Last Saturday there was a ten alarm fire in Cambridge, MA, the largest fire in the area since the 80s. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured, but still – holy shit. Eleven buildings, over 60 people affected, multiple fire departments on the scene, and now that area looks unrecognizable.
It started scarily close to Fergus’s grad school apartment, making me even more thankful nothing similar happened to that fire trap of a house he lived in for years. Seriously – an electrician came by once to fix a problem and basically said “This house would be up in flames instantly if there was a fire,” which unfortunately is not that uncommon with the older homes in Cambridge. And of course those living in these fire traps are often lower income, students, or immigrants – people who don’t have a choice.
We know at least one family that’s been displaced. Apartment, car, all material possessions – gone during one awful day. And no rental insurance. Like many others, they took to crowd funding (we contributed), but not everyone can rely on that.
What does rental insurance cover?
Rental Insurance covers a few different things, the core being (more detail below):
- Cost to replace personal possessions
- Costs related to loss of use of insured location
- Personal liability
- Medical payments to others
Any landlord’s insurance policy is going to be for the building itself. Any damage to your property is not your landlord’s problem (except perhaps in cases where their actions directly caused the damage in some way).
And while they are responsible for repairing fire damage in a timely manner, not all landlord insurance covers short term housing for tenants such as hotel stays, making “loss of use” renter’s insurance very convenient.
Personal Liability Insurance as Part of Renter’s Insurance?
This is the best part of renter’s insurance. Basically, just about any damage or injury you might accidentally cause to someone else or their property (without your car) is covered. Anything car-related isn’t covered, as that’s a part of auto insurance.
Liability insurance is awesome as it’s not too expensive, yet it can really save you a lot of pain and hassle if something goes wrong. It’s the exact kind of thing insurance was meant for! If you are really cautious or have reason to carry higher liability insurance, you might want to look into getting an umbrella liability policy.
Medical Payments to Others?
This one is a bit odd, in my mind, because I think, “Wait, everyone I know has health insurance. Why would I need this?” Even though most people have health insurance, this medical payment insurance can go towards paying for copays or towards deductibles.
Plus, not everyone has health insurance, and wow is healthcare expensive (like, way more than the already outrageous prices) if you aren’t looking at the negotiated prices. Hell, my mom recently saved nearly $2k on healthcare by catching an error the hospital made in charging!
How much is renter’s Insurance?
Our old policy when we lived in Somerville (just North of Cambridge) had a limit of $15,600 for personal property replacement, $3,130 for loss of use of our apartment, $100,000 for each occurrence of personal liability, and $1,000 medical per person. These core coverages cost us $184 per year, just over $15 per month. Our renter’s insurance now, quite a bit farther out of the city, costs us just over $10 per month for similar coverage.
Basically, renter’s insurance doesn’t typically break the bank. You can expect to pay between $100 – $300 per year unless you have a lot to insure and/or are paying for more liability coverage. Some factors may change rates, such as age of house, distance to nearest fire hydrant, neighborhood crime rate, etc.
Keep in mind, if you have more stuff to insure, especially fancy jewelry and the like, the costs will be higher. Also make sure to disclose in advance any high-priced objects in your possession. If they are not explicitly disclosed prior to a claim, you’re not going to be happy. If you have any concerns or are on the fence with anything – talk to your insurance provider and get it in writing. Better safe than sorry.
So What Now?
- If you have been personally affected, know your rights.
- If you want to contribute to those that have been affected, you can still donate to the mayor’s Fire Relief Fund.
- If you rent and do not have renter’s insurance, go get it! You can often bundle it with auto insurance.
So I’m super curious to know what kind of policies and rates y’all have – anyone care to share in the comments? Any additional information on rental insurance? Any stories to share?