The ultimate 2019 renters insurance guide

If you’re like most people, you don’t think about renters insurance too often. But when it does come up, you might have more questions than answers.

We get it. Researching your options for renters insurance can be a mysterious world, filled with jargon and insider knowledge. That’s why we’ve put together this detailed renters insurance guide.

We’ll walk you through all of the information you need to know about renters insurance, including what it is, how it works, and who needs it. We’ll also address some of the common myths about this type of coverage—and we’ll do it all in plain language.

We hope you find this guide helpful, because a renters insurance policy could save you a lot of hassle in the future. So let’s dive right in.

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First things first: What is renters insurance?

Renters insurance is a simple way to protect yourself financially from life’s nasty (and costly) little surprises. If your personal property is damaged due to a covered incident, renters insurance can help you cover the cost to replace or repair it. If someone is hurt on your property, it can pay for their medical bills. If you cause damage to someone else’s property, renters insurance (in many cases) can cover that, too.

At its core, renters insurance is a lot like most other types of insurance. You buy a plan (aka an “insurance policy”) that covers you and your personal belongings. If something goes wrong (e.g., a pipe bursts in your apartment and destroys your new couch), you file a claim with your insurance provider. They’ll cut you a check to help pay for a new one.

There are plenty of details to sort through, and coverage varies by provider, but that’s renters insurance in a nutshell: You pay for coverage, and it’s there to help you when you need it.

How does renters insurance work?

Let’s say your roommate leaves a candle burning in the living room, just a little too close to your brand-new couch.No one is hurt, but the couch is a total loss. Fortunately, you have renters insurance coverage for your personal possessions. But how do you use it? What happens next?

First, you need to report the incident to your insurance provider. Letting them know what happened and asking to pay for a new couch is called making a claim. Of course, your provider will want some details about what happened. What exactly was damaged? How much did you originally pay for it? How much will a replacement cost? That sort of thing.

When you make your claim, an insurance provider will do one of two things. Some will give you the “actual cash value” of your couch. That means they’ll pay you what the object is worth now. It might have cost you $2,000 when you first bought it… but if that was 5 years (and a few wine spills) ago, the couch is likely worth much less today. In other words, the actual cash value is pretty low.

Other insurance providers, like Jetty, will give you the full replacement cost for your personal possessions. If it’s going to cost you $2,000 to replace the couch, we’ll cut you a check for $2,000 (minus your deductible)—no depreciation estimates or number-crunching required. You deposit the check, buy a new couch, and get on with your life.

What does renters insurance cover?

Renters insurance is much broader and more flexible than most people realize. That’s because it doesn’t just cover your personal belongings. It protects you in other crucial ways, too.

Here are the three main types of protection renters insurance offers:

  1. Personal property coverage: If your personal belongings are damaged or destroyed, renters insurance can help you pay to repair or replace them. Did you lose your whole wardrobe thanks to an upstairs neighbor’s overflowing bathtub? Need to replace your flat-screen TV after a break-in? Renters insurance can foot the bill in both of these situations.
  2. Living expenses: Let’s say your neighbor’s bathtub didn’t just ruin your closet—it flooded your apartment and caused serious damage. Now, you need to vacate while the landlord makes extensive repairs. What are your options? If you have renters insurance, living expenses for your temporary housing (like a short-term rental or hotel) will be covered.
  3. Liability coverage: Imagine that you’re having a little house party, and someone trips on your living room rug and breaks a wrist. Thanks to your renters insurance, that person’s medical bills could be covered. And if they decide to file a lawsuit, your liability coverage may even pay for your legal expenses.

Of course, these are just the broad types of coverage that may be included in a policy , and coverage varies from plan to plan. That’s why as you research your options, it’s important to know exactly what’s included in each policy.

What isn’t covered by renters insurance?

Renters insurance is surprisingly comprehensive. It covers you and your belongings, whether you’re in your apartment, across town, or on vacation in France. Even so, there are limits. Here are a few things renters insurance won’t cover:

  • Natural disasters: Earthquakes, floods, and Godzilla-type situations are all excluded from most renters insurance plans.
  • Intentional acts: We can’t protect you from yourself! If you torch your antique stamp collection for fun, it’s not covered by your renters insurance.
    Your roommate’s stuff: You and your roommate may be best buds, but their belongings aren’t protected by your renters insurance. If you’re married or in a civil union, on the other hand, your partner is automatically covered.
  • Certain high-value items: This one depends on your plan. If you have a lot of pricey jewelry or valuable electronics, they may be worth more than a basic plan covers. That’s why some renters insurance providers offer additional coverage (like Jetty Power-Ups) for your high-value things.

Again, these are general guidelines, and coverage varies by provider and plan. If you really want to get nitty-gritty, learn more here about what isn’t covered by Jetty Renters Insurance.

How much does renters insurance cost?

For Jetty Members, a renters insurance plan is affordable and typically costs $10 to $20 per month. Given the peace of mind and financial protection you get in return, we think that’s an excellent deal. Plus, your monthly premium may be even lower, depending on how you set up your policy.

Here are the two major factors to consider:

  • What size deductible are you comfortable with? The deductible on your renters insurance is what you have to pay before your policy kicks in and covers the rest. If you have a $500 deductible, for example, that’s how much you’d have to pay before your insurance starts footing the bill. The higher your deductible, the lower your monthly premium—and vice-versa.
  • How much coverage do you need? The key to finding the right policy for you is to strike a balance: Aim for no more and no less coverage than you need, but just the right amount. A basic renters insurance plan is right for many people, but (like all insurance plans) it comes with certain limits, aka “caps.” For example, even if your policy covers property losses up to $30,000, electronics coverage might be capped at $1,500. So if you own $10,000 worth of computer equipment, you’ll need to add extra protection for that to be covered. Most renters insurance companies call these add-ons riders. At Jetty, we call them Power-Ups—and we make them simple and transparent.

