Protecting your family with renter’s insurance

Renter’s insurance is a smart purchase to protect your belongings from out-of-pocket expenses when unexpected disasters and mishaps strike.

Getting renter's insurance can feel like an overwhelming, or perhaps even unnecessary, process to go through, but you will surely sleep better knowing that you have the protection of a comprehensive insurance policy to protect your home and cherished family belongings.

"Specifics of a renter's insurance policy will depend on the company."

What even is renter's insurance?
With laws dictating the need to purchase certain insurance policies from cars to healthcare, it can be easy to overlook "optional" insurance plans like renter's insurance. The reality is, however, that any kind of home protection plan should be viewed as an essential purchase. 

While the specifics of a renter's insurance policy will depend on the company and the person purchasing it, most plans include liability and property coverage on a number of potential disasters. It's unsettling to think about, but as a military spouse you know that there are risks you must stay aware of so that you can protect your family. Fires, thefts and accidents can occur at any time without any warning. If tragedy strikes, you want to be sure that you aren't left to recuperate losses on your own. 

What does renter's insurance cover?
Renter's insurance isn't just about covering the space you're renting – it actually covers all of your belongings inside of your home. Things like:

  • Electronics. If damages occur to your television, computers or gaming consoles, your renter's insurance can help you replace them.
  • Furniture. From your couch to your dining room table, all of the furniture in your home can be covered by renter's insurance. 
  • Clothes. If a fire hits your home, even the cost of your damaged cloths and fashion accessories can be covered. 
  • Jewelry. Whether it's your wedding rings or a family heirloom necklace, damaged jewelry can be protected with your renter's insurance. 
  • Kitchenware. If a disaster leads to the destruction of your pots, pans or china, you can claim the losses on your renter's insurance. 

You'll need to know the value of your items before you buy your plan. Some objects will have a value limit on them, so you'll want to add supplemental insurance if your belongings exceed those limits.

"Renter's insurance doesn't just start and stop in your home."

Renter's insurance doesn't just start and stop in your home. It will also cover the personal property inside of your car. While car insurance covers the vehicle, if you get into an accident with your laptop in the car, it's your renter's insurance that will cover your computer. Even if you have  camera get stolen while you're on vacation, your renter's insurance will help you replace it. 

It isn't just property damages, either. While renter's insurance will help you replace items that may be lost, damaged or stolen, most plans also include liability coverage that will protect you if guests try to sue you over an injury that they sustained in your home. Personal liability coverage can also help you lessen your own medical bills if you or a loved one is injured in a home accident.

Things to consider when you look for insurance 
Renter's insurance is actually very affordable for the amount of property you can get covered. Military families in particular will benefit from low, affordable rates with military discounts at all major rental carriers, and companies that cater exclusively to service men and women like USAA and AFI. Purchasing multiple rental policies from one company can also create discounts, so consider bundling with your car insurance company.

The first thing that you need to do is calculate how much money your belongings are actually worth. Military.com states that the average two-bedroom home contains an average of $20,000 worth of possessions, including electronics, furniture, appliances and clothing. Without renter's insurance, that's all money that you lose with no way to recuperate if a disaster strikes and destroys your home. 

You will also need to assess the likelihood of certain events occurring in your home. For example, renter's policies don't, as a rule, automatically include flood or earthquake damage. If you live in an area that is prone to earthquakes, it may make more sense for you to add that supplemental coverage to your plan than it would for someone who lives in a more seismically sound area. 

It's important to consider your pets during this process as well. Some companies won't cover homes with certain dog breeds. Be sure that every member of your family, human or otherwise, will be covered by your policy.

Once you have a general idea of how much coverage you need, start looking around for the best rates for you. Many companies will allow you to pay for a whole year of coverage up front for a lower price, or to break it into monthly payments if you prefer. As a military family, you will also want to find out how easy it will be to transfer your policy to a new address, should you move before your plan's year is up. Many companies will allow you to make this transition easily, but you will feel better if you have that information up front.

"Find out how easy it will be to transfer your policy."

Purchasing your new renter's insurance
Once you've looked around online and gotten estimates that seem like they will cover your needs and fit into your budget, you should call and speak to an agent. While you can often fill out insurance applications online, it's a good idea to talk to a representative to be sure that you aren't missing any vital information about your policy, like certain exclusions or other gaps that you would want covered. 

Once you have your plan, keep copies of your paperwork somewhere protected. It's a good idea to keep a fireproof and waterproof safe in your home to protect vital documents like this, as well as important medical and legal forms, passports or any other paperwork or small items you can't afford to lose. In case of any kind of damage to your home or anyone in it, you will want to call your renter's insurance company so they can help you process your claims.

You should also document your belongings in case you need to make a claim in the future. Take pictures of your big-ticket items. It will be helpful for you to have proof of your property in case you ever do need to make a claim.  

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