According to data from the Insurance Information Institute (III), rentals account for more than 35% of occupied housing units in the U.S. Although not mandatory, most landlords will require you to purchase renters insurance when your lease starts. However, only 41% of all renters actually have renters insurance, even though insurance premiums have gone down for renters.

If you own your home, the property and its contents are covered under your homeowners policy. If you rent, the building owner or landlord insures the property, but you would be responsible for insuring your personal property.

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Typical renters insurance coverage types and limits include:

Coverage TypeWhat it isCoverage limits
Personal property coverageCovers personal belongings like furniture and electronicsRanges from $10,000 to $500,000
Personal liability coverageCovers the costs of personal injury to visitors if you are at fault$100,000 to $300,000
Additional living expenses coverageCovers extra costs incurred when you'are temporarily displaced due to things like fire or water damageTypically 20% of your dwelling coverage
Medical payments coverageCovers the cost of medical payments for visitors$1,000 to $5,000
Replacement cost coverageCovers the cost to replace your personal belongings at current market valueAbout 20-50% of your total coverage limits

“A renters insurance policy is purchased by the tenant to cover any damage/theft of their personal belongings,” says Bill Samuel of Blue Ladder Development in Chicago, Ill. “A renters insurance policy doesn't cover anything associated with the actual property itself. That’s covered by the landlord's insurance policy.”

Personal property coverage

Your renters insurance policy covers your personal property, such as furniture, clothing and electronics if they are damaged from a covered peril. We recommend keeping a personal property inventory, or simply a written list of your personal property and replacement values. This list will help you and your insurance agent know how much personal property coverage you need.

Key Takeaways

  • If you rent, you are responsible for insuring the contents of the house, condo, or apartment with a renters insurance policy.
  • Renters insurance typically covers personal property, personal liability, additional living expenses, medical payments, and the cost to replace your personal belongings
  • Renters insurance policies do not cover things like floods, earthquakes, pests, expensive jewelry and collectibles.
  • Most renters insurance policies will allow additional endorsements and riders for things not covered by your standard policy.

Personal liability coverage

Your guests are covered by your renters insurance policy in case they fall or are injured, and it’s your fault. Coverage could include medical bills, legal fees and more, as well as costs for accidental damage to someone else’s property.

Imagine this: A friend comes to visit and brings a guest. While visiting, the friend's guest slips on some water on your floor and sustains some minor injuries. You offer to pay for medical care (knowing the injuries are minor and you have medical payments coverage) but the guest declines. A few weeks later, you receive notice that the guest is suing you for damages. This is where your personal liability coverage would kick in to help.

Additional living expenses coverage

If you are forced to vacate the premises because of a fire, flood, windstorm, hail or other covered peril, your additional living expenses, such as hotel and food costs, are covered. If this happens, be sure to report the claim immediately and begin saving all receipts and documenting all expenses.

Medical payments coverage

Medical payments coverage pays for third-party injuries that happen in your rental home, regardless of who was at fault for the injury. In the scenario we mentioned above with your friend and their guest, we referred to medical payments coverage. Often, but not always, this coverage helps to avoid lawsuits by offering the guest some financial help for medical costs whether their injuries were your fault or theirs.

Replacement cost coverage

Depending on the policy, your renters insurance may cover the cost to replace damaged or stolen property at today’s prices. This doesn’t factor depreciation into the valuation like actual cash value coverage does, which means, you are more likely to be able to replace your property at its current standards.

What other things are covered by renters insurance?

Renters insurance helps protect your personal property and contents in case of fire, flooding, theft, or other types of covered damage. Other things covered by renters insurance are listed below, but remember, in most cases your deductible will have to be paid before coverage kicks in. So, if the loss is valued less than your deductible, it will be best to avoid making a claim.