The 5 most common renters insurance myths

If you’re on the fence about purchasing a renters insurance policy, that’s understandable. There’s plenty of confusion and several common misunderstandings about these types of plans. With that in mind, let’s address a few of the most widespread myths:

  1. Renters insurance is for wealthy folks.
    You might think it only makes sense to insure your things if you own some Patek Philippe watches and an original Picasso, but that’s not the case. In fact, just the opposite is true. The people who most need financial protection are those who can’t afford to shell out $20,000 rebooting their lives after a fire or burglary.

    In other words, renters insurance is for almost everyone. Even if your furnishings are wall-to-wall IKEA, renters insurance can pay for itself after a single bad day.

  2. I’m already covered by my landlord’s insurance.
    Your landlord most likely has insurance that covers the building you live in itself— but that policy won’t protect your belongings within it. If a severe storm smashes a window, for example, the landlord’s insurance will pay to replace it. But all your waterlogged stuff inside? That’s your problem as the tenant.

    Structural damage can be caused by all sorts of things; think bursting water pipes, reckless neighbors, malfunctioning appliances, and so on. In all of these cases, the landlord’s insurance will only pay to repair the building. For help replacing your things, you’ll need your own renters insurance plan.

  3. Renters insurance only works in restricted, narrow situations.
    False.

    Renters insurance can cover almost anything you own. It protects you both inside and outside your apartment. It can help with emergency living expenses if your apartment is completely unusable due to a covered incident. And it doesn’t just protect you— it also covers medical bills if someone gets hurt on or near your property. It can also help with legal feels if that person tries to hold you legally responsible.

    That’s a lot of different situations where renters insurance can be a real life-saver, making it a powerful and flexible way to protect yourself from life’s big unknowns.

  4. I’ll never actually use renters insurance.
    We all know that an unfortunate incident could put us in a bad spot financially… but how many scenarios are there, really, where a renters insurance policy could help you out?

    As it turns out, quite a few. Renters insurance can protect you against theft, vandalism, fire and lightning, smoke damage, windstorms and hail, explosions, riots, vehicle crashes, falling objects, snow and ice damage, overflowing bathtubs, malfunctioning plumbing and boiler systems, power surges, and (yes) volcanic eruptions. That’s a lot of things to cross off your worry list.

  5. Renters insurance is just too confusing to use.
    Back in 2015, we would have agreed with you. That’s why we founded Jetty. And in case you haven’t noticed, we’re not exactly your typical insurance provider. Everything about our business—from the language in our contracts to the design of our website—is built to make your experience fast, simple, and intuitive.

    Plus, Jetty is backed by one of the oldest and most reputable insurance companies on the planet—Munich Re. With 150 years of experience and $275B in assets under its watch, Munich is a rock solid foundation for our business. In other words, when you purchase a policy with Jetty, you’re in very, very good hands.

Renters insurance vs. homeowners insurance: what’s the difference?

Just like renters, homeowners need to protect themselves from the financial risks of property loss, theft, vandalism, and other potential threats. And in most respects, homeowners insurance and renters insurance are quite similar: Both are sold as a policy that requires regular payments, usually in the form of monthly premiums. And both homeowners and renters insurance generally require you to pay a deductible before the provider begin to cover your losses. So how are they different?

Because homeowners own their housing (rather than renting it from a landlord), they’re financially responsible for the structure itself. A renter, on the other hand, is only responsible for their possessions within the structure.

If you’re a tenant and a falling tree crushes your roof, for example, you wouldn’t be responsible for paying for the repairs. If you were a homeowner, on the other hand, you’d have to eat the loss yourself.

In other words, both homeowners and renters insurance include:

  • Personal property coverage
  • Coverage for living expenses
  • Coverage for personal liability and medical bills

But only homeowners insurance covers the structure of the house itself.

 

The needs of renters vs. homeowners

  Renters need… Homeowners need…
Personal property coverage
Additional living expenses coverage
Personal liability and medical bills coverage
Building structure coverage  

 

If you’re a renter, this makes your life simple. You don’t need to worry about your building, or invest in homeowners insurance. That’s your landlord’s job. You just need to protect your personal belongings, and renters insurance is the perfect tool for that.

Is renters insurance really worth the money?

If you’ve come this far, you’re at least considering renters insurance. And while we’re a little biased, take it from us: That’s a smart move.

Some renters think they don’t own enough valuables to bother with renters insurance. But let’s do some quick math here. How much would it cost to replace all of your clothing, including shoes and winter-wear? What about your TV, laptop, cell phone, camera gear, chargers, and gaming devices? Your kitchen and bathroom basics? And maybe a musical instrument, your bike, and your athletic gear?

If you’re like most people, you’ve invested far more money than you realize in your personal possessions. Could you come up with $20,000 to get back on your feet if a fire ripped through your apartment building? For many of us, the answer is no. Renters insurance keeps you financially safe as a renter—and just as importantly, it prevents you from having to worry about how you’d recover financially if the worst were to happen.

Now, consider that you could get that security and peace of mind for less than the price of your daily latte.e think it’s worth every cent.