You’ve heard the renter horror stories. Valuables stolen after an apartment break-in. The ceiling collapses in a townhome rental and ruins furniture. A broken water pipe floods an entire apartment, leaving the renter stranded without a place to live. If you’re nodding in sympathy thinking of a friend who suffered through a similar saga, you know that renters insurance is a necessity no matter where you live. (Floods can happen anywhere, from a basement apartment for rent in New York, NY, to a burst pipe in Tucson, AZ.)
Renters insurance doesn’t cover everything, though. You’re out of luck when it comes to that bedbug infestation. (Most insurance policies consider bedbug removal part of standard building maintenance.) And don’t expect your roommate’s policy to cover your stuff — it doesn’t.
But your policy still might be more helpful than you realize. Here’s a look at some of the more unexpected things that are frequently covered by renters insurance.
What does renters insurance cover?
1. Renters insurance can cover dog bites
Jesse Harrison was completely shocked when his normally sweet dog bit his friend. “My friend was sitting with my Chihuahua on her lap, petting him, and he bit her hand. She had to get stitches,” he says. “I felt terrible because it was totally unexpected; my dog had never shown any aggression before. I thought I would be responsible for all the damages.” Luckily for Harrison, his renters insurance covered his friend’s medical bills — and that’s not a rarity.
“All renters insurance policies come with a minimum of $100,000 in personal liability protection and can easily be increased to $300,000 or $500,000 for a relatively small increase in premium,” says Justin Lozoya, an insurance broker with Fusco & Orsini Insurance Services in San Diego, CA. “This would cover any injuries incurred, as well as the cost of legal defense in the event of a lawsuit.”
2. Renters insurance can cover damage to belongings stored off-site
“One thing people don’t realize is that we cover property off-premises,” says insurance agent Natalie Malicoate of Midwest City, OK. “While you have to check with your carrier, most renters insurance policies will cover up to 10% of your contents coverage off-premises.” In other words, if your renters insurance policy is for $30,000 in contents coverage, your belongings in a storage unit would be covered for up to $3,000.
3. Renters insurance can cover travel
Let’s say your luggage is stolen while at the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris. Guess what? Your renters insurance will cover it! “If you are traveling and your personal belongings are stolen or damaged by a covered loss, your renters insurance will cover you, even if you are traveling through Europe or relaxing on a tropical beach somewhere,” says Lozoya.
4. Renters insurance can cover relocation
Well, sort of. Your renters insurance policy won’t cover the costs of a cross-country move, but if you have to relocate due to fire, water damage, or any other claim that makes your rented home or apartment unlivable, you should be set. “If something were to happen to your home, living in a hotel room for an extended period of time can be rather expensive,” explains Lozoya. “Would you be able to afford the high cost of temporary living arrangements? How about the additional costs for having to drive further to work, eating out all the time, or incurring fees to board your pet? All of these costs and more would be covered by the additional living expense coverage on your renters policy.”
5. Renters insurance can cover theft from your car
“One of my clients had all their family’s Christmas presents stolen, including the ring her boyfriend was going to use to propose to her on Christmas Day,” says Rhiannon Estandia, client care manager for CoverHound, an insurance company. “They were driving out of town to celebrate the holidays with their family. Someone broke into their car and stole all the presents — and the ring! Because they had purchased a good renters insurance policy, they got reimbursements for everything they lost, including the engagement ring.”
6. Renters insurance can cover the food in your fridge
If you wake up on a Saturday morning and find that the refrigerator in your apartment stopped working overnight — leaving a mess of spoiled food in its wake — you’d probably assume you’re out of luck, especially if you’d just stocked up on goodies the day before. But before you start to make a new shopping list (and ideally after you’ve cleaned up the evidence), check in with your insurance agent: Food spoiled because of a power outage or failed appliance should be covered as personal property.
7. Renters insurance can cover waterbeds (sort of)
Many landlords forbid their tenants from owning waterbeds, and it’s not difficult to see why. If your waterbed bursts or springs a leak, all that water could do major damage (to your apartment and the apartment downstairs). Typical homeowners’ and renters insurance policies don’t cover damage caused by waterbeds, and many landlords specifically ban them in leases. But if you’re attached to your cushy slumber, you might be able to persuade your landlord to relent if you add waterbed liability coverage to your policy. “Waterbed liability coverage is a policy endorsement and is an additional cost added to a premium,” says Mike Thrasher, an analyst at ValuePenguin, a New York-based consumer research firm that focuses on insurance. “It’s pretty inexpensive; it costs an additional $25 each year.”