Renters' insurance a smart choice

But do your homework, make an inventory before buying policy

Your Money

December 25, 2005|By KNIGHT RIDDER/TRIBUNE

Could you afford to replace everything if your rented apartment were burglarized or caught on fire?

Studies have shown that nearly two-thirds of the estimated 81 million Americans living in rental properties don't have renters' insurance. But they should.

Landlords carry insurance on their rented properties, but a tenant's personal belongings aren't included in that coverage.

The average renters' insurance policy costs between $10 and $12 per month for $30,000 in property coverage and $100,000 in liability coverage.

Before you sign with an insurer:

Make a property inventory. It will help you determine how much and what kind of coverage you require, as well as what level of deductible is appropriate.

Replacement-cost coverage is the amount of money that you'll need to actually replace the items. By contrast, actual-value coverage reimburses you for only current market value. Replacement-cost coverage is worthwhile if you have items like computers or electronic equipment that depreciate in value quickly.

Examine what's included. You can purchase additional coverage for natural disasters like floods or earthquakes, or for extremely valuable property like antiques or collectors' items.

But the "extras" aren't always necessary - your landlord may have flood coverage in his or her property insurance. College students may find they don't even need insurance, if their parents' homeowners' policy covers dependent children.

Compare company discounts. Many offer lower rates if you have another line of insurance with the company. Others discount for preventive measures such as installing security systems, smoke alarms, home safes or double-bolt locks.

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