Two weeks ago, my apartment crapped the bed. Literally. An ice dam on the roof above my apartment caused water to collect in my ceiling. Water pooled and the ceiling directly above my bed, unable to bear the weight of who knows how many gallons of water, collapsed.
I was not present during the collapse and am physically unharmed. My bed, however, cannot say the same.
For almost two weeks, I stayed in a hotel in my neighborhood, relatively worry-free. I slept in comfort while my apartment, freezing cold from the hole in the ceiling, dried out and was repaired. I can’t afford a two week hotel stay in Boston – rooms start at $350/night. My landlord certainly didn’t foot the bill. So, how did I manage to spend almost 2 weeks in a Hilton? I have renter’s insurance.
Renter’s insurance is the best decision a renter can make. Similar to homeowner’s insurance, renter’s insurance will protect you against nearly anything that someone else cannot be held responsible for – including putting you up in a hotel when you’re displaced and replacing your damaged personal items.
If you’re a renter and you don’t have renter’s insurance, you need to get it today. Here’s why.
1 – Renters Insurance is Cheap
Many people think that renter’s insurance is too expensive to get. They’re wrong.
My policy costs me less than $200 a year – $179 to be exact. That’s about $15 a month – the cost of a fancy cocktail, a manicure, or a box of condoms.
I have a very conservative renter’s insurance policy, meaning that I have covered my butt with a ton of insurance – loss of use, replacement housing, injury to others, $500k in personal liability – if it’s insurable, I pay for it. All to the tune of $15/month.
Have other insurance like a car or boat? Like those pesky cable packages, insurance premiums may be reduced by bundling policies. See, you knew that boat was a good investment – bundle your insurance and save!
2 – Renter’s Insurance Replaces Your Stuff
The purpose of insurance is to make you as whole as possible after a loss. Renter’s insurance will replace your personal property (clothes, shoes, furniture, rugs, jewelry) after a loss caused by theft, fire, water, etc. Think your landlord is going to fork over cash for your stuff? Most leases state that a landlord is not responsible for replacement costs unless there is damage or theft from their negligence. You can try to fight it, but you’ll only incur legal fees, missed work, and a headache.
You don’t need to have fancy things to justify renter’s insurance. Your apartment smells like Swedish particle board and cheap clothes from Target? Join the club. But believe me, the cost of that stuff adds up.
In the case of my collapsed ceiling: my mattress, box spring, feather bed, mattress pad, comforter, brand new duvet cover, sheets, pillows, bed skirt, headboard, and cedar storage bags under my bed were ruined. All of the clothes in those storage bags need to be dry cleaned. That’s something to the tune of over $3k. If I didn’t have renter’s insurance I would have to pay out of pocket to replace it all – or sleep on my couch forever.
3 – Renter’s Insurance Provides Interim Housing
If there is a fire or flood in your house, can you afford to stay in a hotel for two weeks? You could couch surf or wait for your landlord to get around to worrying about you, but no one wants to couch surf and you know your landlord doesn’t care. Renter’s insurance can set you up with replacement housing – insurance companies may get a discounted rate on hotel stays for emergency situations.
I discovered that my ceiling collapsed at 9:30pm on a Wednesday night – the property manager of my building said he would figure out alternate housing within “the next few days.” But when you have an 8-foot wide dripping hole in your ceiling and are breathing in lead paint, drywall dust, and potentially asbestos*, days will not cut it – I needed help immediately.
Within 2 hours of filing a claim the next day, my insurance company had a room reserved for me at a nearby hotel. When the property manager called hours later, he was astounded that I had found a place to stay – he still didn’t have an answer or a timeline for me. I stayed at a nearby hotel for a week in a half while repairs were made – something I was very grateful for once I discovered the hot tub on premises.
*NOTE: Replacement housing is not always provided. In my case, the apartment was deemed uninhabitable and dangerous due to structural – risk of the ceiling continuing to collapse – and health concerns – breathing in dust from lead paint (my lease included a notification) and possibly asbestos (some research revealed that the brownstone was converted to apartments during the reign of asbestos).
4 – Renter’s Insurance Claims Have a Low Threshold
I have a $250 deductible so the threshold for a claim is low. That means that I don’t have to wait until everything is ruined or my computer is stolen to file a claim and get help. The lower your deductible, generally the higher the premium. But my premium is still pretty low.
5 – Renter’s Insurance Can Subrogate Claims
As mentioned in the first section, landlords are generally not responsible for replacing things unless theft or damage was caused by their negligence. You may have a jerk of a landlord who treats your building like an abandoned truck stop, but taking your landlord to court and proving it will be a pain in the butt. Not to mention, if you can’t afford to replace your stuff and need your landlord to, you probably can’t afford a lawyer or miss work to represent yourself.
Avoid that hassle by getting renter’s insurance and getting your things replaced. After you’ve been compensated for the loss, your renter’s insurance may subrogate the claim. That means that if your insurance company thinks the landlord should be responsible for the costs, they will file a claim against your landlord’s insurance company. The insurance companies duke it out so you don’t have to. You probably won’t even know it’s happening, but rest assured that subrogation, or karma, will come back to bite your landlord in the butt if they were responsible for your loss.
In case you’re wondering, no one paid me to write this. It’s merely a public service announcement because I care. Have I convinced you to get renter’s insurance yet?