  • Food loss or spoilage: If there’s a power failure or mechanical problem that results in refrigerated or freezer food loss or spoilage, most renters insurance policies will cover the loss.
  • Debris removal: If a tree falls on the home or apartment you're renting, your renters insurance will cover the cost of removing any debris from your rental unit.
  • Building upgrades and alterations: If you've personally paid for alterations or upgrades to your rental unit, your renters insurance policy may cover damage to those alterations or upgrades from a covered event.
  • Credit card and check forgery: Some renters insurance policies cover personal losses resulting from the theft and fraudulent use of checks and credit cards.
  • Theft. Renters insurance will cover all your losses from a robbery.

Perils often covered by standard renters insurance policies include:

  1. Fire, smoke or lightning
  2. Windstorm or hail
  3. Explosions or volcanic eruption
  4. Damage caused by aircraft or vehicles
  5. Theft, vandalism or malicious mischief
  6. Falling objects
  7. Weight of ice, snow, or sleet

What does renters insurance not cover?

Renters insurance offers financial protection for a relatively low cost, However, not everything is covered.

“Renters insurance rarely covers damage to your personal property for some specific perils, like riots, uprisings, earthquakes and pests. So, before choosing a renters insurance policy, it is very important to know all the details,” says Dino DiNenna, Realtor & Owner of Southern Lifestyle Properties.

Some common exclusions on renters insurance policies include:

  • Damage that goes beyond the limits of your policy.
  • Flood, earthquake or hurricane damage.
  • Damage caused by insects or pests, like bed bugs or mice.
  • Damage to roommate’s belongings, unless you have a joint policy.
  • Theft or damage to your vehicle. This is covered under your auto insurance policy.
  • Damage you cause. Like a fist through a wall and the resulting broken hand are not covered by renters insurance.
  • Mold. Generally, mold isn’t covered unless it’s determined to come from a problem that is covered, such as water leaking into your apartment from a neighbor's apartment.
  • Regular moving expenses aren’t covered unless you are forced to relocate because your rental property is uninhabitable.
  • Jewelry. Expensive jewelry is not typically covered under standard policies.
  • Art and collectible items, such as stamps or coins, may not be covered by your renters insurance.
  • Loss from terrorist attacks, riots and flying objects.
  • War and nuclear hazard
  • Governmental action, such as the seizure of your property.

Keep in mind that renters insurance coverages can vary from one insurer to the next, so the best way to determine what is (and what isn’t) covered is to check with your agent. “When you have renters insurance, you are assured that the losses to your space and belongings from an accident will be minimized,” DiNenna adds.

How to get renters insurance coverage for things that are not covered

Most renters insurance policies will allow additional endorsements and riders for things not covered by your standard policy. These optional add-ons help bolster your coverage for a peril that otherwise would not be covered. For instance, if you live in an area prone to earthquakes or you’re in a flood zone, you will need to buy additional coverages to protect your belongings. Some renters insurance policies offer additional coverage for more uncommon risks, such as sewage backup or even a sinkhole endorsement. 

Likewise, expensive jewelry, art and other collectibles are only covered up to your coverage limits. If you have very expensive jewelry, coins, stamps, or other items of value, you will need to buy a rider to list and cover these items. If the high-value items were gifts, you may need to have them appraised to set a value.

Each of these endorsements or riders add to the cost of your standard renters insurance policy. Purchasing additional coverage will help ensure your are adequately covered if the unexpected happens.

Frequently asked questions

Does renters insurance cover bursting pipes?

Burst pipes, listed as accidental discharge or overflow of water from plumbing systems in your rental unit, is listed as a covered peril in most standard renters insurance policies. This also includes bursting pipes from freezing temperatures. However, sewage and drain backups usually aren’t covered.

Does renters insurance cover damage caused by a tenant?

Intentional damage caused by a tenant can also be called vandalism. Very few renters insurance policies cover intentional tenant damage. Any repairs resulting from intentional tenant damage usually come out of a security deposit.

Does renters insurance cover move-out charges?

Renters insurance does not cover regular moving charges unless you are forced to relocate because of a covered peril, like a fire. Some policies may not cover moving expenses at all but will cover your temporary living expenses, like hotel costs and food, until you can move back in.