Are you a renter? Do you have insurance?


We love to encourage home ownership at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor. But, we also know that many people are renters and we want them to have safe and affordable housing, too!

In fact, with the economy still struggling, the number of people who rent their homes in this country is higher than it’s been for many years.

For many, a house foreclosure or a job loss — or both — has necessitated moving to an apartment or house that they rent.

Whether you’re new to renting, or you’ve rented for years, it’s important to know that renters insurance is worth considering.

We certainly hope disaster will stay far from you, your loved ones and your home—owned or rented. But we strongly recommend that you adequately insure your home and/or your belongings. If nothing else, it’s a small price to pay for peace of mind.

RENTERS NEED INSURANCE

Most renters mistakenly believe that if their apartment or rental house burns down or if thieves steal their expensive big screen TV, that the building owner’s insurance would protect them. That’s not the case at all!

When a landlord is insured, it is usually for their building and liability, not for the renters’ things that are inside the house or apartments.

Last year when we talked about this topic Erin McCowan, the personal lines supervisor at Durney Insurance Agency, Inc., in Hoquiam, helped us out. We talked with her again this year to see what had changed.

Last year, Erin guessed that “A very small percentage, probably somewhere around 10 percent,” of renters take the time to buy renters’ insurance. Unfortunately, the statistics haven’t changed much since last year, she said.

Erin said that the small percentage becomes clear when someone comes in as a new homeowner and wants to buy insurance and has no record of insurance because they never purchased a policy when they were renting for years.

So, who should have renters insurance?

“Anybody who pays rent for a home or apartment that they do not own,” Erin said.

“Not only will it cover you for your personal property, it will also cover your negligence if you injure someone or damage someone’s property,” she explained.

For the coverage – and peace of mind – it brings, renters insurance is a bargain, she said.

A ballpark estimate is that it costs about $200 a year for coverage on $30,000 of belongings and up to $400 or $500 a year for up to $70,000 in contents, she said.

That’s a drop in the bucket when you compare it to what it would cost to replace all your clothes, TV, computer, camera equipment, appliances, furniture and other household items.

POLICY ALSO INCLUDES LIABILITY COVERAGE

Not only does renters insurance cover the contents of your rented or leased house or apartment; but it also – like homeowner’s insurance – includes liability coverage, loss of use and medical payment for others injured on the premises. (The only difference between homeowners and renters insurance is that renters insurance has no “dwelling” coverage.)

For a renter that means, for instance, if you forget to put out a candle and leave for the weekend and end up burning down your whole apartment complex, you would be covered. Without insurance you would be personally financially responsible for the loss.

If you have a large fish tank or a waterbed that decides to fail while you’re at work, renters insurance would cover the damage done.

Or, if you’re renting a house and the neighbor kid falls off your backyard swing and breaks his arm, it’s good to have the liability coverage.

Or, heaven forbid, your son leaves his skateboard in the driveway and the mail carrier slips on them and breaks his leg. Your insurance would cover the incident.

And, just like homeowners insurance, the liability portion of renters insurance goes with you.

Say, for instance, you’re out fishing and while the salmon prove elusive, you “catch” the shoulder of the guy next to you, you’d be covered.

TAKE STOCK

Once you’ve purchased insurance, make a detailed inventory of what you have in your home. Or, just take a camera or camcorder through your house or apartment, room by room.

In addition, written appraisals of unusual or valuable items or purchase receipts are very important to have.

If something does happen to your home, you must come up with a list of what you had. It’s much easier to do that ahead of time rather than in the midst of an upsetting tragedy, Erin said.

Make sure to keep the information somewhere safe – the refrigerator, at a relative’s home or in a safety deposit box.

CHECK WITH YOUR AGENT

Insurers want to be clear with their clients about what their coverage includes. If you have doubts or questions, check with your insurance agent.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction experts at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Beaty is the construction manager and Murnen is the executive director.