By Alan Pentico
Would you be able to replace all your belongings if they were destroyed in an accident? Could you afford to stay in a hotel room for a week or two while you looked for a new place to live after a fire? If a judge found you responsible for an injury that happened in your home, would you be able to pay the victim’s medical bills?
If you’re a renter and you answer to any of those questions is “no,” you need renters insurance.
Some landlords require tenants to show proof of renters insurance; others make it optional. Either way, we always encourage renters to obtain their own insurance. The landlord’s insurance covers only the property and liability of the landlord, not of the tenants.
Many renters have not fully considered what’s at stake. Let’s take a look at recent news coverage in San Diego.
On Oct. 6, a cigarette ember ignited some rags in a car in Normal Heights, feeding flames that scorched a nearby apartment. On Oct. 13, a faulty air conditioning unit caught fire in the window of a La Mesa home. On Oct. 19, food left unattended on a hot stove started a fire in a Point Loma house.
In each of these cases, the damage to a renter’s clothing, furniture, electronics and other property would likely be covered by insurance, if you had it.
Fire is not the only threat covered by renters insurance. Water damage that results from something sudden, such as a pipe bursting in the wall, would also be covered. And insurance doesn’t just cover the cost of replacing damaged property; it can also cover the cost of finding alternative housing (like a hotel room) while your unit is repaired.
Even if you take every precaution to prevent accidents in your own unit, you can’t control what your neighbors in a multi-unit building do. A neighbor’s negligence could start a fire or flood that spreads to your own home. That was the case on Oct. 21, for example, when a fire in a National City garage spread through a two-story building, displacing approximately 20 people.
Renters also need to consider their liability for injuries that happen in their home. For example, if a guest trips over an object in your living room and breaks his wrist, you could be held liable for any losses he incurs as a result of the injury. If you have pets, you could be liable for bites or other injuries they cause to guests or neighbors.
Whether you live in a single-family home, a backyard studio, a condo or an apartment, renters insurance is valuable. It can also be surprisingly affordable. Many renters can get an adequate policy for $15 to $30 per month, and further discounts may be available for bundling your renters insurance with car insurance. If you don’t yet have renters insurance, take five minutes to get a quote and find out more today.
—Alan Pentico is the executive director of the San Diego County Apartment Association.