy that comes as close as possible to that number within your budget.

How much does renter’s insurance cost?

The average cost of renters insurance in 2016 was $185 a year, according to the Insurance Information Institute. State averages ranged from $113 in North Dakota to $275 in Mississippi.

But how much you pay for renters insurance will depend on how much coverage you get, where you live and your insurance history. Living in a high-crime neighborhood or having a history of filing insurance claims can drive up prices.

How do I find the best policy?

to find the right renter’s insurance policy for your needs:

  • Consider your coverage needs. Take some time to think about the level of coverage you need. How much would it cost you to replace all your possessions if they were destroyed in a fire? Do you have any high-value items, like jewelry or a new laptop, that need extra coverage?
  • Consider your budget. Next, think about how much you can afford and are willing to pay for renter’s insurance. Getting a rough idea of how much you can pay for coverage will make it easier to choose a policy.
  • Get quotes. Contact multiple renters insurance providers to request quotes.
  • Compare a range of policies. Compare limits and coverage caps and read the fine print to find out exactly what each policy covers.

Bottom line

Renters insurance only covers the property of the person listed on the policy, so you’ll need to either get a joint policy or each take out an individual policy. Compare renters insurance options to learn more and get quotes.

Frequently asked questions about shared renters insurance

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