Let’s talk renter’s insurance. If you’re renting an apartment in New York City, your landlord is legally required to insure your apartment—as in, the structure itself. This, however, does you no good, seeing as how any payout for damage goes to the said landlord, not to you. If you want to protect your stuff—and of course, you do—you need renters insurance.
But how do you know you’re getting all the coverage you need at the best price? You’ll want to shop around, and you have to ask the right questions.
1. Who and what is covered?
Writing for the Brick Underground, broker Jeff Schneider suggests you determine specifics, like:
- Is all my stuff covered? If you work from home, you might need extra coverage for your business equipment. Jewelry might also require additional coverage.
- Is my roommate’s stuff covered, too?
- Suppose somebody gets hurt while visiting? Is that covered?
- How about if my bathtub overflows and damages the ceiling in the apartment below me? Is that included?
For these issues, Upside Insurance Agency suggests going beyond just basic coverage. Ask your agent about adding personal liability coverage (to protect you from lawsuits), temporary living expense coverage (while they make repairs from the overflowing bathtub), or a rider for your bling.
2. What catches do I need to know about?
Once you know your stuff is well covered, you may think you’re good to go. This is not necessarily so. Certain circumstances can affect your ability to collect on damages. According to Consumer Alert and MintLife:
- Damage due to natural disasters like flood and earthquake aren’t usually covered.
- You may need extra coverage if you get a pet.
- If you sublet your apartment, your insurance coverage is probably null and void.
- If you don’t have a detailed list of what you own and what it’s going to cost to replace it, you may be out of luck.
3. What breaks can I get?
Certain factors can help lower rates, but you have to ask to find out what they are. Consumer Alert suggests you bring up possible discounts like:
- burglar alarms
- fire extinguishers and sprinkler systems
- deadbolts on exterior doors
4. What can you tell me about this company?
Deciding on the right company involves more than price. Jeff Schneider recommends you try to deal with a company that’s been doing your kind of business in your area for years. In addition to finding out how long the company has been in business, you should ask:
- Can I have a list of references to contact?
- Will I have a personal agent, and will he/she answer questions quickly?
- How easy is it to submit a claim?
- If I make a claim, how long will it be before I get paid?
- If I make a claim, will my rates go up?
At this point, you may be thinking renter’s insurance isn’t worth the trouble. That would be a mistake. You need it, and knowing which questions to ask will help you get it. Still, if it all seems way too confusing, feel free to check with the National Association of Insurance Commissioners or InsureU. They’ll either answer your questions or put you in touch with your state insurance department.