For about 37 million Americans, renting a house or apartment is more affordable, and sometimes even preferable, to home ownership.
Unfortunately, according to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, renters are 50 percent more likely than homeowners to be robbed. Likewise, the National Fire Protection Association reports that 270 apartment fires break out each day in the United States. While homeowners are required to have insurance against these types of problems, most renters are not.
"Renters insurance is one of those things you hope you never need, but accidents do happen — and it pays to make sure you and your property are fully protected," said Kathy McDonald, president, Property Solutions at Assurant Specialty Property. "In addition to protecting your possessions, renters insurance can protect you against personal liability, too. If you accidentally start a kitchen fire or flood in the bathroom and it damages your apartment, or a neighbor's apartment, you're the one that's liable, not your landlord."
Getting the right coverage
Your local insurance agent can give you specifics based on North Carolina laws and the kind of policy you want. Ask questions such as:
- What hazards are included? Do I need a separate policy for specific circumstances?
- Are my roommates covered by the policy?
- What optional coverage is available (such as flood or earthquake coverage)?
- How much liability coverage is provided?
- Will I receive additional living expenses if I have to live elsewhere while my apartment is being repaired?
- Do I need additional coverage for damages or injuries caused by my pet?
- Does my policy cover items stolen or damaged while not on the property (i.e. stolen from your car)?
You can download a document from the North Carolina Department of Insurance's website, www.ncdoi.com, that explains basic renter insurance coverages and answers frequently asked questions by North Carolina consumers. You can also call the department at (800) 546-5664.
Extended service contracts
These contracts can help you protect your valuable possessions such as major appliances and electronics from mechanical failure, breakage and other perils after the manufacturer's warranty expires. They help ensure these expensive items get repaired quickly and provide additional coverage that renters insurance won't cover.
An extended service contract provides for normal wear and tear as well as accidental damage. You get 24/7 customer and technical support, coverage for 100 percent of the parts and labor cost, and assistance from licensed and insured trade professionals.
When looking for an extended service contract, ask:
- What are the terms and conditions of the coverage?
- Does it provide toll-free telephone and/or online access to technical support?
- Does the contract include a "no lemon" policy?
- Who pays for shipping and handling if a product must be returned?
- Does it provide in-home service?
- Does the contract include accidental damage coverage?