Home rentals are hot in Atlanta.
Whether they’re choosing a traditional house or an apartment in a large complex, it seems more and more Atlantans are renting. Some become renters by default. Others can’t yet afford to buy, or maybe they can’t get approved for a loan.
Perhaps more significantly, many people today prefer the flexibility of renting as opposed to the commitment of owning.
But if you have made the decision to rent, there is one decision that I strongly recommend: it’s called renters insurance.
The landlord of your house or apartment already has insurance, but it doesn’t cover you or your possessions. It only covers the structure where you live and any liability the owner might face.
It does not cover your belongings or your liability for accidents.
If your home is burglarized and possessions are stolen or damaged by a fire or flood, a renters insurance policy can allow you to recover their value.
If someone is injured or has an accident in your home, renters insurance can help protect you in the case a liability lawsuit.
I know that you may not be worried about these things, but you should know that accidents can and do happen to good people every day.
Accidents do happen
Take for example:
You finish dinner and get ready for bed. The trees around the house all look healthy and hardy. But overnight, there is a powerful thunderstorm.
A huge oak tree is blown onto the house, nearly crushing it. While you escape unscathed, the house is almost destroyed. During the ensuing rain storm, many of your possessions are ruined.
To make the situation worse, while you are scrambling to find a place to live, someone steals your grandmother’s priceless diamond bracelet.
In addition, the house will take months to repair, so the landlord terminates the lease and tells you that you can no longer live there for safety reasons. You move into a hotel, assuming your costs will be covered.
Without renters insurance, you are out of luck. Neither the owner nor the landlord has any responsibility to you whatsoever. Yes, you will likely get your security deposit returned, and if you have prepaid your rent, you’ll probably get back the unused portion.
But beyond that, you’re on your own.
The sad part of this story is that most rental insurance policies only cost a few dollars per month. And you can usually get a discount by selecting the same company you already use to insure your car. Just ask your agent.
If you rent, you need renters insurance because stuff happens. It just does.
The basic coverage you should have falls into four areas:
Personal Property Protection: This coverage protects your valuables, such as furniture, clothing, electronics, collections, and more.
Temporary Living Expenses: If your home is damaged by flooding or fire or made unlivable by an accident, this coverage pays for your increased living expenses, sometimes including food, while the property is repaired, often up to 24 months.
Liability Protection for You: If a guest or a visitor suffers an accident at your house or apartment, this coverage protects you against a lawsuit that might come as a result. And finally,
Guest Medical Coverage: If a guest suffers an injury while visiting, this coverage can cover their medical expenses.
Interestingly, more and more landlords require that prospective tenants show proof of renters insurance as part of the rental process. That’s because your renters insurance can keep the landlord out of a lawsuit caused by an accident or calamity.
My advice is to call your auto insurance agent tomorrow, and ask about a renters policy. I have seen these policies sometimes cost as little as $10 a month when added to an auto policy, and that’s a bargain.
The Insurance Information Institute has prepared a brochure with good information for all renters. You can get your free copy at my Money99.com website, where you will find an expanded version of this column.
Atlanta native John Adams is a veteran real estate broker, investor, and author. He answers real estate questions every Sunday at noon on WGKA-am(920). He welcomes your comments and questions at Money99.com.