One night I came home from work and found my front door ajar, with the handle ripped clean off.
Pushing it aside, I realized robbers had ransacked my apartment. It was a little studio, and though I didn’t have that many valuables, my television and Xbox was gone.
It was scary and upsetting, and I didn’t sleep well for weeks. My one consolation, however, was that I had renters insurance.
But when I filed a claim, I found out that my insurer denied it because I didn’t have photos or receipts of my missing items. Without proof, they wouldn’t cover the costs.
What is renters insurance?
When it comes to renters insurance, a picture is invaluable. Having the right photos and paperwork are essential if you submit a claim for theft or property damage.
Some renters think they don’t need insurance. They assume the landlord will take care of any damage. But that’s not accurate.
Your landlord is only responsible for the structure. Even if your upstairs neighbor has a water heater leak and your stuff gets ruined, your apartment company is not liable.
That’s why renters insurance is so important, and why many complexes require new tenants to have a policy. Insurance helps you recover from theft, fire damage, or other issues that may pop up down the road.
How much is renters insurance?
With renters insurance, you’ll pay a monthly premium based on the amount of coverage you get. Depending on your needs, you might need as little as a few thousand to as much as $100,000 in protection.
Keep in mind that some apartment complexes have minimum coverage and liability requirements. That’s why it’s best to check with your landlord before getting a policy.
A recent study showed that 93 percent of homeowners have insurance, but only 41 percent of renters have a policy.
And yet, renters insurance is relatively cheap. Insurance provider Nationwide estimated that the average cost for renter’s insurance was just $20 a month in 2014.
If you have car insurance, you may be able to bundle your renters insurance and get a discount. Mine costs just $10 a month for coverage with a low deductible because I went through my auto insurance company.
A lot of renters think they don’t need insurance because they believe they don’t have anything valuable.
But when you add up all your belongings, like your laptop, television, clothes, furniture, and other items, the amount to replace everything can be huge.
How to protect your belongings
When you take out a renters insurance policy, there’s more to it than just filling out the initial paperwork.
As I found out the hard way, companies can deny your claim if you cannot prove you owned the items you’ve reported as stolen or damaged.
You can protect yourself and ensure the insurance company reimburses you by following these four steps.
1. Do a walkthrough video
Use your phone or video camera to walk through your whole apartment.
Start at your front door and walk through each room, taking the time to pause at different areas. Open every cabinet and closet door and film the contents.
Not only will the video help prove what you owned, it will also jog your memory later on. After dealing with a crisis like a robbery or a hurricane, it can be difficult to think of all the things you owned that went missing.
This video can be a great reference for reminding you where you had stored stuff, like those golf clubs in the coat closet or that vintage dress stored on a top shelf.
2. Take photos
While a video is helpful, it won’t provide the specifics of what you owned.
Without proof of the quality and year of your items, the insurance company can claim your things were older and lower-quality than they were.
That’s why you should take photos of your valuables, particularly electronics like computers and televisions. Make sure you get the model number and brand and take pictures of them on so you can show that they were in working condition.
If there are any other identifiers, like serial numbers, write them down too.
3. Create a spreadsheet
Whenever you buy a new item, take a picture. Then add its model name, brand, date purchased, and cost to a spreadsheet.
Then, when you file a claim, you won’t have to search online for pricing of past year models. You’ll have what you spent for reference, which will make things easier and ensure you get all the money you deserve.
4. Save it
After making a video and taking plenty of photos, save everything to your iCloud or Google Drive.
That way, if someone steals your phone or computer, you can still access the information on another machine to deal with the insurance company.
Get a policy
When you’re renting, the last thing you want to do is add an extra expense.
But if something happens unexpectedly, you also don’t want to worry about replacing everything you lost. Renters insurance gives you a cost-effective safety net.
If you don’t have insurance, but you’re currently renting, get a policy right away. You can sign up for one online in just a few minutes.
And once you have coverage, follow the above steps to make sure you catalog your belongings. That way, you’ll be protected in case of an emergency and be prepared to deal with it, without going broke.
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