Renters insurance can give you peace of mind
By Times staff writer
1. Understand what it covers. Renters insurance is really a form of homeowners insurance. It covers losses to your property from a variety of perils, including fire, lightning, windstorms, hail, explosions, riots, aircraft, vehicles, smoke, vandalism, theft, falling objects, electrical current damage and accidental overflow of water.
2. Know what isn't covered. Flood damage is not covered, so you must buy flood insurance separately through the National Flood Insurance Program. Also, depending on the location of your house or apartment, you might need to buy a separate rider to cover wind damage in the event of a hurricane.
3. Avoid paying too much. You can save money if you obtain your renters policy from the same company that insures your vehicles, if you increase your deductible and if you stay with the same insurer for several years.
4. Other ways to save. You also can reduce your premiums by: installing protective devices such as smoke and fire detectors, burglar alarms and fire extinguishers; not owning certain breeds of dogs; and seeking out discounts for retirees or policyholders over age 55.
5. Decide between actual cash value and replacement cost. Do you want your policy to cover only the cash value, or the depreciated cost, of your belongings? Or do you want to be covered for what it would cost you to replace those items? Note that some policies have an automatic "inflation guard" to keep up with rising prices.
6. Take stock of your belongings. Make an inventory of your belongings that lists each item and its value. Photograph or videotape each room, including closets and open drawers. It's not too much of an ordeal to do this if you make the inventory as you move into a new home.
7. Don't let your inventory go up in smoke. Store your inventory and your receipts for big-ticket purchases in a fireproof place offsite. Update your inventory each year to include new purchases.
8. Tell your insurer about any valuable items. Inform your agent about anything you own that might be unusually expensive, such as jewelry, antiques or electronics. Depending on their value, you may want to purchase a separate rider for some items.
9. Ask for details about additional living expenses. If your apartment or house becomes unlivable for a reason covered by your policy, you should be reimbursed for the costs of living somewhere else until the damage can be repaired.
10. Liability protection is standard. Your renters policy likely will cover costs associated with any damages that you, your family members or your pets do to other people, as well as damages from accidents that may occur in your unit.
-- Compiled by Laura T. Coffey. Sources: Insure.com (www.insure.com); Insurance Information Institute (www.iii.org); Florida Department of Financial Services' Office of Insurance Regulation (www.fldfs.com)
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